Sunday, January 11, 2015

Rebel With A Cause

I'm a rebel youth minister. Watch out world.

I'm currently in my fifth year as a (paid) youth minister at a parish. The first four years I was down in Texas, but now I'm ministering in Minnesota. While some things are different between the two dioceses I have worked for, other things stay the same. Like having to do a "self-protection" safe environment class for faith formation/youth group.

If one were to survey youth ministers across the country, I'm sure they'd tell you that this is their least favorite session to teach. And I will bet that the main reason why it is their least favorite is due to the lessons and materials provided to us by whatever company was contracted by the diocese for the safe environment sessions (i.e. Virtus, Keeping Children Safe, Protecting God's Children/Called to Protect, etc).

Of course we (the youth ministers and faith formation coordinators) understand the importance of this lesson and why we have to do it...but the material provided to us that the diocese wants us to use is terrible. TERRIBLE! If they want teens to actually learn something, there needs to be major changes...perhaps they should consult people who actually work with youth!?

I use the material provided more as a guideline for my safe environment self-protection lessons, I never teach "from the book" for this session. The material I had in Texas is actually better than what I was given in Minnesota (it's not a good sign when the material keeps referring to high school students as children), so I used that as the base material for talking about boundaries (and sexual abuse). But if we're going to teach a self-protection class, then we need to teach that their sexuality is something worth protecting.

Tonight I gave this session to my sophomore (Year 2) Confirmation group and the first talk I gave was an introduction to the Theology of the Body with an emphasis on the dignity of the human person and that everyone has great worth and value. This is something that should probably be talked about all the time with them...but it isn't. So I wanted to reach their hearts first and my hope was to give them an understanding of why we teach this session and why it is important. This is the kind of information that needs to be added to the lessons provided, and it is why I will never administer the plans as they were written. Yes, it's more work for me to re-write a lesson, but it is worth it...the teens are worth it.

After the session tonight, the catechists/table leaders kept praising me on what a great lesson it was and they thanked me for the material I covered. It certainly is great to receive affirmation, but I give all the glory to God, for it is through His inspiration that I was able to say what I did tonight.

I know I didn't go into great detail on what I taught, but if you're a youth minister and interested in the lesson plan I did, contact me and I will send it your way!