Saturday, October 3, 2009

Why I'm in Youth Ministry

Spirit Day 2009 planning is well under way. The annual pre-Confirmation event for Gr. 7s entitled "Believe" this year, is a fantastic way for the youth of the archdiocese to seriously think about their faith. As I am wracking my brain trying to think of ways to get the message of "Believe" across, I am reminded of a blog I wrote after last year's Spirit Day. As I read through the blog, it puts a smile on my face to know that my opinion of youth ministry hasn't changed - and that's a very good thing. 
This Past Saturday, Nov. 15th 2008, marked the 5th annual Spirit Day, entitled "Shine Like the Son", an event organised by the YMO for the Gr. 7s of the Archdiocese of Vancouver. The day was filled with awesome music (courtesy of Matt Maher and his band), Speaker sessions (courtesy of Apex Ministries), skits, testimonies, icebreakers and food. It was the largest Spirit Day to date - 1400 Gr. 7s; 500 eager youth had to be turned away. On top of those 1400 rowdy ones, there were a huge number of volunteers, including the stage team, the spirit team, logistics team, stage hands, lighting people, sound people, MCs, and adult chaperones. It was an amazing day filled with tons of people ready to open their hearts to God.

Of course, and event like this doesn't get organised over night. It's was in the making for months, with the different teams coming together to write and rehearse skits and testimonies, learning games, understanding how the whole thing will work, etc. And why do all the work? Why put all the effort into it, why would we put the added stress on our already busy lives? Because of the Gr. 7s. Because they are the church.

It was very easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of the event. I, in particular, was very stressed out at times, worrying about...well. Everything. Oggy and I led the stage team and throughout the whole event he seemed slightly more composed than I was. And at times, I did get lost in the particulars. Instead of being concerned with what the Gr. 7s would take away from the event as a whole, I was more concerned with making sure everything was just right, always running around from place to place, checking the schedule, never giving myself a breather. In trying to focus on the day, I ended up distracting myself from the heart of it.

Luckily, everyone involved in the event was ridiculously fantastic, and they more than once reminded me of why were were there. Right from the get go, everyone had a huge amount of enthusiasm for what was about to happen. Analyn, Gerard, Clay, Sean, who were the big cheeses at the event, always knew what needed to be done, yet did it with a grace and carefreeness. Our stage team was incredible - we bonded extremely quickly and were so gung ho about anything that Oggy and I suggested (especially for a particularly violent skit - Sydney, I hope your knees stop bruising!).

Looking at the day as a whole, it fills me with a peacefulness and a sense of awe to know that we are all connected in such a beautiful way. Think about it. We all came together, put all this work and effort into one day, for the glory of God. St. Irenaeus said "The glory of God is man fully alive." And if 1400 gr. 7s, adult chaperones, and volunteers coming together the way we did isn't helping to make man fully alive, then I don't know what is. The communion of Saints, together in one auditorium, connected by the bread and wine transformed.

That reality hit me hardest right after we had mass. Janine and the stage team, sans Oggy and I (we were waiting at the back to take the priests over to the greenroom for dinner) led all the participants in grace. Yes, it wasn't the usual "Bless us oh Lord" - it was grace to the tune of "We Will Rock You" by Queen. And yet, as soon as the feet stopped stomping, as soon as we all ended grace with the sign of the cross, the whole room exploded with applause. And I thought, "huh. So this is why I do it." Because I knew that they weren't applauding for Janine, or the stage team, or for Matt Maher. They were applauding for Him. And even if Spirit Day is the only youth event that these Gr. 7s go to, then I still consider it worth 100% of our time. To know that even in the smallest way, we impacted their hearts, it was worth it. For them to see that their youth leaders, their youth coordinators, all these teenagers, are actually doing what they say they're doing - it's worth it.

And THAT is why I'm in youth ministry.

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