Is there Life after Youth Group? Thoughts?

We had a huge combined Youth Group with three other Parishes (Catholic Life Teen).

It was every other Sunday evening. We would celebrate Mass, followed by a meal, and then breakout sessions. It was so much fun and I loved meeting new people that I otherwise might not have ever met.

Kim, the lady who organized all of this, was an amazing woman. She cared so much about us kids. In addition to battling serious illness, but she suffered so gracefully and what witness she was.

Half of the core-team was made up of College Students at the Newman Center of a Christian College. This was a great way to help Catholic College Kids not to fall away from the Faith after leaving home for College. And it also helped them better learn their Faith, as teaching is the best way to learn.

Unfortunately for me, every other weekend was not enough and I began to seek out another Youth Group (non-Denominational) that met every Wednesday night, in addition to attending my Catholic Youth Group.

When I went off to College, I was not as lucky to have such a support. I attended Mass for about three weeks in a row and then missed a week. Then I missed two weeks. And before I knew it, I became indifferent, as far as going to Church goes. Some might refer to this as lapsed. The Bible calls it being lukewarm.

Youth Groups are very good (generally speaking), but if we are not growing in our relationship with Jesus, then it can become merely a wholesome social club with a little bit of Catechesis sprinkled in. Again, not bad, but what happens when this social support is ripped out from underneath you.

Being a Catholic in your early twenties is a strange time. You are “too old for Youth Group,” but still lacking in a mature faith.

I was lost, without discernment, and filled with a subtle arrogance and excitement for something new.

If you were to ask me, I would still say that I believed in God, in a feel-good kind of way. Contemporary Christian Music was just as good, if not better than what secular Radio was pushing out at the time.

I had tried to join the Christian Club on campus, but hanging out with this group would have been social suicide as a new College kid trying to appear cooler than I was. I probably would have made some great friends has I went back.

I met a cute “Born-Again” Christian girl in my English class who invited me to an awesome Lock-In at her small Church. The Christian Rock Band Sanctus Real was there (they had not yet been signed to a major recording label yet)! There was also a group of Junior High kids who did Christian Punk Music. This group of Christians were the very definition of cool.

Even the founder of Catholic Life Teen, which our Catholic Youth Group was based, was a very cool guy. He was on one of the early Seasons of M-TV’s The Real World. He and the Mormon girl were good examples of how to be in the World, but not of the World (John 15:18–19). But still, the Mormon girl was kicked out of Brigham Young University after appearing on the show. They apparently did not agree with me.

Now that my faith in Jesus has matured, I can now see that what I valued in my twenties was not my relationship with Christ, but to be accepted by people whom I had elevated to a higher social status.

I started reading a book a few years ago about young Catholic Christians who are attracted to the timeless beauty of the Traditional Latin Mass. I believe these young individuals have found a mature faith. I presume these individuals have found Jesus and would never let Him go for what is currently popular or fashionable.

“Christianity is always out of fashion because it is always sane; and all fashions are mild insanities. The Church always seems to be behind the times, when it is really beyond the times; it is waiting till the last fad shall have seen its last summer. It keeps the key of a permanent virtue.” — G.K. Chesterton, The Ball and the Cross

But, what about young Christians who were/are where I was? If we did/do not have these social support groups, maybe we would have fallen even further faster.

Is there a way to foster the faith of young Christians, leading them to a mature faith in Christ in a way that does not push them away, nor causes them the falter when they age-out of Youth Group and find themselves seeking acceptance?

I think mentorship is one way to do this. When I went off to College, my Catholic Youth Group core-team gifted us with a Catholic care package (Holy Water, Blessed Oil, a Rosary, and Prayer book). Though these things were very intentional, they did not speak to me as much as the hand-written letter that I received in the mail from the non-Denominational Youth Pastor. Of course I didn’t write him back, because I was starting off my College off fresh and new. I wanted no ties to my previous life (which is immature of me).

I have stayed in contact with one of the Core-team members from Catholic Life Teen as well. Back then, we could not hang out outside of Youth Group, because they stressed that College Students were not to hang out with Youth Group kids, as not to cause scandal.

I once helped this friend out with a Youth Retreat (long after we both were graduated from College) and his Parish Priest shared with a few of us team members that, because of the scandals in the Church, he felt limited by what he could do to be a mentor to young people. Could he do as my non-Denominational Pastor did by writing me a personal letter, genuinely asking how I was doing?

I had a friend from Junior High School who was on that show “God or the Girl,” where they followed four young men who were discerning the Priesthood. You would see my Junior High School friend in some of the scenes, because he lived in a household with other men who were also discerning. One of his “brothers” was on the show. I think this is awesome! Franciscan University of Steubenville has households instead of fraternities. Each household has different charisms. Two of my daughters’ Godparents attended Steubi and two of my cousins are currently attending. They have a mature faith in Christ and vocational discernment is built into the fabric of Steubenville. It really is a magical place (maybe that is where Harry Potter got it’s ide for Hogwarts houses ; )

But what about young Christians who do not attend a private Christian College? Who don’t even think about discernment, nor ask God what His will is for his/her life?

As I mentioned above some non-Catholic Colleges have Newman Centers, where young Catholics post-Youth-Group can find a home.

I think it comes down to building authentic relationships and friendships. This is key to a mature faith in Christ. You can throw a Rosary and Sacramentals at young people as you push them out into new and unfamiliar places, but if they do not experience a real relationship with our Lord and His church, then chances are, these holy things will not mean much to them. But, if we mentor and stay in touch. Helping young Catholic individuals to stay on the righteous path (and I’m using the word in the traditional sense, not in the modish way that kids in the 80’s would use it : ) And I also don’t mean lecturing them, like “Did you go to Mass this week?” I mean, listening and sharing (and not in the synodal way either ; )

I recently listened to an interview with a Priest who shared his Vocation story and it was very encouraging. He talked about others who influenced him in the Faith as a young man. I think more Priest & Bishops should do this. Just share your story and make it more about Jesus and those whom God has put in your life to help you remain or get back to this amazing journey we are on.

My message to those who have recently graduated from High School and are looking for something new. A life in Christ, all things become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). Sometimes Christian personalities and things may become popular (WWJD bracelets, Jesus fish on the back of your car, G>∧∨ tattoos, “Jesus is my Homeboy” T-shirts, and Pop stars wearing Rosaries), but what is perceived fashionable today is only fleeting and becomes socially detrimental to one who is perpetually chasing the next trend.

“A fad or heresy is the exaltation of something which even if true, is secondary or temporary in its nature against those things which are essential and eternal, those things which always prove themselves true in the long run. In short, it is the setting up of the mood against the mind.” — G.K. Chesterton, William Blake

I just realized that I didn’t answer my own question. Yes, there is absolutely life during and after Youth Group, but it requires one not to be swept up by appearances. Rather one must have real & authentic relationships—with God and with others who are joyfully living the Faith (and sometimes not joyfully).

I’d love to hear others’ experiences of Youth Group and life thereafter. What advice can we give to Priests and team members who might not quite know how to relate to young people. Because putting on sun glasses and doing silly TikTok’s will not bring a lost soul back to Christ. What speaks to a young person momentarily is not the same thing that will speak to their heart & soul when the trendy things become corny and off-putting. What speaks to the heart is real relationship. What speaks to the soul is beauty & truth.

Since I converted to Catholicism in my 20s, I don’t have a personal testimony on this subject other than to relay the experiences of those around me. My wife’s brother and sister were both very active in LifeTeen as teenagers and say that it had a very positive effect on their faith. They are in their mid 30s now and still practicing their faith.
However, when my oldest son was going through his rebellious stage as a teenager, I forced him to start attending LifeTeen thinking that being around other Catholic teenagers would give him positive influences and a sense of community. Instead, he noticed how a lot of the kids there were also the same kids at school that were sexually promiscuous and foul mouthed and so he rightfully resented having to go. It didn’t last long. It is my understanding that the current priest at that parish has since pulled the plug on LifeTeen.
My two oldest children are 20 and 18. The oldest returned to the faith around age 18 and fell in love with the TLM. He is getting married in October to a home schooled girl from a Catholic family. The 18 year old has a very shallow understanding of Catholicism, but truly has a heart of gold. He still attends Mass even though he hasn’t lived under my roof for many years now. He knows every time that I see him that I am going to tell him to go to Church. I pray that he finds a solid Catholic girl to marry so that maybe that will cause him to dive deeper in the faith, but he’s already in a good place considering his age and life challenges. Both of them attended public schools. My 3 youngest are 10, 7, and 5. They are/will be attending Catholic school (which I admit I am not impressed with for a variety of reasons but I know are still better than public schools in this area.)

I am too old to have participated in youth group but my children did. Activities make it fun but prayer and discussion of and learning about the Catholic faith have to be a part of it or the experience doesnt stick.

I had a great experience in LifeTeen, but the fact that we were combined with other Parishes and got to hang out with other kids that did not go to our school definitely was a plus. You son has a valid point. There were kids (mostly the popular kids) who did not live a life of grace & holiness. At that age it is acceptance at all costs, even if it means not living for Christ. It is definitely disordered for sure.

The LifeTeen core-team was made up of some amazing and caring Catholics from different walks of life. I mentioned that some were College students, plus there were young Married couples, and older widowed women who had a passion to serve.

Our Church gave the option for those who are more booky to attend Confirmation Classes super early on Sunday mornings. In addition to CLT, I did try to attend a couple of these alternative classes, but it was way too early for me and felt too much like school.

I know there are mixed feelings about LifeTeen within Catholic circles and I can say that it was an overwhelmingly good experience for me at that age.

I agree. Life Nights are broken up into three main parts. The Mass, followed by fellowship, followed by activities, prayer, and discussion. Each night usually had a theme. One night might be about Baptism and what Baptism means in our lives. Another night might be about the vocation of Marriage. The previous week might have been about Holy Orders, etc.

There were also a lot of service and outreach opportunities. We would have monthly soup kitchens for those in our community who needed a warm meal. We would often visit Nursing Homes and shut-in’s. We were encouraged to live purposely and were challenged to do random acts of kindness for others in our community.

I think some kids are inspired by purpose (heart), some are moved by learning catechesis & theology (head), and some are encouraged by fellowship. But the Holy Mass is central to all of these aspects of growing in our Christian faith.