Five and a half years ago my wife and I opened our doors to high school youth. We are Catholic, we discuss Catholic beliefs and doctrines, we are visited by our parish priests and local full time youth ministers (several of their children attend). On average we have between 25-30 teenagers over the house every Sunday evening. It is a privately funded meeting at a private home, not associated with the local parish youth ministry although I am the local volunteer youth minister and on the youth commission.
We start the meeting at 6:00 during the school year and 7:00 in the summer. The camaraderie and friendships that have started is extraordinary. They go on vacations, parties, skiing, out to eat, etc with each other, the friendships have blossomed beyond our wildest expectations. Two of them are getting married on our 17th anniversary Aug 19th. Their names just happen to be the same as ours, David and Ann, and we are David and Anne.
When we started the group, we had just had our 5th child, our oldest was 9, the group age is 14-19, my son finally this past year is reaping the rewards of the meetings. We since have had 2 more children, 4 boys and 3 girls, each of our children have received benefits from hanging out with the Kids. Our children are extremely well adjusted and used to crowds and are very extroverted, it is beautiful.
Here are the basics of our meeting:
The desire has to be genuine, and in line with the Holy Spirit or it will fail.
No matter how you try, you are not in charge, let the Holy Spirit lead. If I have a preconceived notion of how I want the meeting to proceed it seems forced and directed.
Let the youth run the meeting, they want to discuss things but typically don’t have a forum for the discussion.
Be prepared, Bible, Catechism, current misselette or print out of the weeks readings and gospels, Catholic Source book, Bible Atlas, Etc. always refer to text, never try to explain it if you are unsure if it is correct. It must be inline with the Church.
20 Bucks, Buy a case of Mountain Dew or two and 2 bags of chips. Kids need food and drink; I pay for the meeting so I don’t have to be accountable for the funds of a parish stipend, less in the plate on Sunday and less headaches with paperwork.
6:00 Social Time: The kids slowly arrive, in the summer we play football, softball or volleyball. In the winter we play Pea Pool, or poker, yes poker, it’s their meeting.
7:30 Meeting Starts: Several years ago I printed prayer cards up, we are still using them, they are torn, stained folded and crappy, It shows the tradition (if you would like a PDF of the prayers let me know and I’ll send it to you). We then do our “Thank Yous” this is where we go around the room and individually thank God for what he has given us, family friends, food, mountain dew, etc. this at times can take over an hour.
After the “Thank Yous” we usually start in a discussion of the day, this past week it was an impromptu discussion on “your life”. Where do you want to be in 25 years, go backwards and start living your life today. If discussions don’t seem to spark up read the Gospel of the day and discuss what they got out of the priests homily. If it still doesn’t spark, read next weeks readings and gospel. And then discuss their message. Let the Kids discuss anything, just so it has to do with life situations and religion.
After the discussion typically 9:30, kids start leaving for home, some stay and play pool.
In the past 5 ½ years we have had a death of a sibling, suicide of a friend from school, many deaths of youth due to car accidents. We have also discussed much of the bible and catechism and the teachings of many saints. We have discussed college roommates situations from promiscuity to Protestantism. We have openly discussed underage drinking, drunkenness, sexuality, modest dress, pornography etc. The kids have many questions and love to discuss all of the topics, don’t shy away from one or they will redirect you back towards it or discuss it without the guidance of a person with their best interest in mind.
Pray over it, listen to what God is saying to you.
If you would like to see pics or discuss this at length please don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.