I think these Young Life programs says something about catholic youth ministries. Catholic youth are not being fed in thier parishes, so they go where they can be fed. Peter Kreeft came up with a similiar conclusion about the evangelical protestants “stealing sheep” in Mexico - people weren’t being fed spiritually in thier parishes, so they went where they would be fed (in protestant churches).
Help get your parish to start a vibrant youth ministry, or move to a parish that has a good youth ministry in place already. If you are just starting a youth ministry program, LIFE TEEN has a plethora of resources out there. I am a youth minister and I find that I just can’t come up with new and unique activities and talks every week for our Sunday night meetings (plus Bible studies and apologetics outside of Sunday). LIFE TEEN has very good resources out there that can be quickly adapted for your program. We also like the LIFE TEEN camps and conferences that are offered year round. Our youth get a whole lot out of the Stuebenville and Notre Dame leadership conferences. And LIFE TEEN is authentically catholic 100% - our teens pride themselves on having a catholic identity. They wear retreat and LIFE TEEN T-Shirts to school, for example. They bring their friends to retreats. We’ve had teens in some pretty serious situations involving abuse or drug/alcohol addiction who would never have come to a retreat without thier friends inviting them. And at the retreat, a true and profound change takes place in those teens - a genuine conversion. These teens realize that whatever they were trying before to “complete” themselves would never have worked. Jesus is the one who fills that God-shaped hole.
There has been much talk about LIFE TEEN dumbing the faith down and being merely entertainment. This is simply not the case. Rather, we know that teens need (1) good, solid and authentic catholic friendships, (2) a deep spiritual connection with God [the Faith side], and (3) the nuts and bolts of the Faith to back up that spiritual connection [the reason side]. In our youth ministry, we try and make sure that all three of those needs are being met. At mass, we have greeters in place to take you by the hand as soon as you get out of your car to as soon as you leave. If you are a youth, we invite you to sit up front at mass with the other youth. We talk to you and get to know you. We offer good, scriptural, singable, and simple music that teens seem to connect with more so than the cantor+organ offered at the other masses. Our priest gives homilies that are 100% catholic, talking about issues that are especially relevant to teens (ie: sexual purity and chastity, the Fourth commandment and it’s importance, et cetera). After mass, we invite teens to come to our LIFE Nights, where, again, we have our teen leaders and our adult leaders greeting you and getting to know you from the moment you walk through the doors. We have fun games and activities, skits, and social time as well as catechetical presentations. We have intense small group discussions about what the mass readings were about, for instance, or issues in the youth’s life or the cathetical presentation for the evening, et cetera. We also have socials and studies outside of the LIFE Night. During the summer, we have Softball (very popular), various Camps, missionary opportunities (we went to Mexico this year), and Summer Apologetics.
There are plenty of catholic youth ministries out there. I don’t really care if you use the LIFE TEEN resources or not, or if you use another youth ministry resource. Remember to target all of our teens spiritual needs. Classroom catechesis alone are not enough. Socials alone are not enough. Mass, without any other ministry opportunity, is not enough. We need a comprehensive youth ministry in place at every parish that has youth. Encourage your parish to start one if they don’t have one already or to improve the youth ministry that’s in place already.