Our middle school youth and volunteers practiced evangelizing on social media at our November 16th youth group meeting. Our semester theme has been The Church and at this particular meeting we learned about the Church's mission to evangelize all of the nations! As a closing activity, participants were invited to create an evangelizing Twitter post. The results were inspiring, hilarious.... and kind of weird. We hope you enjoy some of the best!
@sjnchurch professing our faith at youth group, so much fun! Wish everybody could be here w/ us tonight & spread the Word of the Lord!
Moses parted the sea? I can’t even make my faucet work! #smh #angelfish #YOUSHALLPASS #toomanyhashtags
It’s your responsibility to share the word of the lord. He loves everybody and will always be there 4u. Pray<3 Live <3 Laugh <3 Evangelize <3
Jesus loves us so much he gave his life for us.
Jesus saved us #awesome Jesus is our savior. Bask in the glory of God #itwillawesomizeyou Jesus is #awesome!
Jesus is this normal person who died on a piece of wood in the shape of a cross just for us. Ya you. #Jesus is awesome #thisisawesome
Jesus came back from the dead a long time ago. He died on the cross. You can always trust Jesus. He built a Church for us. #gotochurch! #Jesus <3
Jesus loves you <3 He thinks about you all the time (stalker?) :\ But he always cares about you a lot and you should care about him too! #peace <3
God loves everyone and always gives you a second chance. Jesus may be a stalker but he might be the only stalker that is not creepy #loveit
Jesus thinks that you are awesome! He is your #1fan #prayeveryday #stalkedbyJesus I love this faith!! @nerdforthelord #middleschoolyouthgroup ! :)
Jesus died for our sins. #mancrushmonday
Jesus died on the cross 4 us a long time ago #likeforever #neverforget #youthgroup4ever #hashtag <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 T T
Jesus saved a blind guy many years ago #awesome
Jesus is always very forgiving and he helps us get to heaven #forgivenessfriday
God is always with us, have faith #love God #goodnewseveryday God thinks about you all the time #yourbiggestfan
Jesus is why we have Christmas and Easter #getoutsanta #getouteasterbunny
Stalk Jesus #followhim he loves you!!!! #gotomass Spread the amazingness! Help the Church survive #holyspirit #cross #bestfaithever
@SJNMSYG Havin fun w/ my besties #GLY #scs #spreadthegoodnews #benotafraid #youthgroupprobz #joinus
-Jill S. (aka @YouthGroupJill)
Blessings abounded at our 2014 Fall Retreat last weekend! I have been deeply inspired by the witness of the 23 high school students from St. John Neumann who chose to spend the weekend praying, growing in their faith, and seeking God's work in their lives.
Please read on to learn about the many different activities that took place!
Our first session was titled "START"! Chris talked about the difference between having the POTENTIAL to accomplish something and having the ABILITY to accomplish it. Using the "Sofa to Sainthood" theme we broke open how sainthood, like marathon running, requires not just a large goal but also daily and consistent habits. We all have the potential to be saints, but we need to nurture the ability.
The scriptural theme for the retreat was from Hebrews 12: "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith!" Participants were inited to reflect on what they wanted from their faith, and what small steps they would have to start taking regularly to achieve these goals.
In the second session Patty, the youth minister at Holy Family, talked about the need to stop certain behaviors in our lives that are keeping us from reaching our spiritual goal of sainthood. Like an athlete who must stop eating junk food and binge watching Netflix in order to run a marathon, a saint has to cut out the sins that keep him or her from growing stronger spiritually! During this session the teens also took part in an Examination of Conscience to begin preparing themselves for the Sacrament of Reconciliation later in the evening.
Mike Chamberland, youth minister at St. Edith, presented our third session titled "STAY". Mike talked about how there are times in our lives where it may be easier to walk away from something but growth and reward can come from staying. He shared that he often wanted to quit boy scouting when he was younger but his parents encouraged him to stick with it and he was blessed by his experience. Mike also talked about the importance of staying in God's presence and set the participants up to get the most out of their time in Eucharistic Adoration later in the evening.
The final session of the retreat was called "GO". Chris talked about there being situations in which it might be easier to stay put but true reward will only come from going away. Using the example of Abraham who was called to leave home and become "a stranger in a strange land" and of Peter who wanted to remain on the mountain after the Transfiguration to show how often God requires us to move. Just as there are situations that God calls us to stay in and grow through there are also situations that God asks us to grow away from. At the end of the session each participant made their own growth plan and wrote to their youth minister asking for specific help being accountable to when they needed to START, STOP, STAY, and GO in their own lives.
On the first night of the retreat each participant, including the adults, was given the name of one retreatant to secretly pray for and support during the weekend. Participants were told that it was their responsibility to make sure that their secret buddy had a good experience of retreat and growed in holiness during the weekend. Chris joked that even upon reaching the Pearly Gates St. Peter would be asking them where their secret buddy was. On the last day of retreat participants were asked to "reveal" themselves to their secret buddy and to also give them an affirmation. One participant commented that she thought all of the participants must have been her secret buddy because everyone kept being so nice to her.
I know that retreats take a substantial investment of your teenager's time and your family's resources. I also know how precious time at home with your teenager is during the high school years when they are pulled in so many different directions and preparing to leave home for college. I want you to know that I am incredibly proud and thankful that your family made the investment in this weekend-- I am confident that it will bear fruit in their life.
Teenagers are sometimes overwhelmed by the experience of retreat and not always able to share fully with you when they get home. Give them time and be patient and they will share with you-- we also spoke with them about the importance of sharing their retreat experiences with parents and siblings, so I hope they take our advice! The information about the sessions contained above will give you some framework through which to understand their experience, especially if it comes at you in bits and pieces.
As always, please contact me if you would like to know more about this or future retreat experiences!
The 2014 Spring Retreat took place last weekend and was a great time of renewal for many of our young people! We traveled to the DeSales Center in Brooklyn, MI with 25 high schoolers and 5 adult leaders for a weekend of prayer, reflection, activities, friend-making, and relaxation. Below is a summary of the retreat theme/activities as well as some pictures of our time together.
Theme- Little christs
The theme of our retreat was "Little Christs" and the content focused on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. The scriptural backbone of the content was John 13:34-35, where Jesus teaches his disciples to love one another and to be recognized by that love! While writing the retreat, we drew a lot of inspiration from Pastor Craig Groeschel of LifeChurch.tv and a series of videos he did for Switch Youth Ministry. You can watch those videos here on Youtube.
Session 1- "Disciples Love Like Jesus"
In our first session adult team member Sarah broke open John 13:34-35 and introduced us to the concept of discipleship. We also talked about redemption and how it is never too late to let the goodness of Christ shine out of us--- this was illustrated by a scene of Vadar's Redemption from Return of the Jedi. We then broke into small group to talk about the obstacles that prevented us from loving other people.
Session 2- "Disciples Love Others"
In session two adult team members Kate and Jodi taught us about SPLAGCHNIZOMAI (greek?) and how compassion is a movement "from the bowels" (or a gut feeling) that propels us to action! We learned how Jesus, and later his followers, were experts in showing this raw form of compassion to those that they encountered. We also explored historical characters like Miep Gies and Sarah Pownall to learn what this type of compassion has looked like in more recent times. Following this session was a structured reflection time where participants could do Bible study, go on a meditation walk, journal, or chapel sit while reflecting on how they may be called to show more splagchnizomai in their own lives.
Session 3- "Disciples Let Others Love Them"
In session three the youth minister, Chris, talked about how the early Christian community was known to always be meeting in people's houses and would eat, pray and work with one another-- that they never believed that the Christian life was something that could be lived alone. He broke this open and explained that as disciples we have to "check in" with the community and let others know in what ways we need to be shown compassion. We then adapted an activity from Challenge Day that allowed the participants to non-verbally ask the group for help with a variety of different issues in their lives. We then prayed for these specific intentions in our small groups. Following the session, the adult members met one-on-one with participants to further break open the activity and offer support to anyone that needed it.
On Saturday evening we were joined by Fr. Ron for some time in the chapel. There was music provided by adult team member Sarah, reconciliation provided by the priests, time for journaling, prayer with the adult team members, and numerous meditation activities for the participants to do during this time. Our reconciliation service and presentation by Fr. Ron focused on the unconditional love of God and was illuminated by the song "Unconditional" by Katy Perry and the story of the Prodigal Son from Luke's Gospel.
Session 4- "disciples Go Fishing"
For our final session adult team member Annie broke open Matthew 4:18-22 and a disciple's responsibility to go fishing for others. Each participant was able to write their personal prayer intentions on a paper fish which was later given to another participant for prayer support. Each participant was also given a bag of affirmation notes written to them by their peers and adult leaders. We then talked in small group about how to share the message of the retreat with our parents, siblings, and friends.
When we returned for 12:30 Mass on Sunday Fr. Manny was ready with a blessing of the students. We want to thank everyone in the parish for praying so hard during the retreat and for always being supportive of our young people! We also need to thank the adult team members who work tirelessly to evangelize our young saints. Finally, this ministry is IMPOSSIBLE without the support of parents-- the love you have for your young people is inspiring and I hope you realize how much love and respect this youth ministry staff has for you. Thank you for sharing your blessings with us and trusting us to play a part in your child's faith journey.
If you would like to know more specifics about the retreat theme, activities, or your teen's reaction to the retreat please contact me. Also, if your young person has not yet become involved in youth ministry at SJN, please contact me anytime. I can be reached at (734) 455-5910 x 20 or firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to speak with you more about this.
At last night's High School Youth Group meeting we explored the meaning and application of Forgiveness. We approached the topic apophatically with these principles of forgiveness:
I encourage parents to talk these over with their teen, and for each of us to reflect upon the people in our lives that we may need to forgive. Also, please remember that if you ever need someone to talk through a difficult situation with myself and the youth ministry team are here for you! All you need to do is ask.
The topic of last night's high school youth group meeting was the Cross. We discussed how people in Jesus' time would think that our veneration of the Cross was a little pathological-- after all would you trace the outline of a gas chamber on your child's forehead? Would you hang a lethal injection syringe on your wall? Tattoo a guillotine on your forearm? Probably not.
But why do we do these things with the Cross? Because the Cross means so much more to us than it's origins as a method of capital punishment. The Cross is our sign of hope, a sign of victory, a throne of our God, a reminder of Christ's sacrifice, and so much more! As a closing activity we asked the young people to create an art project that depicts what the Cross means to Christians. The posters they produced are absolutely stunning. Please use them as a reflection during the Easter Triduum. They will also be posted outside of the Gabriel Richard Rooms throughout the next few days if you would like to take a closer look!
On Wednesday, February 12th the High School Youth Group explored the history and prayer style of the Ecumenical Taize Community in France. The Community's message of reconciliation, unity, and simplicity is greatly needed in our fast-paced and divided society. The night began with a short presentation on the founding and history of the community, this video was shown as part of the presentation:
Following the presentation, members of the youth group were invited to experience Taize Prayer in a service put together by their peers on the leadership team. To help them connect more deeply with God, the adult team constructed this prayer environment in the Church (sorry that the photo resolution is so bad):
In a large group discussion following the service, participants commented that this type of prayer and simple life style teaches us to slow down and allow ourselves to encounter God in stillness. Quite a few upperclassmen were also preparing to ask Fr. Ron for permission to go visit the Taize Brothers in France! This experience clearly resonated with them.
For more information on the Taize Community you can visit their website! Make sure to click around to learn about the many different pilgrimages the brothers have made to the United States, including to Chicago, Pine Ridge, and Austin. Spotify users can also click here to listen to some of the music that has been written by and for the Taize Community. Notice how easy it is to pray the songs that are not in your native language! Spotify is free if you have not already signed up for an account.
I would like to thank Rick Cucchi. our music minister, and Mary Kay DeBrito, church cantor and youth group parent, for joining us and leading the music during the service. This evening would not have been possible without their support!
I just want to thank the teens and parents who made our trip to the 2014 Rainbow Conference a huge success last weekend! It was a great experience for all who attended and, for those of you who were praying with us at home but not able to attend the conference, I wanted to share some resources with you!
First, the Detroit News wrote a wonderful article about the conference-- you can read it here.
Second, the conference theme was "Ignite the Light". Keynote sessions focused on how Christians are commissioned by Jesus to show their love and shine His light into the world! The conference scripture verse was Matthew 5:14-16. On Saturday evening, Archbishop Vigneron encouraged the young people to go out and form relationships of love and service with individuals in their community.
Third, the conference Keynote speakers were Jackie Francois and Cooper Ray. Here is a great video of a presentation that Jackie gave at Steubenville, which I feel captures the heart of her Spirit and her message!
Finally, on the last day of the conference our group was able to thank Jackie and Cooper for their amazing testimonies and take a group photo with them!
Again, I want to thank the participants for being so open to the Spirit during the conference. I also want to thank Resurrection Parish, our "buddies" during the conference for helping us to dive deeper into the message of the weekend. We plan to attend the 2015 Rainbow Conference next year, I hope that you consider joining us!
The 2013 Fall Retreat was a huge success! We traveled to Camp Ohiyesa for a weekend away with young people and the adult teams from St. John Neumann and Holy Family, Novi. On behalf of the adults from both parishes, we want to thank the numerous parishioners, parents, and others who prayed for us, supported us, and make the weekend possible!
Below is a summary of the retreat theme and activities. We hope that this gives our parish communities an idea of what happens on a youth ministry retreat and helps parents speak with their young people about their experiences on the retreat and the impact that it had on their lives!
The theme of our retreat was Christian Ninja Warriors. If you aren’t familiar with the TV show “American Ninja Warriors”, it is an obstacle course competition where elite athletes from many different sports compete in near-impossible physical challenges in the hope of winning $500,000. Season 5 of the show just completed and to date no athlete in the United States has finished the course.
As Christian Ninja Warriors, we spent the weekend looking at the many obstacles that get in the way of us living the Christian Life. The scripture verse we focused on during the week was James 1:2-4:
"Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials,for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
In Session 1, Chris talked about how the Christian Life is NOT the challenge—we were made to live the Christian Life and when we choose to live it we are most fully alive! During the session we looked at where some of the challenges to living the Christian Life come from: ourselves, our culture, people in our communities, and the devil. The session ended with the assurance that God would give us the strength, the tools, and the courage to overcome these obstacles if we are willing to reach out to Him.
On Saturday morning, Jim and Patty from Holy Family talked about the power of personal and communal prayer for overcoming obstacles in the way of living the Christian Life (Session 2). Then Kate from SJN helped us to explore other sources of strength that can help us overcome these obstacles—the Saints, the Sacraments, the writings of the Holy Father, our Church communities, our families, Sacred Scripture, and more (Session 3)! Each young person was also given a folder of resources to help them begin incorporating more of these into their daily lives, the folders contained: Scripture verses relevant to living the Christian Life, short biographies of Saints, prayer ideas, and faith activities to try at home with their families.
On Saturday afternoon we participated in a challenge course and a zip line facilitated by the Camp Ohiyesa Staff. The staff talked to us about how growth happens each time we step outside of our comfort zones. Not all of the young people went down the zip line, but many who were afraid of heights chose to step out of their comfort zones by trying on the harnesses or standing on the 30ft high launch platform.
On Saturday evening Fr. Ron Richards came to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He led the group through a reflection on the song “Demons” by Imagine Dragons and explained that everyone has obstacles even though we don’t always show them to one another. Fr. Ron reiterated to the teens (and the adults) that God does not give up on His children, and that although overcoming obstacles is a life-long process, God, in his infinite love does not tire of helping us (Session 4).
Later on Saturday evening, David and Annie from Holy Family led us in worship during Eucharistic Adoration. The teens were invited to “put into practice” what they had learned about prayer during the weekend, by praying with the adult team members and asking that God help them overcome their obstacles! It was a very powerful evening, and although the kids were exhausted from a busy day it was obvious that they were giving it their all!
On Sunday Morning, Amanda from Holy Family helped us to understand what “perfection” means in terms of living the Christian life (Session 5). She also broke down many different areas of a young person’s life (family, school, peer relationships, interior life) and helped the teens to list simple daily decisions that they could make to perfect themselves in those areas. The session ended with each teen filling out a “Training Plan” Commitment Form listing how they plan to live as a Christian Ninja Warrior after the retreat. Some teens opted to give their cards to the adult team members to be mailed to them in 2014.
The final activity of the retreat was a Mass celebrated by Fr. Beto of Holy Family. Fr. Beto encouraged the young people to keep alive the Spirit that had been instilled in them during the weekend, and spoke of the importance of living our lives alongside Jesus Christ.
I hope this quick summary helps you to understand what we did on the Fall Retreat. If you have any questions, or would like additional information to help you process this experience with your teenager, please don’t hesitate to contact me! Thanks for sharing your teenager with us, and thank you for your continued prayers!
The October Faith UNwrapped (FUN) session explored the Call of the Prophet Jeremiah (found in Jeremiah 1) and looked at modern-day excuses that we give for not answering God’s call. Although our excuses differ a little (but not as much as you would think) from Jeremiah’s, we learned that God meets us with the same reassurances that he met Jeremiah with… God will give us the words to speak, God will guide I feet to the right places, God will give us the talents and gifts needed to complete his mission, and when we are ridiculed God will be at our side… what an amazing God we have!
The teens in the youth group spent some time considering what God was calling them to—a deeper prayer life, a devotion to Scripture, more meaningful relationships with God and others, and more! At the close of the youth group session we considered the question, “What impact would it have if all young people chose to answer God’s call for their lives?” Below are the impacts that the teens came up with:
The impact on our parish…
· More teens at youth group
· More teens at Mass
· Greater involvement of youth in parish ministries
· More teens preaching!
· More Jesus Music
· More $ to the poor
· Stronger community
· A crowded Heaven
· More selfless people
· More people serving God (making God happy)
· A better environment- more Jesusy and happy people
· More churches!
· More vocations to the priesthood
· It would always be as crowded as the Christmas Eve Mass
· Jesus would be happy!
· More people would attend Church activities
· Get lots of money for the Church
· Youth group would be PACKED
The impact on our schools…
· No enemies
· We would find more value in learning
· More enjoyable
· Less teen pregnancies
· Less drug use
· More confidence—no fear of judgement
· More joy in our friendships
· Less pressure in academics
· More respect between teachers and students
· More people would pray in school
· No violent behavior
· More Acts of Random Kindness
· Homework would be turned in on time
· School would be more fun
The impact on our cities…
· More Church goers
· Less crime
· More sense of purpose
· Less fear
· Cleaner environment
· Friendlier/More Welcoming cities
The impact on our families…
· More empathic relationships
· No jealousy
· Greater honesty
· Better communication
· More supportive (encouragement)
· Willingness to help each other
· Less material excessiveness
· Obedience to one another
· Houses would be cleaner
· Closer and happier relationships
· Less fighting
· Less stress in the family
· More love and understanding
· Families would attend Sunday Mass more willingly
The parish and the youth ministry program will continue to focus on the theme of Discipleship throughout the coming year. I share this reflection with you because the vision of the world filled with young disciples that these teens presented has me excited to continue growing as a disciple myself, and to continue helping them grow as disciples.
If you are a teenager, a parent, a parishioner, or someone near to the Saint John Neumann family and you are also excited about this vision, contact me about how you can become involved in making it a reality! Peace!
Parents and teenagers frequently as me what happens at youth group, which is understandable, because while youth group is an awesome thing… it’s also unlike many other things in our society. So I’ve decided to break down last Wednesday’s youth group meeting and present it to you here in as in-depth a manner as possible. My hope is that you will read this and then decide to attend (or encourage your child to attend) a future meeting.
First, this meeting was planned and presented by the peer leaders on the Guidance & Healing Component-- the peer leadership team is split into 4 components, which are Guidance & Healing, Community Life, Justice & Service, and Word & Worship--- this year’s Guidance & Healing team is composed of Renae, Leanna, and Rebecca.
The topic of the meeting was “Empowerment”—the goal was for each young person to walk away feeling like they mattered to God and knowing that the whole community was in need of their gifts.
To open the meeting, Rebecca read to us Max Lucado’s book You Are Special and the rest of the peer leadership team acted out the story as she read. You can listen to the story here:
After the story came snack—this week’s snack was popcorn, apples, and lemonade.
Then the group broke into small groups led by our peer leaders. The small groups dispersed throughout the building and read Philippians 4:10-13 together. Participants were asked to reflect on this passage and then to share a story about a time when they felt empowered or joyful because God was working in their lives.
When the small group discussions had ended, the entire youth group was tasked with painting a mural that incorporated different elements of the stories that they had discussed in small groups. There were no restrictions put on what they could create (except that I forbid them to finger paint) and everyone was told they had to contribute at least one thing. The final product was very impressive!
When the mural was finished, Renae led the group in a discussion of the painting. Participants noticed common themes in each of their contributions and remarked that the painting, although very busy, would not have been special to them if anyone’s contribution were removed. They also noticed how often people had built upon the paintings of others to create even larger scenes. This mural is now hung in the youth room.
The closing activity was the “Human Chair” where the entire group was able to transform themselves into a chair (and later a walking chair). The participants reflected on how if any member of the group had fallen or given up then the entire group would have fallen down.
Next came announcements and closing prayer. Marianne closed us in prayer and invited the group to reflect on Elton John’s song “Your Song”. You can listen to the song here:
The overall level of energy at the meeting was high, and we were excited to welcome six new people to the youth group!
I hope that this in-depth look at a youth group night will give you the courage to give the youth group (or to invite your child to youth group) a try! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me!