Report by Paul Katula

Seminar agenda/notes, Nov. 15, 2005

Location: Christ the King parish, Chicago

Speaker: Mary Lee Becker,

Title: Developing Young Adolescent Ministry (6-8th grade)


1. What are our hopes for a youth ministry?


A. Enhance their life experience

B. Increase their desire for relationship with Christ

C. Keep youth coming back (maintain interest)

D. Increase confidence in their catholic identity

E. Increase their desire to grow in faith, sanctify life, grow in holiness

F. Create/maintain connections to others, friendship

G. Modify behavior: community service vs. self-centered


2. What do youth need from a youth ministry?


A. Competence and achievement, meaningful, valuable participation

B. Physical activity, due to rapid physical growth

C. Self-definition (clarity of an accurate self-image)

D. Positive social interactions with adults, peers

E. Creative expression (ex. sports, art, music) of who they are

F. Structure and clear limits: gives freedom to explore

G. A personal religious experience


3. What are young adolescents’ major gifts to the world?


A. Energy and enthusiasm

B. Creativity (at its peak around 7th grade)

C. Curiosity, the need to discover, explore

D. An uncanny sense of idealism (cynicism hasn’t set in yet)

E. While creativity high, capacity to learn (listen) is lowest

F. More likely to invent than learn what we teach, but how to compensate


4. What do young adolescents represent to Catholics?


A. Carnegie: last best chance to set youth on a positive path for life

B. First (Catholic) youth ministry, 1976, approved by bishops

C. Conclusion: classroom setting “loses too many” youth

D. Most Catholics see confirmation as sacrament of exit, not initiation

E. Therefore, revision needed: get them in young adolescence (HS too late)


5. How do adults perceive 7th graders (outward signs, behavior)?


A. Loud

B. Wild

C. Disrespectful (the top one)

D. Disorganized

E. Messy, sloppy, “slobs”


6. How do they feel about themselves (think about when we were 12)?


A. Feelings more prevalent than behaviors, appearances

B. Outside = “I don’t want to sit with you,” inside = “rejection”

C. Uncertainty about what adults expect them to do

D. Sometimes unclear on how adults act, exactly


7. Why is it hard to teach 7th graders anything?


A. We react to what we see on the outside (appearance, behavior)

B. They react to our reaction, and the situation escalates

C. Hard to minister to them “inside-out” (as Christ commanded)


8. How should we view our true mission in youth ministry?


A. Respond to their needs

B. Affirm their gifts by including them in meaningful ways

C. Happens at a parish level: all adults are youth ministers

D. Will they touch the lives of teenagers in the next 7 days?

E. Everyone in the church will stand up when asked (fast food, business, driving)


9. How can we affirm their gifts?


A. Redirect their wandering, exploration

B. Don’t “punish” when their behavior/ideas can be turned to good

C. Don’t put them in a spot where they have to “save face”

D. Example: don’t tell them they’re stupid in front of their friends

E. Tap creativity and other gifts within plan of the lesson

F. Remember they will do anything (lie, cheat) to save face


10. How can we respond to their needs?


A. Rapid change in five dimensions: physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual

B. Girls sooner and faster than boys

C. Ex. 7th girl = 10th g in maturity; but many boys may = 4th graders in maturity

D. M/F “reputation” differences (how others respond to THEM):

E. Ex. Girl, fast physical, slow spiritual (moral) = slut

F. Girl, fast physical, slow intellectual = space cadet

F. Boy, fast spiritual (moral), fast social = leader

G. Boy, fast intellectual, slow social or physical = nerd

H. Etc., but these changes happen TO them: they don’t have a choice


11. Is CCD-type classroom setting good for anything?


A. Yes, for spiritual (moral) development, it’s fine

B. Best way for young adolescents to learn: research, “broadcast” learning

C. Learning is only one channel of many that they “surf”

D. Remember, creativity/exploration still dominate over learning

E. Best to incorporate physical activity (movement) into lesson

F. This development doesn’t occur in a vacuum

G. Other dimensions develop simultaneously


12. How is demographic sociology related to cognitive psychology?


A. Baby boom, born through 1964

B. Echo boom, children of baby boomers (usu. 1976–present)

C. “Internet” generational plateau: from about 1992–present

D. Never knew a world without the Internet

E. They NEED to do several things at once (IM, phone, homework, CD, ...)

F. One thing at a time is boring, no fun

G. Only learn when it’s “fun”

H. Tend to shut out one thing if it’s the only thing

I. Psychologists call this multitasking “broadcast learning”

J. We were never “their” age, b/c of generational differences

K. We were never able to multitask at the level they do so naturally


13. How can we bridge different dimensions of development in boys?


A. Ex. Male gender: tends to keep things in except anger

B. Useful outlet for anger: sports

C. Sports balance the extremes of emotion with physical activity

D. Dispels anger to conform to social norms (moral development)


14. How can we bridge different dimensions of development in girls?


A. Ex. Accept emotional outbursts: they are real drama queens

B. It’s all a major crisis: everything in life is a soap opera

C. Outward emotional displays incorporate physical activity

D. Response of others checks emotional development with social norms


15. How can we deal with immodest clothing in girls?


A. Don’t tell them “you have to act like an adult to be treated like one”

B. B/c they see many adults dressed less modestly than the kids

C. Work with parents, or take them shopping yourself

D. “Here are the guidelines”; “It’s not appropriate to...”

E. “Jesus said we need to look beyond the opposite sex”


16. What is an “imaginary audience” (psych.)?


A. Young adolescents start to realize they can think. Wow!

B. If they can think about others, others can think about them

C. They imagine that everyone is watching them (spotlight effect)

D. Adults interpret as selfishness; really hyper-self-consciousness

E. Worst to single them out (feeds quasi-paranoia)

F. Singling them out among friends also terrifies others in the group

G. Intervene to stop behavior, but always punish privately


17. What values do young adolescents learn?


A. “Kids adopt the values of those who care about them”

B. Index card survey: “I know adults care about me when ...”

C. Top answers always include “when they smile and say hi”


18. How can we understand where they’re coming from (behavior)?


A. Formal operational thinking only developing at this point

B. Concrete (what you can draw) is understood, but not the abstract

C. Didn’t you used to be fat? indicates concrete, not operational (will power)

D. “We must become interpreters for the understanding-impaired”

E. We must interpret words and meaning

F. We must react to what we see outside, in context of what they feel inside

G. They are very language-weak: must interpret based on what we know of feelings


19. If you can draw a picture, can they learn?


A. Trinity ... ice, water, steam ... all the same God, three different states (persons)

B. Holy Spirit ... dove or fire ... they think “something that craps on me” or “burns”

C. Analogies like this work (sometimes) but teach them carefully

D. OK to tell them this is hard

E. OK to say “this is a mystery of our faith”

F. Ex. Faith is a lifelong journey is OK, but give them 3–5 years

G. They understand “practicing” (bad news: you’re not an adult yet)

H. They do it for soccer, have to practice before the game


20. Is there a way not to pack curricula right before confirmation?


A. Yes, if we can get them to come back in HS

B. Yes, if we teach confirmation as initiation rather than exit sacrament

C. Yes, if we focus on struggling with good questions

D. Yes, if we don’t focus on finding the right answers so quickly

E. B/c it takes time to work its way to their comprehension

F. Yes, if we try to teach them the RIGHT things

G. Since they will always push limits (their default behavior)

H. Teach what is RIGHT wrt what they can understand at this age


21. What should we do when they push the limits?


A. Young adolescents need to be “drawn back” to their base

B. Express clear limits

C. This lets them know what boundaries they may choose to explore

D. Base any punishment on the individual kid

E. Consider his capacity to understand, given five dimensions of development


22. How can we focus our strengths as teachers?


A. Remember, every ministry is rooted in relationship (Christ set that up)

B. Anything that helps them remember you, more important than lesson

C. Good news: whole community here to help

D. More good news: you have a few years before their mistakes count


23. What do most kids want in their parents (top 10)?


A. Don’t argue in front of them

B. Treat each family member the same

C. Be honest

D. Be tolerant of others

E. Welcome their friends into your home

F. Build a team spirit with the children

G. Answer their questions

H. Give punishment when needed, but not in groups, esp. groups of friends

I. Concentrate on good points rather than weaknesses

J. Be consistent


24. How can we all help support a youth ministry?


A. Greet and smile with young people whenever you meet them

B. Pray for them and for the ministry (tell them you’re praying for them)

C. Show them they are valued and cared about (thank them, acknowledge effort)

D. Volunteer in programs for youth

E. Take time to get to know them; share your gifts with them generously

F. Encourage other adults to do the same, in positive ways

G. Compliment the supervisors/parents of young people doing a good job

H. Offer to help with transportation, childcare, homework, in emergencies

I. Network with other professionals, to explore opportunities for youth to contribute

J. Support youth ministry leaders, giving generously of your talents and time


25. What are the elements of the intellectual (cognitive) development dimension?


A. Expand knowledge of facts

B. Develop critical thinking and reasoning skills (synthesis of information)

C. Experience competence through academic achievement


26. What are the elements of the social development dimension?


A. Increase communication and negotiation skills

B. Increase capacity for meaningful relationships with peers, adults

C. Explore adult rights and responsibilities (still practicing)


27. What are the components of physical development?


A. Begin to mature physically and understand the changes of puberty

B. Increase motor skills through physical activity

C. Develop habits that promote lifelong physical fitness

D. Learn to take and manage appropriate physical skills


28. What are the elements of good emotional development?


A. Develop a sense of personal identity

B. Develop clear, accurate self-image, despite all the different “mirrors”

C. Develop sense of personal autonomy, control

D. Develop coping, decision-making, stress-management skills

E. Combined with cognitive development, develop problem-solving skills


29. What are the elements of moral (spiritual) development?


A. Develop personal values (Catholic values)

B. Develop sense of accountability, responsibility, wrt larger society

C. Apply values and beliefs in meaningful ways, day-to-day living


30. How can we get young adolescents involved in planning the program?


A. Surveys of what they would like to see in the program

B. Provide specific guidelines to youth who can plan individual events, programs

C. Ask them to conduct their own surveys of other youth

D. Assign age-appropriate tasks in the planning process


31. How can we involve adolescents in leading activities?


A. Demonstrate specific games, activities

B. Team up 1–2 experiences youth with 1–2 new ones (faith partners)

C. Have them make announcements

D. Allow them to lead prayers

E. Set up roles for them (ex. greeter during parent visitation nights)


32. How can we involve them in publicity/outreach?


A. Ask them for help in making announcements, printing

B. B/c they’re probably better on the computer than we are

C. Set up a phone tree, and let them make calls

D. Involve them in writing parish bulletin announcements, flyers, etc.

E. Designate one or two as “information contacts” for upcoming events

F. Welcome their guests in a bring-a-friend program

G. Prepare a periodic report re learning, activities; distribute to parish

H. Have them write “dream lists” of ways they’d like to be involved in parish


33. How can we build relationships, create community?


A. Know them by name

B. Show an interest in their lives beyond church

C. Become a learner (let them teach you about their interests)

D. Show a presence (be where they are, on their turf) — very important

E. Compliment and affirm their effort/accomplishment, even how they look

F. Be accepting when things go wrong: they are not stupid, rejected, or alone

G. Begin questions with how, what or why to encourage sharing

H. Talk about what’s important to them, not necessarily to you

I. Send them postcards, notes, emails, birthday cards, etc.

J. Ask them for opinions and advice (what they think, how they feel)

K. Let them choose (choose music, games, snack food, etc.)

L. Be hospitable, incl. providing refreshments during extended activities

M. Set reasonable expectations, according to THEIR development level

N. Designate a space just for them in bulletin, boards, etc.


34. How can ministers be focused for active youth ministry?


A. Avoid “youth group” terminology: a good ministry has several different groupings

B. Ex. web site, email pals, birthday card ministry, prayer ministry, bus stop greeters

C. More ex. attending school and community events, sports, concerts, plays

D. Or, have a gathered focus: at church or some other site

E. Whichever, involve youth in the planning process, actively


35. What are the components of a comprehensive youth ministry?


A. Advocacy: integrate young people into life of the church

B. Catechesis: develop deeper relationship/friendship with Christ

C. Community life: love, support, appreciation of diversity

D. Evangelization: uncover and name experience of God already present in their lives

E. Justice and community service

F. Leadership development

G. Pastoral care: esp. for adolescents/families in crisis: and it’s going to happen

H. Prayer and worship: communal prayer and liturgical experiences (ministers)


36. What about expectations of young adolescents?


A. Never expect them to be what you want

B. Always embrace them for who they are

C. Honor their forms of expression (esp. prayers)

D. Do not force them into your forms of expression or even words of memorized prayer

E. They are gifted, growing adolescents: remember that


Closing prayer:


God, you are like the air in my soccer ball.

You are like the sugar in my soda.

You are like the electricity in my Sony Playstation.

Thank you for my parents and my teachers.

Thank you for guiding me by all the great things you made on earth.

We would be nothing without you.