I’ve held many different titles and filled many different roles throughout my life with various jobs and organizations. My favorite one of them all, though, has been as a core member with the St. Cletus youth group. A core member is basically a fancy way of saying adult leader. Serving as a core member for the past 2.5 years has brought me more joy, peace, and insight into my faith than I could have ever imagined. When I first joined as a core member I thought I’d come in and change lives. What I didn’t expect was how much my life would be changed.
St. Cletus’ youth group has been a huge part of my identity ever since I was 14 years old. I was a part of the group all through high school and honestly it changed my life. It was a place where I could escape all of the typical high school drama and surround myself with some of my best friends. But most importantly, it was a place where I could discover myself and my faith. It was a place where I finally was able to come out of my shell and find confidence in myself. At the beginning of high school I was painfully shy and timid. By going to youth group I gradually became more outgoing and comfortable being who I am. I was able to find and become the person God intended me to be.
Fast forward a few years to the end of my senior year of college. My experiences in youth group laid my spiritual foundation entering college. It enabled me to continue growing my relationship with God and continue developing that newfound confidence. Those were experiences that I didn’t easily forget. So I had already decided that I was going to go back home and join the core team. I wanted to give back to the group that had shaped my faith and pushed me to be the person I had become.
When I first joined the core team I thought I would come in and immediately make a difference. I thought I’d meet all these teens and form these instant connections with them. Yeah, that’s not exactly how things played out. These kids didn’t know me. It didn’t matter that I was a former teen in the youth group, just like them. It didn’t matter what I did in college. They didn’t know me. So why would they open up to this random dude that just showed up out of nowhere? I can’t say I blame them.
There was a point in time I considered quitting. I was starting to think that joining core team was an obligation I placed on myself. I wasn’t developing these life changing bonds that I anticipated. I was really busy with work, so I questioned whether this commitment was worth my free time. Let me just say this; quitting would have been the worst mistake of my life. What I didn’t understand at the time was that I had to put in the effort. I expected them to come to me. But I had to earn their trust, I had to earn their respect. It was my ego that convinced me that I’d come in and immediately make a difference.
After a lot of reflection I also came to the realization that my intentions for being on core team were selfish. I wasn’t truly doing it for the teens and to help them strengthen their faith. I was doing it to boost my own ego and self esteem. I was still viewing this youth group as something for me, when in reality it was supposed to be for all for the teens.
What changed everything for me was the Luke 18 retreat in 2017. Just seeing the teens on that retreat feel and experience God’s love was so incredible. And it reminded me of my time in high school and how it was those experiences of God’s love that changed me. That was my purpose on core team, to do whatever I can to help those teens discover that love for themselves. After that retreat it became my mission.
You get out what you put in. For me that phrase means so much. There’s so much truth to it. After that Luke 18 retreat all I wanted to do was be around St. Cletus and the youth group. The week after Luke 18 we had what we called Mega Week. We decided we would do something different everyday, like adoration or mass. That’s also where our collective love for Steak n Shake was born. I was starting to feel a sense of community and fellowship.
It’s so cool to see a group of teenagers take pride in their faith. They push each other to grow in their faith just as much as we push them. But they also push me and the other core members. They inspire us to be better. They motivate us to be the best role models and examples we can be.
I’m not exaggerating when I say I’d be lost without this youth group. Serving this group has become my purpose. It’s what gives me life. I said in my first post that I struggle with the monotony of life and falling into pits. Without this youth group I’d very well be in a pit with no clue how to get out. I feel alive when I’m with this youth group because they bring the best out in me. They’ve helped me rediscover myself again, just like I did when I was in their shoes.
Whenever I’m with the youth group I’m guaranteed to laugh. And I mean genuine laughter. They are so joyful and so much fun to be around. I love goofing around with them and making a fool of myself. I wouldn’t put on a wig and lip sync a Sia song for just anyone.
But more than anything, what the teens share with me is how to put God above everything else. To me that’s crazy because that’s what we’re supposed to teach them. And yet here I am, constantly getting caught up by all the distractions in life. But they always remind me that nothing else is nearly as important as God. I’m supposed to be the one setting the example. But time and time again I’m the one following their lead.
On the Luke 18 retreat of 2017 we were wrapping up some sort of activity, I honestly don’t remember what. But we all decided to put our hands in the middle and have some sort of group send off. Normally we’d do something like Jesus on three, or something along those lines. Instead one of the teens came up with Friendship Momentum. None of us had any clue what the heck that meant but we rolled with it. And it’s since become our rallying cry. We break down every life night by putting our hands in the middle, counting down from three, and yelling Friendship Momentum. It became such a fixture that one of the other core members (WHAT UP KATIE) even decided to define it and give a talk on it. That phrase perfectly describes our group. Being able to see the friendship they share with each other and with me has given me so much joy. We’ve all heard some variation of “treat others like Jesus would.” The friendship that these teens share is a perfect example of that. And I love the momentum that this group has generated. They’re always pushing forward, always exploring their faith. Without the momentum they’ve given me my faith life I’d be in no man’s land. I love this youth group and I am so blessed to be surrounded by so many incredible young men and women of Christ.
So all together now….
3, 2, 1….FRIENDSHIP MOMENTUM!