Editor’s Note: Today, I’m so happy to welcome talented blogger Jared Dees to our CatholicMom.com team of contributors. Jared will share from the expertise he has gained as Adolescent Catechetical Specialist at Ave Maria Press and from his “hands on” work as a religion teacher. For more inspiration, visit Jared’s fantastic blog The Religion Teacher. Lisa
Getting teenagers to pray, sing, and even listen during Mass can be a real struggle. With exasperation we might exclaim, “The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life and they don’t even care!” How can we change this? How can we get them to appreciate Christ’s presence in the Liturgy and get them to participate? Here are six tips for adults working in Catholic schools, youth ministers, catechists, and parents to consider:
1. Make sure they know what to do
Sometimes teens don’t sing the songs or pray the prayers because they don’t know the words. Make sure each person has a liturgical aid or remind them to use their hymnals. Teens are much less likely to sing or even mouth the words if they don’t know the songs. With cantors, they may not even know they are supposed to sing. They may also be confused by the standing, sitting, and kneeling. Take some time to explain each part of the Mass and what participation type of participation is actually expected of them.
2. Lead by example
“A truth which is loved by the teacher, and communicated in such a way that it is seen to be something valuable in itself, then becomes valuable to the student” (Congregation for Catholic Education, The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, #107). This goes for all adults. If you don’t participate, neither will they.
3. Participation can be cool
Typically participation in the Mass is not something that fits into a teen’s identity. Participating in Mass isn’t cool. Since singing, praying, and listening during Mass isn’t that common, most teens will try to blend into the crowd. They want attention, but not the wrong kind of attention. If you’ve ever been to a youth conference Mass, you know that participation is not a problem. In those settings they can become accepted by their peers for praising God, so participation is not a problem. When teens see others (even adults) participating around them, then they are much more likely to join the crowd. Start small and get a few students on board and have them encourage others to participate in every setting.
4. Change the setting
What do these Catholic youth rallies, conferences, and retreats do so well? They play contemporary praise and worship music. Homilies include messages that they can relate to their personal lives. They are surrounded by other teens. They get time to socialize before and after the liturgies. Try recreating this in your parish or school either on retreats or during regular masses. Teen masses can become very popular when teens are given the opportunity to attend.
5. Find their feelings
Each one of us comes to the Liturgy with new experiences, concerns, issues, and emotions. What is going on in a teen’s life prior to coming to Mass? We’ve all been teenagers so you know the answer is a whole lot. Prime the pump before Mass begins. Get them thinking about what is going on in their lives and hopefully they will be able to make connections between this and the Scripture, prayers, homily, or the Eucharist itself. This can be especially possible during retreats, Catholic school masses, and youth group Mass. Just make sure the time is set aside to do so.
6. Teach them why
No matter how fun or emotional you make the Mass, if teens do not increasingly learn more about the Christ and the mystery of the Eucharist, they will lose interest. Youth rallies are great, but the emotions fade. When teens know the person who touches them during the Mass, they can make the conscious decision to praise him even when the emotions are gone. Catechetical instruction, specifically liturgical catechesis, is essential to developing life-long disciples. If teens don’t know who Christ is, how can they be motivated to seek communion with him?
What successes have you hand in getting teens to join in the Liturgy? Share your ideas by commenting below.
Copyright 2010 Jared Dees