A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Marching to Their Own Drums

Posted on: July 4, 2013

Since my son’s birth, people have been telling me that he looks a lot like me. But his interests are much closer to his dad’s than mine: movies with car chases and explosions, extremely chocolaty desserts, sports of all kinds. When my son and I do find a common interest, like music, it helps us relate to each other better.

And so today, at barely 10 a.m., my house was filled with the sound of acoustic drums.

On a break from piano for the summer, my son had his first drum lesson last night. I enjoy a quiet house in the mornings—I’m really not a morning person—but his willingness to practice trumps that, and I hope the enthusiasm lasts.

Even before he started drum lessons, my son saw some teens playing a tambourine and maracas during the closing song at Mass one week and commented that he’d like to play drums with the band. Our music leader told me he could play a djembe with the closing song sometime. A small thing, but one that shows he understands something important about teens in church: they need to feel included and involved. And that means helping them find a way to use their talents.

How can we get our teens more involved in the life of the parish? We can help them identify talents they could use to serve the church:

  • Teens who are great with kids: We could encourage them to use their “kid whisperer” skills by assisting with the children’s liturgy or leading children’s activities at a parish picnic, movie night, or vacation Bible camp. Especially since volunteers for children’s ministry are too few and far between.
  • Teens who like drama or public speaking: We could encourage them to use their ability to project their voice and speak clearly by serving as lectors. It’s wonderful to hear Bible passages read clearly and not too quickly or too slowly.
  • Teens who enjoy the visual arts: We could encourage them to use their appreciation for colour and space by helping to decorate the church (getting all our senses involved in worship), set up the hall for special events, or create displays for parish activities.
  • Teens who are tech savvy: We could encourage them to put their tech skills to work by preparing and running slides (for churches that use a projector) or updating and improving the parish website. Volunteers for these duties tend to be scarce.
  • Teens who love music: We could encourage them to put their appreciation for music to work by joining the band, writing their own worship songs, or staying on the lookout for new hymns and praise songs to keep the music ministry fresh.
  • Teens who are outgoing: We could encourage them to use their ease in social situations by serving as greeters—a ministry whose value I think we underestimate. Visitors and newcomers feel far more comfortable and welcome when the first face they see is a friendly one.
  • Teens who have good organizational skills: We could encourage them to help in the parish office over the summer, prepare ministry schedules (for greeters, lectors, Eucharistic ministers, and so on), or organize items in storage (such as books for First Eucharist and RCIA, office supplies, or even the parish kitchen).

In parishes like mine where the youth ministry is still under construction, young people may feel attending Mass is something they have to do or, sadly, get through. But if we can help them recognize their gifts and identify areas where they could put them to use, our youth may find joy in serving the parish and the Lord.

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Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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