Friday, January 31, 2014

Seven Quick Takes- The Youth Group Edition

What does it take to survive have a successful youth group at your church?  Well, I am still working on that, but here are some stories of my joys and failures in the past six years of being a youth group leader.  Maybe you are a veteran youth group leader, or maybe you are a newbie, but here are seven things that I think are critical in youth ministry.
--- 1 --- 
Concerts Are Critical, and Music Matters.
We hit A LOT of Christian concerts as a Youth Group.  The free outdoor ones are our favorite.  Between the (usually) good music, uplifting message, and the roadtrip to get there, concerts are crowd pleasers in our YG world.
Two van loads of my youth group kids and I saw Tenth Avenue North at Winter Jam 2014 last Sunday Night.  They were one of ten bands, and one of the few that I could actually hear and understand all of their lyrics (there's my I'm-too-old-to-be-at-a-rock-concert self showing).   This was the "favorite" song of the evening for the girls that I was sitting near, and I am not sure if it is because they really liked it or because they decided that they all should marry the bad members and become roadie-wives.  I'm game to join them.  However, now that I have seen this video, I can't stop picturing the lead singer as a hobbit- watch the video and tell me you don't think the same thing...(the hair?  the tree?)
--- 2 ---
Don't Let Silly Weather Stop Your Ministry.

Rain, snow, ice, cold, wind, blazing heat...I've seen them all at the concerts we have attended.

Winter Jam is one of my favorite events because it doesn't require purchasing tickets ahead of time.  Procrastinating-Non-Committal Teenagers + Advanced-Ticket-Purchases = Headaches for Katie.
Ten bands, ten bucks at the door, full arena rock concert experience: it is win-win.
However, the WINTER always seems to be trouble for our Winter Jam experiences.  Last year, we had to cancel because of a last minute ice storm.  This year we were going no matter what according to the kids.  We left from the church in balmy 30 degree temps (a veritable heat wave), made our way into the concert, and proceeded to rock out.  However, while in the arena, the temperature plummeted almost 30 degrees and in our neck of the woods a couple of inches of snow combined with major wind to create white out conditions.  
Much to the kids delight, we all got notifications (from four different schools among the kids with us) that no one was going to have school the next day! 

Much to the kids groaning, Katie still made them leave when the show was about half over so that we could get home and not spend the night in a ditch.  Or worse, together in a hotel.  You just can't win. 

--- 3 ---
Build Relationships and Make Memories.
Don't get me wrong, I love my Youth Group kids.  And they love me, too, I think.  Sometimes that love just comes in the form of making Katie the object of so many inside jokes that never go away.  They will never let me forget about the ONE time SIX years ago that I told one of them to shut up.  Or the time that I stood in the middle of the street to get the best possible angle for a group picture.  And they love to do things like run away from me in Walmart and then text that they are getting into a white paneled van with a nice mustached man and that they will see me later.

Darn kids.

It isn't just me, though. We have a "Quote Wall" to preserve all of the funny things that are said or done which shall live in infamy for years to come.  It is all in good fun.  But I do seem to make the board a lot...

--- 4 ---
Group Games Grow Camaraderie.
We do have some favorite games in our Youth Group.

Sardines is by far the most requested game, but I have put the kibosh on that one lately.  Somehow an unlit room filled with 15 teen boys and girls wandering around no longer seems like a good idea...

The latest and greatest game we have discovered is Human Battleship.  People lying on the floor are the ships, there is a tarp in between them, and we throw a volleyball over the tarp as a missile.  Lots of fun.

Actually, any game where they can throw things seems to be a hit.

This site has some great ideas for different games and icebreakers.

--- 5 ---
Develop an Environment of Emotional, Mental, and Physical Safety.
Speaking of games, most of the time the kids are able to make their own fun.  It is important to plan downtime into any youth group meeting or event to allow for fellowship and relationship building.  Make sure that downtime takes place in a way that makes the kids feel emotionally, mentally, and physically safe.

However, be aware that downtime can sometimes lead to some...umm...interesting creative thought in a teenager's brain.

You may find yourself saying something like:
"No, you may not put him on your shoulders to see if you can touch the ceiling."
"Fire is not an appropriate source of inside entertainment."
"No, we may not do a Chinese Fire Drill in downtown Peoria."
"Please throw the ball AWAY from the church's stained glass windows."
"If you mix that food together, you are eating it."
"Do not climb that."
"Do not jump off of that."
"I mean it- DO NOT jump off of that."

It is no wonder my face sometimes looks like this at Youth Group events.
This is a real photo from a YG retreat.  Eeek.

--- 6 ---
And Food.  No Matter What, Don't Forget the Food.
Like an army, a Youth Group marches on its stomach.  Have food.  Have lots of food.
And you will never get used to the kinds, combinations, amounts, or utensils used.  For example, take this shot of pizza on a flip flop.  When I need a safe spot to place my pizza in between bites, I do not generally think of footwear.

--- 7 ---
But Really, It Is All About Christ.
All the stuff above is fluff.  Encouraging unique encounters with the Person of Christ, increasing understanding of Scripture and Church Doctrine, growing prayer lives and reception of the Sacraments, and creating a connection to the Body of Christ is really what Youth Group is all about.

Some of the ways that we do that are through the lessons, talks, and studies that we work through.  Unfortunately, the Youth Group Lessons tab above is probably the most neglected on this little blog, but there are some ideas there that you are welcome to use. 

However, be aware that the best laid plans may still give you some unexpected results.

Icebreaker questions might lead to self created memes about the Mother of God.
Talk about how the world was a different place 2000 years ago, and you might get some interesting social media updates.
Teach them about being pro-life and that may grow into a conversation about how it would be cool if pregnant ladies were more like kangaroos.
You never know what you are going to get.

Happy Friday!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Theological Virtues

Virtue: A Habit to do the good, give the best of yourself, and be more like God in what you say and do.

If it's in my room, odds are good it is going to be tied in with owls. Get it?  The greatest of these is love?

To tie in with our study of sainthood and the universal call to holiness, I decided to do a little more intentional instruction about the virtues.  Visit here for the original graphic organizer we added to our notebooks to start things off.

Go check out the Moral Virtues and how we have been using these notes to encourage the kids to grow in holiness by reading this post.

Next up: The Theological Virtues.

We have been focusing on one virtue each week.  After the Moral Virtues, we are moving into the Theological Virtues.   I made a printable for them to add to their Sheen notebooks, which I printed half sized to better fit on a notebook page.  Both full size and 2-per-page options to print can be found below.

Click on the picture for the full size printables.
 Click here for the half page Faith sheet.
 Click here for the half page Hope sheet.
  Click here for the half page Charity sheet.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Storm Heaven

If you've been reading this blog much, you are very familiar with the fact that I love Venerable Fulton J. Sheen.  I respect the life that he led, admire his passion for the spreading the Gospel, find wisdom in his words, and believe that he is in heaven right now before the throne of God interceding for us.

That personal admiration turned into a personal challenge last year when I decided to share his life with my 5th grade students.  What started as a short term project turned into a life changing experience because of the connection that my students developed with Sheen.  The impact that he made on them motivated me to stretch and grow the idea of this curriculum, and then encouraged me to share it with others, hoping that other classrooms would have the same experience introducing Fulton Sheen and his relevant teachings to youth.

One classroom that took advantage of that opportunity is located just across the river from my school in Peoria.  In particular, their 6th grade religion class has been learning about the life of Fulton Sheen and discovering their religion content through his eyes.  Amazingly, this group of kids has formed a bond to Fulton Sheen that sounds very similar to what my kids have experienced.  Their teacher, Sarah, says that the kids love him and have an incredibly strong devotion to him.  Daily since the beginning of school, they have been praying for his canonization and asking for his prayers for them.  They have been especially interested in investigating the canonization process, researching his first alleged miracle, and wondering what the second needed miracle will be.

On Tuesday, one of the students in that 6th grade class, a girl named Samantha who especially loves Fulton Sheen, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Ewings Sarcoma.  It has spread throughout her body, and her family is asking for prayer.  They are specifically asking for prayer through the intercession of Fulton Sheen.  She loves Fulton Sheen, and I know that Fulton Sheen loves her, too.  And we certainly know that Christ loves her.

Please join me in asking our Lord for a miracle for Samantha, and lets ask her friend Fulton Sheen to pray, too.  Together, we can all storm heaven.

Eternal Father, You alone grant us every blessing in Heaven and on earth, through the redemptive mission of  Your Divine Son, Jesus Christ, and by the working of  the Holy Spirit. If it be according to Your Will, glorify Your servant, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, by granting the favor I now request through his prayerful intercession: the complete healing of Samantha from cancer and the return of her health. I make this prayer confidently through Jesus Christ,our Lord.  Amen.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. ~Hebrews 4:16

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Happy Catholic Schools' Week!

To my fellow Catholic School Educators out there, Happy Catholic Schools' Week!

Here is a shot of the bulletin board I created for the entrance of the school to celebrate:
 It is modeled after the CSW logo from the NCEA, which we will be using along with the theme "Communities of Faith, Knowledge, and Service" for the next three years... so I plan to carefully take down that giant logo, store it somehow... and pull it out again next year!

In honor of Catholic Schools' Week, I created a new Fulton Sheen quote coloring page, focused on the importance of books on our learning journey.  Venerable Fulton J. Sheen was educated in our own Peoria Diocese, and used his great learning to share Christ with the world.  Click on the image below for the printable.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Moral Virtues

Virtue: A Habit to do the good, give the best of yourself, and be more like God in what you say and do.
To tie in with our study of sainthood and the universal call to holiness, I decided to do a little more intentional instruction about the virtues.  Visit here for the original graphic organizer we added to our notebooks to start things off.

Next up: The Moral Virtues.

I have been introducing the kids to each of the moral virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.  We have been focusing on one virtue each week.  I made a printable for them to add to their Sheen notebooks, which I printed half sized to better fit on a notebook page.  Both full size and 2-per-page options to print can be found below.

 We talked about the virtue and then recorded some practical examples in the section that says "prudence in action."  Mindful that growing in holiness, which we are all called to, means growing in virtue, each kid then made a goal related to that virtue to work on for the week.  They wrote their goals on post-it notes and then stuck them on this poster on the door.  I love this poster- It has gotten a lot of mileage.  Simply a piece of posterboard divided into squares that are about 4x4" and marked with the numbers 1-30, it allows the kids to stick a 3x3" post-it note recording their thoughts or questions on a particular topic quickly.  I added a page protector at the top so I could easily create a title or question for the top of the poster.  This is just is latest use.

We also created a class goal for the virtue, decided on by the kids, and we worked on it all week (and it continues to come up in the weeks following).  For example, prudence's goal was to choose to be positive when it would be easier to be negative.  Justice's goal was to include everyone in conversations and games.They are doing a great job finding the practical in something that can seem very theoretical.
Later, I will post the Theological Virtue note pages, as well as classroom encouragement system that we are using to link our study of virtue with our study of the life of Fulton Sheen.

Click on the pictures below for the full page printables:
 Click here for the half page fortitude printable.
 Click here for the half page justice printable.
 Click here for the half page prudence printable.
 Click here for the half page temperance printable.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Seven Quick Takes

Saw her perform this song in an accidental concert back in November (the concert wasn't accidental, but me being there happened sorta accidentally...).  I really was there to see Matt Maher, but walking away hearing this song was an added bonus :).

Yesterday we had another "extreme cold weather" day.  No School! I celebrated by picking up one of the books that I got this week after using some of my Barnes & Noble Christmas gift cards.  Earlier this week, armed with my gift cards, I bought myself a mocha and wandered the Utopia that is A Bookstore.  I came home with several, including this one:
Austen fans, I highly recommend Dear Mr. Knightley, by Katherine Reay.  My enjoyment surely had nothing to do with the fact that I got out of bed this morning...and proceeded to read this book from start to finish with no interruptions.  Ahhhhh, snow days!

--- 3 ---
This picture popped up in my facebook newsfeed yesterday.  My sister Steph is making a valiant start at her awesome photography business.  Since getting the ball rolling (officially) this fall, she has been super busy and is cranking out some beautiful pictures, like the one above of her nieces.  Check out her website here or like her on facebook.  And more importantly, if you live in Central Illinois, think about asking her to be your next photographer!

I found this today on Pinterest, and I want it:
My landlord might have a problem with it, though.
Note to self:
1. Buy house.
2. Build book nook.
3. Live in book nook and bask in success.
Maybe we should just run with the book theme for these Seven Quick Takes.  Another book purchased on my Barnes and Noble quest was Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  I have heard about it, flipped through it, and had it recommended to me by several people.  I decided to use those gift cards to get a different kind of devotional than what I have been reading lately.  It didn't hurt that they had an edition with this pretty pink cover.
Anyone else read it and have any opinions?
The current novel that we are working on at school is Daniel at the Siege of Boston by Laurie Calkhoven.  We are learning about the American Revolution right now, so this book is a perfect fit as we walk through the events before and during the war.  When we read a novel, I work it into as many subjects as I can- reading, obviously, writing, social studies, vocab, spelling, etc.  This one has me putting "siege" on our spelling/vocab list for the week.  We have talked about the word siege, had it on homework assignments, and have worked with it to get ready for the spelling test.  In the middle of reading the book this week, though, one of the students noticed that at the bottom of the page where the page numbers are, the printer had misspelled siege s-e-i-g-e.  We all of course stopped and checked our books.  Sure enough, every book, every page, has the title of the novel misspelled.  I am not sure if that made it more or less important to the kids to get that word right on the spelling test today.  Oh, man.

I could talk about books all day, but there is only one quick take left, so I will leave you with this:

Happy Friday!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

How Sheenazing!

I've been nominated for the Sheenazing Awards, hosted by A Knotted Life!

Head on over to A Knotted Life starting on Today to vote for for the best of the best in the Catholic blogging world.
If anything, it is a great way to add some new blogs to your reading list!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Seven Quick Takes, The First

Here I am, on the bandwagon, finally joining Jen's Seven Quick Takes.  I have no problem posting craft ideas and lesson plans, but actually writing stories about my life to keep my friends and family happy with this blog...that I haven't been doing so well on.  But seven short and random stories, that I think I can do!  If this was Emma, Knightley, and Churchill's afternoon on Box Hill, I'd be Miss Bates.
Current song on repeat on my itunes:
Thanks to the Zuus Americana hour (one of the five TV channels I can pick up), I am finding all kinds of new artists not usually on the radio.  Humming House also has some free music up on Noise Trade right now.

This song is so sweet, and the video reminds me a lot of my parents and their marriage.  They are flirtier after 30 years of marriage than most newlyweds.  My siblings and I act like we hate it, but really we just know what a treasure their love for each other is and how it has shaped our family. (However, mom and dad, next time you decide to get all gooey and lovey dovey in our presence, we will all still groan and moan and say "gross!" repeatedly.  It is our job as your grown children.)   

--- 3 ---
I am working on wonderful things for the Behold Conference gift bags.  Behold, you ask?  Live in central Illinois?  Make sure you mark your calendar for our March 1st women's conference.  Don't live in central Illinois?  Grab your mom, sister, daughter, best friend, Bible study companion, coworker, or female acquaintance and road-trip-it-on-over.  It is going to be great.  Current task of mine is designing the gift bag everyone will receive.  I love the actual bag that we picked out, but I only have a 5"x5" space to work with and a single color imprint.  Thoughts on this design?
I am also working on soliciting donations to put in the bags. The last conference had my apartment looking like a storage locker with all of the cool donations sent to us.  Got any ideas for something small and free or able to be donated to put in a bag for a Catholic women's conference?  I am all ears.

You would think that all of that free time and relaxing over Christmas break would have prepared me for being back at work.  I got plenty of rest and relaxation.  I should be ready to be back and excited to work and full of energy for all the things coming up.  However, I think that the quiet break made me shrink into even more of an introvert.  I just want to stay home.  In my pajamas.  All day.  And only communicate through gestures.  And make things.  And read a whole book.  And not have to all.  Unfortunately, I cannot telecommute to my classroom of 5th graders.  Too bad.  Maybe another Arctic Blast will come our way and we will be frozen in at home for a day or two...
Any one else still have their Christmas cards up?  I hang all of my up on my vertical window blinds using clothes pins as they come and enjoy them during Advent and Christmas.  I would like to say that they are still up, nearly a week after Ordinary Time began, because of some great conviction I have.  Really though, I just haven't taken them down.  I kind if like them- all those happy smiling faces of people I love and the pretty Christmas artwork on the front of cards.  What do you do with your Christmas cards and pictures at the end of the season?
Is it odd how much I enjoy watching School House Rock videos still?  Good thing teaching 5th grade gives me an excuse, right?  This one is my favorite.

My students' favorite moment of the week?  When the bell rings at 12:30 today, signaling the start of a 3 1/2 day weekend.  Their second favorite moment?  When during a math lesson I was calling them to the smart board to model a math problem for the class by randomly pulling names out of a cup.  After choosing the next participant, I would hand them the pen and say, "May the odds be ever in your favor."  If the student failed to finish the problem, we mimicked canon fire.  If they were successful, they were safe from being called again.  But then, ever the instigator, I called a quarter quell and put them all back in the cup.  Gotta keep math interesting you know.

Happy Friday!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Growing in Virtue

Virtue: A Habit to do the good, give the best of yourself, and be more like God in what you say and do.
To tie in with our study of sainthood and the universal call to holiness, I decided to do a little more intentional instruction about the virtues.  Cue this graphic organizer to add to our notebooks to start things off.  Forthcoming posts will have an individual info sheet for each of the seven Cardinal and Theological Virtues, as well as some ideas for making them real in the day of a kid.

Click here for the bank notes that can be filled in:
 Or click here for the copy that is already filled in:

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Cafeteria is Closed- Indulgences
Go here for the summary of how this all started and for the printables for the overall series.
The first chosen topic of our Youth Group series called The Cafeteria is Closed was indulgences and Eternal Life.  

indulgence- n. a remission of the temporal punishment due to sin, the guilt of which has been forgiven (according to The Catholic Encyclopedia)

"An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints." CCC 1471.

The basics?  When we are forgiven of sin, we are forgiven totally and completely, through the power of God's grace.  However, that forgiveness does not take away the consequences and hurt that our sin causes.  Think about about the Prodigal Son: his father completely forgave him, but that didn't change the fact that half of the family farm had been sold.  Indulgences are not conditions of forgiveness, they are a removal of the consequences of sin. 

For more on indulgences:
The Catholic Encyclopedia- Indulgences
Primer on Indulgences
Common Myths About Indulgences

We had a discussion on what indulgences are and are not. The cards that we used for reference and attached in our menu are below.  Usually an indulgence is something that we all should be doing anyways- daily prayer, Bible reading, etc.  This past year during the Year of Faith, one opportunity to receive an indulgence was to renew your baptismal promises.  Read more about that here: Plenary Indulgence During the Year of Faith . We went over to the church and renewed our baptismal promised during Youth Group that night.  A card with the renewal is below.  (Today is the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord, another cool day to renew our baptismal promises!)

Maybe use this as a reflection song:
Or maybe this one:

Click here for the menu card for Indulgence and Eternal Life:
Click here for the Renewal of Baptismal Promises Card:
Click here for the St. Augustine of Hippo Prayer Card:

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Secret of Happiness

It has been a little dreary in our neck of the woods, with clouds, and rain, and lots of slushy messy snow.  How about a little sun on this Friday afternoon?
  Click on the image for a full size printable coloring page.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Cafeteria is Closed- Youth Group Series

Back in 2005 when Pope Benedict XVI was a recently elected pontiff, I remember the phrase "the cafeteria is closed" being thrown around a lot in the Catholic world.  That catchy slogan summed up his true adherence to the teaching of the Catholic Church, as seen in quotes such as this one:
Click on the picture above for a link to printable prayer cards of this quote.

Looking for a way to do a topic study with my youth group kids on some of those hard "hot button" issues, I decided to use "The Cafeteria is Closed" as a theme.  I started by talking to the kids about relativism.  Is there a truth?  What is truth?  Can it be true for you and not for me?  This led into a discussion on the teachings of the Church- found in the Scriptures and Traditions.  Are they relative?  Are they true?  I told the kids that we were going to work through a series about the hardest topics (of their choice) and look at them through the lens of truth.  The cafeteria of picking and choosing what to believe and when to follow it would be closed.  

Cue this fun brainstorming poster.  The kids were the ones who named the topics that would be the most controversial or most likely to cause someone to say "I believe in this but not in that."  Within three minutes, the group of teens had listed Saints, being spirirual but not religious, Mary, social justice, all male priesthood, abortion, the Catholic hierarchy, euthanasia, indulgences, and marriage.  You can't pull anything over on kids.  They knew exactly what issues people, well, have issues with.
The next step in our series was to consolidate the topics.  Here was the final line up:
-Indulgences and Eternal Life
-Pro Life 
-Mary and the Saints
-Vocation and Marriage
-The Priesthood
-Religious and Spiritual

Then things got interesting.  The kids had to pick a topic to help plan.  That might mean that we met beforehand and they helped flesh out what questions teens really have, it might mean that they helped led a discussion, or maybe that they researched and sent me great youtube videos that helped make points on different sides.  I wanted them to buy in and take some ownership and leadership.
The first teen leader helped me come up with this idea.  We knew that we would take a while to work through this series, so we wanted to keep track of all of the info in one place.  Cafeteria=food=menu.  We came up with "menu" items for each of the six topics.  Corny, yes, but fun.
Everyone started the series with this menu printed on cardstock and kept it to add to throughout the study.  The link to this printable is at the end of the post.

The back of the menu had some great quotes and references about truth.

Then, at each individual study, the kids got a little menu card that fit right over the topic in the menu.  For example, at the session on being pro life, we added the purple card. 
Each card contained YouCat references for six big ideas within the main topic (all of our Confirmation kids and youth group kids have their own copy of the YouCat due to a generous donation).  The back had one specific quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church summing up the idea.  The point was not to cover the topic exhaustively (like that is possible) but to answer their big questions and give them the tools to get started studying more deeply.
We taped them on one side, so that they could flip up like this and all of the info could be seen.

Each session also included a healthy dose of Scripture references, discussion, youtube videos, and prayer time.  We also had a prayer card for each session that included Bible verses and quotes from the Saints.
Click here for the printable menu:

The overall goal of this series, which I repeated a hundred times, was for the kids to know that there is a truth, you can find that truth, and you can follow the truth.

This was not about bashing, arguing, brainwashing.  Anything was open for question, and the answers did not come from the world according to me .  We sought the truth and we found it.  The kids now have an open invitation to follow that truth.

Since this post is already way too long, check back in the next couple of weeks for six more individual posts for each topic, complete with all of the printables we used, prayer cards, links to good info, ideas for video and song use, etc.  I'll also tell you how we wrapped it all up and how my kids impressed me more than I though possible with their knowledge and insight.

Also, as a brief P.S., I am aware that the YouCat has had circulating mixed opinions over the past couple of years.  You can read the most common questions/issues and some responses here.  Is the YouCat perfect? No. Should it be the only resource used in Catechesis?  Certainly not.  However, is it a tool that can probably be used with the average teen more readily than the standard CCC? I think yes.  It is a starting point, meant to lead them deeper in study and quest and prayer.  In my experience working with teens, something like the YouCat is needed.  I hope to see the publishers take it and revamp a few things in future editions to make it better, but I have been and will continue to use it as one resource among several in my work with teens.

***Unfortunately, I never finished blogging about this awesome series, but I am happy to share all of the resources, printables, and prayer cards with you here.