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.


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  2. Katie -Thank you this is a GREAT idea! I am teaching the 7th and 8th grade for the first time. They discontinued our books so I am teaching them from the YouCat and the Handbook for Today's Catholic teens.Are there printable cards for the inside. I can only find the menu. Thank You Lynelle W.

    1. Awesome I just found them. Thank You! Lynelle W.

  3. i'm a cafeteria Catholic. I refuse to recite a creed that omits the Virgin Birth.
    The 2011 liturgy omits it. It omits that the Virgin Mary gave birth. 'Became incarnate' does not mean the same thing. So I care more about the Virgin Birth as a Cafeteria Catholic than the Pius X society and their re-Latinizing agenda. I'm a cafeteria catholic because I refuse to call Christ the King 'consubstantial.' He is one in Being with the Father (John 10:30), Second person of the Trinity. I refuse to call him 'consubstantial.' I don't care what the original Tridetine said. I care about the main tenets of the Faith. He FULFILLED the scriptures. He didn't passively 'accord' with them. He was not "born of the Father." He is ETERNALLY begotten. Plus, it is right to give HIM thanks and praise. Because that creed and liturgy are forbidden us, suppressed for the last 9 years, I have no choice but to be a Cafeteria Catholic. The very word catholic means universal. Latin is not the first language of the church, not the first language of the Mass. Latin is not universal. The only 'Latin' I care about now is Adeste Fideles, and Angels We Have Heard on High. This is not meant to be an insult to you. But I am a Cafeteria Catholic because I have to be loyal to cardinal doctrine above 'tridentine,' above 'Latin.' It's because I just don't have a choice.