What Life Teen is All About
Life Teen is a Catholic youth ministry organization and movement originating in the United States. Life Teen believes that "Eucharist-based ministry has the power to transform teens, transform parishes, and transform culture." "Inspired by pope John Paul II's call for a New Evangelization, Life Teen believes that youth are the key to this new springtime in the Church."
Life Teen is known primarily for their parish-based Life Teen program for high school teenagers and is used by over 1,400 Catholic parishes in 24 countries around the world. In 2003, "seeing the need for dynamic middle school ministry," they launched the Edge program for middle school youth which is now used by almost 1,000 parishes in 10 countries. As of 2005, over 100,000 high-school-age Catholics across the country attend Life Teen each week.
Life Teen has developed a dynamic model to help Youth Ministers and adult program leaders, known as Core members, execute comprehensive Catholic youth ministry in a parish setting. In the program, youth typically attend a Sunday Mass specifically intended for them, which is also often attended by teens' families and other interested parishioners. Music and homilies are focused on teens and teens are invited to be trained in approved liturgical ministries such as lectors, ushers, altar servers, greeters, and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist. Following Mass, a "Life Night" is held, which incorporates teaching in Catholic beliefs, interactive activities, and socialization.
Most Life Teen Programs utilize multiple events during the week, such as Bible Studies, social events, and the like to provide teenagers with healthy and holy activities to take part in during the week that will not only strengthen their bonds with each other, but will strengthen their relationship with God as well.
Every Life Teen and Edge program is encouraged to host two weekend-long retreats for their teens. Life Teen programs are typically established in individual parishes.
Life Teen maintains a focus on helping teens fall deeper in love with Jesus in the Eucharist. Primarily this is done through celebration of a youth focused Mass, "the most important part" of every Life Teen and Edge program. While particular efforts are made to create a welcoming atmosphere, reverent and relevant music, and an engaging homily that speaks to the issues in teens' lives, Life Teen stresses faithfulness to liturgical norms. While these liturgies often referred to by parishes as a "Life Teen" Mass, they are not a teen only Mass, but a regular/communal Mass that is normally celebrated on Sunday evening.
Each week hundreds of thousands of people attend one of these liturgies. The focus of the youth Mass is on helping teens and their families to fully participate, understand, and foster transformation through their prayer at Mass. Portions of homilies are often geared toward teenagers, their culture, and the relevance of their faith today.
The music ranges from traditional Catholic hymns sometimes with a modern arrangement, to the latest Catholic worship songs. Instrumentation, quality sound and an emphasis on song as prayer help give an energy and reverence to these Masses. Life Teen has video talk from Fr. Robert Schreiner explaining the role of music within Liturgy.
Following the Mass are gatherings that are aimed to be both fun and to challenge teens to go deeper in their relationship with God and to know more about their Catholic faith. Known as Life Nights, they are systematic catechetical gatherings with four distinct segments: Gather, Proclaim, Break, and Send. These segments are derived from the flow of the Mass.
- Gather: This section of the Life Night involves an invitation to the teenagers that welcomes them to a Life Night. This can be anything from an interactive game, a chance to win a prize, a skit or a funny video clip. Depending upon the specific night, some nights might utilize several of these aids. Also considered a part of the Gather is any promotion done at the youth Mass (which normally directly precedes a Life Night). This promotion can take several forms such as the Youth Minister making an announcement or the Core members passing out an object related to the theme of the night to try to pique the interest of the teens. The Gather is always directly related to the main message of the night.
- Proclaim: This section of the Life Night is devoted to the main teaching for the night. The Proclaim is advised to be 10–15 minutes long, depending on the topic. Typically, the presentation is usually given by the Youth Minister, another Core member, a clergy member, or a team of people. Life Teen also has a prepared DVD component for certain Life Nights which can be shown in place of a live teaching.
- Break: In this section of the Life Night, teenagers are given the chance to "break open" the message of the night. Typically this takes the form of small groups. Life Teen recommends one adult for every 6-8 teens in a group. Certain Life Nights recommend a large group wrap session or doing a group activity (like a prayer walk) to provide the teens a chance to digest the message of the night.
- Send: The send portion of a Life Night is to wrap up the Life Night by giving the teens a way to take the message they learned and apply it to their lives at home. Generally the send involves some personal prayer time. Depending on the night, teens might be given the chance to make a personal commitment to do something or not do something. The teens may also be presented with a small gift (such as holy water, a nail or a cross) to help them remember the message of the night. Life Teen also recommends the closing of each Life Night with a reminder of what the next Life Night will be and having the teens say as a group the Hail Mary and sing Ave Maria.
Life Nights come in three varieties: catechetical, issue, and social. Catechetical nights are designed to teach teens about some aspect of the Catholic faith. Issue nights deal with real life issues that teens deal with on a daily basis such as gossip, chastity, or drinking. Social nights are designed to help teens build friendships and develop stronger social bonds.
Life Teen is guided by seven core values.
1. Eucharistic spirituality - As the Eucharist is the "source and summit" of the Catholic faith, Life Teen focuses the program on the Mass and receiving Christ in the Eucharist.
2. Love - Life Teen strives to show every teen that attends the Mass or a program offered that they are loved.
3. Joy - Life Teen professes that "Jesus is a reason to be joyful and excited about life" and attempts to make sure that every experience a teen has with Life Teen is a positive one.
4. Affirmation - As a community, all who take part in Life Teen are expected to support and encourage one another.
5. Authenticity - Life Teen encourages teens to live an authentic life, one where they do not hear a "mask" or pretend to be someone they are not.
6. Evangelization - As Jesus commissioned his disciples to "make disciples of all nations," Life Teen believes "that every teenager deserves a chance to have a relationship with Jesus" and invites all to participate.
Primary vocation - The adult leaders of Life Teen are also called to take care of their primary responsibilities ahead of their commitments to Life Teen or any other purpose.