From the time I was a freshman in high school, I have been blessed with a community of people my own age who I can talk to about my faith, and who keep me accountable to that faith. When I was going into my freshman year of high school, my uncle was hired as youth minister for our parish. Fast forward to a few months later (and to this day), Saint Martha’s has one of the biggest and most successful high school youth ministry programs in Southern California. I had been to youth groups in the past, but this was different. The youth groups I had been to before were basically glorified Sunday School classes. No wonder high schoolers didn’t want to go. So what was different about Saint Martha’s Life Night?
I think what it came down to was that the team members who were in charge of it every week (My uncle, Chris, and a group of about 10 college students) were real with us teenagers. It seems that often times, youth ministers think they have to prove to teens that they are “cool” before they hit them with the “Jesus stuff”. They plan these extravagant social events that have no real tie to anything having to do with God or Christianity, and then wonder why more people don’t show up. If all I wanted was a social event in high school, there were other places I could go. I wanted more than that.
Life Night wasn’t just a social gathering; it was an invitation to grow in our understanding of and relationship with God. One of the first things I learned through Life Night was how to talk with God, and not just at Him. Think of what that means for a freshman in high school. Everyone always talks about how amazing it would be to have a conversation with God. I was 14, and I knew how! What a tremendous gift that was.
The social aspect was a great part of Life Night, too. But it would have been empty without the spiritual side. I am still good friends with the people I met through Life Night. And honestly, they were some of the most fun people I knew in high school. They were the people who I could have a stupid conversation about ninjas one minute, and then a serious discussion about the authenticity of Scripture the next. Because of Life Night, I had people outside of just my family who I could ask to pray for me. And a lot of times, they were teens my own age with similar struggles.
All in all though, I think the most important thing I took away from Life Night was learning how to welcome God into my everyday life. It doesn’t mean my head is constantly bowed down in prayer, but that I strive to see God in everything, and thank God for everything. And when I forget, I have some awesome friends to pull me back (even if it’s just through seeing a status they post on Facebook)