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 was established in 1985 at St. Timothy's Parish in Mesa, Arizona to "lead teens closer to Christ." Founder and then-priest Dale Fushek believed that a new approach was needed to evangelize the Catholic youth in the area. The goal was to revolutionize youth ministry and bring the message of Jesus Christ to teenagers in a way they could understand. Fushek was later excommunicated and laicized following an abuse scandal and opening of a non-denominational Protestant oriented worship center in the Phoenix area.
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.
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 a transcription of a video talk by 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.
- 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.
- Love - Life Teen strives to show every teen that attends the Mass or a program offered that they are loved.
- 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.
- Affirmation - As a community, all who take part in Life Teen are expected to support and encourage one another.
- Authenticity - Life Teen encourages teens to live an authentic life, one where they do not wear a "mask" or pretend to be someone they are not.
- 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.
In addition to High School Youth Ministry, Life Teen has been branching out as of late to many different other areas of ministry. It also offers training events, summer camps, youth rallies, and conferences.
Life Teen operates three summer camps: Camp Hidden Lake in Dahlonega, Georgia, Camp Tepeyac in Prescott, Arizona, and Camp Covecrest in Tiger, Georgia. The camps as designed to build friendships, including those with youths from their own parishes and those from other parts of the country, to allow the youths to have fun, and to deepen their faith through prayer and experiencing the sacraments.
Depending on the camp attended, they may mountain bike, play paintball, go hiking, white water rafting, zip lining, play with farm animals, play team sports, climb a rope course, go fishing, or play messy field games.
The camps also encourage and assist teens to develop a deeper relationship with Christ. In addition to the Mass, teens can partake in the sacrament of Reconciliation, listen to dynamic speakers and praise and worship music, and attend Eucharistic adoration.
Edge is Life Teen's middle school ministry for early adolescents in grades six, seven and eight. It is designed to meet the educational, spiritual, emotional, and social needs of young adolescents. Edge combines the best of Life Teen with the necessary adaptations to provide middle school youth with the ministry they need.
Edge Nights occur once every week during the school year, and also has social and recreational activities designed to create a greater sense of community amongst middle school youth. In addition, several national Edge Summer Camps are held in Georgia, Arizona, and Missouri.
Life Teen recognizes the importance of ministry not only to teens but also to their families, especially parents. Parent Life was created to have a lasting effect on Life Teen parishes, as a program to, for, and with parents that allow them to draw closer to Christ. The program solidifies and strengthens the family structure, and builds community within the parish.
Parents Life is facilitated by the parents themselves. One person or a couple coordinates the overall parent ministry to insure consistency. The leader/leaders are under the direction of the pastor or the youth minister.
Life Teen is headed by a five member administrative team including President and CEO Randy Rauss and Vice President of Communication and Operation Matt Smith, who is best known as a cast member on The Real World: New Orleans. In addition, a 23 member board of directors includes Bishop Robert Hermann, three priests, one deacon, and a number of laity from around the country.
- About Life Teen, November 28, 2011
- "MOVEMENT AWAKENS CATHOLIC TEENS: Life Teen Marks 25 years of Life-Changing Youth Ministry". 2010-12-13. Retrieved 2013-08-21.
- Joel Stepanek (February 6, 2013). "Bovine Voyage: A video about our newest Life Support Toy". CatholicYouthMinistry.com. Retrieved 2013-08-07.
- "Edge : Catholic Middle School Youth Ministry". Retrieved 2013-08-07. "944 Catholic parishes in 10 countries have an Edge ministry for their middle school youth."
- Robert Nelson (February 24, 2005). "Cross to Bare". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved 2013-08-07.
- Jim Walsh (Feb 16, 2010). "Church officially strips Dale Fushek of priesthood". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved 2013-08-13.
- "About Life Teen". LifeTeen.com. Retrieved 2013-08-08.
- "Spirituality". LifeTeen.com. Retrieved 2013-08-07.
- "Life Nights". CatholicYouthMinistry.com. Retrieved 2013-08-08.
- "The Eucharist - source and summit of ecceslial life". Retrieved 2013-08-07. "The Eucharist is "the source and summit of the Christian life."136 "The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.""
- Matthew 28:19
- "Camp Locations". CatholicYouthMinistry.com. Retrieved 2013-08-21.
- "Summer Camps". CatholicYouthMinistry.com. Retrieved 2013-08-21.
- "Life Teen Staff Directory". CatholicYouthMinistry.com. Retrieved 2013-08-20.
- Official Life Teen website
- CatholicYouthMinistry.com - for Adult Leaders of CatholicYouthMinistry.com - powered by Life Teen