Boot camp prepares staff and volunteers to lead youth ministries

CHARLESTON—An intense, one-day boot camp was held for youth ministers and volunteers in the Diocese of Charleston.

But don’t worry, no one had to do push-ups or crawl on their bellies through the mud.

It was more of a spiritual boot camp, designed to prepare new youth leaders and volunteers — and those just seeking a refresher — for the essential components of their ministry.

To that end, about 25 people marched into the pastoral center in Charleston on Aug. 1 to meet some of their fellow warriors in the evangelization mission and receive strategic lessons from  veterans in the field.

The diocesan Office of Youth and Young Adults sponsored the event and Deacon Jerry White, director, offered up a list of survival tips.

First and foremost, White said, the most important tool anyone will ever have in his or her arsenal is prayer.

“Your prayer life is more important than your ministry,” he said, “because you can’t give what you don’t have.”

Other speakers at the boot camp session were Mike Sylvester, youth leader from St. Gregory the Great in Bluffton, and Joan LaBone, youth minister at St. Mary Help of Christians in Aiken.

They gave the rundown on the essentials, such as budgets and planning, and imparted their wisdom on the importance of building relationships, not just with youth but also with their parents.

In a candid assessment, White laid out the difficulties of ministering to youth who are stressed out, and parents who are stressed out.

“Church life is messy, don’t add to the mess,” he advised.

Sylvester, who has been a youth minister for 15 years, said one of the biggest challenges is finding the balance between wanting to help all the kids and the parents and not neglecting your own life.

“You have to figure out how to pastorally care for students and families and be the face of Jesus in the world. The ministry will always be there — sometimes it has to wait,” he said.

One participant, Estela Landaverde, brought seven youth leaders to the boot camp. Landaverde, from Our Lady of the Hills Church in Columbia, is the diocesan Hispanic youth ministry coordinator. She said the focus for youth ministers is about unity. For example, all upcoming retreats, such as the Search Retreat, will be held in English only.

“We found that all the teens speak English, so we want no barriers,” Landaverde  said. “Our goal is to be all one church with one integrated youth.”

White encouraged all the leaders to reach out to youth by attending their events and extending  personal invitations to them to come check out various functions.

Grace Schneider, youth minister at Our Lady of Peace Church in North Augusta, said she’s looking forward to her second year and applying everything she’s learned.

“At this age, they have so much energy and they just crave that purpose and direction,” she said. “They’re fuses waiting to be lit! Why not light them with Christ?”

Photo, Miscellany/Deirdre C. Mays: Monserrat Jaimes, from Church of the Resurrection Mission in Loris, completes a form at the youth minister boot camp.