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  • Eric Gallagher

    Should We Be Training or Forming Our Leaders?

    By Eric Gallagher

    For the past 10-15 years, I’ve been watching the evolution of youth ministry. During that time, people have been searching for the right resource that is going to respond to the needs of young people. Today, we have top notch resources that can be used in just about any setting, for any sized group of people, with the best speakers in the world, and some of the best production available. Still…there seems to be a desire or an understanding that we can do even better. Over the past five years, there has been a huge emphasis on training. People will often say that you can have the best resource in the world, but without a well-trained catechist, the resource will mean nothing. This is true…or is it? Perhaps, but I think we need to be clear about the difference between training and formation. Feel free to look up the definitions for training and formation for yourself, but in short, training is the action of teaching someone a skill or behavior and formation is to make or fashion into a certain shape or form. Or, another way to put it is that training is teaching someone to do something, and formation is helping someone to become someone. Now to start, I have to say that in many respects, training and formation are very connected. An example that comes to mind is when I asked my priest if I could start a prayer group in high school. I was amazed at his immediate yes. He didn’t ask many questions about what I was going to do or how, but he saw it as an opportunity to lead and form me. He knew that as I followed the Lord’s promptings in my life, those experiences would bear fruit, and they did in so many ways. The “program” itself maybe didn’t look so great at times, but I have to admit that I wouldn’t be where I am today without that formation: the formation that came from his support, his mentorship, and his trust in what the Lord was doing in me. To the extent that I have been able, this is how I have run youth programs for years. In fact, this is what it means to be “discipleship focused.” We must recognize that in order for a program to be run well, our focus must be on the conduits through which that program is run. While it may be important or even necessary to train someone to do a task, we must understand that it will be through their experiences (human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral) that they will be formed. Having made that distinction, I want to share just a few tips with you on how you can accomplish this type of formation in your efforts: Focus on a leader’s experience rather than their results When you meet with your leaders, either individually or as a group, focus your conversation around their experience. Instead of asking, “What do you think went well?” ask, “Where did you see God working?” Instead of asking, “Where could we improve?” ask, “What was most difficult for you?” This alone will take attention off of the program and put the emphasis on the leader. Their answers will also give you insight into which leaders are attentive to what’s happening in them and which may be too focused on the “program.” Be patient with the lacking in order for growth to occur Taking your eyes off the program will seem like an adult taking their eyes off their two year-old for ten seconds…a lot can happen in that time. Again, we have to ask the question: do we care more about the program than the people? Having patience with an adult desiring to grow in their role will pay huge dividends. Keep the work simple and easy to understand Strive to keep roles simple and easy to understand. This does not mean you should simply dumb things down. Asking someone to “assist in leading a young person to Christian maturity” is a straightforward and clear directive, but it will require a depth of understanding and attentiveness to do it well. The point here is that at any time, you could sit down with that person and ask if they believe that they are doing what they’ve been asked to do. As growth occurs, encourage deeper thought and leadership Continuing from the last point, pay attention to whether your adults understand their task well, and, if so, be ready to invite them into the deeper vision and mission of discipleship. If someone has been leading a small group for some time and desires to take things even deeper, be ready to journey with them in that. Focus on the person as opposed to the program As an adult begins to grab hold of the deeper vision, remain focused on them. It may mean that as they grow in wisdom, discernment, and insight into their gifts and charisms, they will move on and participate in other areas of parish ministry. If you remain focused only on the program, your volunteers will continue to be limited in where and how they are capable of helping out and the degree to which they will be formed. Be willing to sacrifice your best leaders. Remember, your goal is formation, NOT the program. Formation will never end, and if someone leaves your program because they’ve been formed well and feel called to assist in another, you have done your job! To be clear, I understand that these suggestions apply more directly to people who are in roles that are more formative in nature (leading small groups or bible studies, mentoring an individual, teaching, etc. ) and less important for the more menial tasks (bringing cookies, simply being a chaperone, etc.). My hope is not that you set out to create the perfect formation program, nor do I mean to imply that we should focus all of our efforts on formation to the exclusion of anything else. But I do hope that we begin to accept God’s invitation to us and to all of those in our parish to participate in his work, and through that, to receive more of Him. Our role as leaders is simply to allow that to happen and cultivate a culture where we are all becoming more aware of it. And when we do, our work in ministry will be less about what we are doing and more about who we are becoming. We will be changed!
  • Eric Gallagher

    Ninja Game

    By Eric Gallagher

    You may have seen this game before and not really understood what was going on.  The game is called Ninja.  It is an extremely easy game to figure out and explain but can take a lifetime to master.  Youth Ministers like it simply because they will play and analyze it more than anyone else, ensuring that they could beat any youngster up for the challenge. Here are the instructions: Size of Group:  You can play two people but I would recommend starting with at least four.  If you have more than 20 people, it may be good to split them in to small groups of ten. Goal of the game:  To hit/touch someone else’s hand with your hand.  This eliminates them from the game. Directions:  Have everyone stand in a circle, take a bow (like on the Karate Kid), and strike a pose like a Ninja.  One person will move at a time and you will go in clock-wise motion.  Basically the person whose turn it is will try to touch/hit the hand of another person with their hand with ONE motion.  The person they are trying to attack can make ONE motion to move out of the way.  Both people stay where the end of their motion ends and are frozen until it is either their turn again or they are attacked. How to Win:  You play until one person is left in the game and they are declared the winner. Things to Know: You always go after the person who started to your right at the beginning of the game.  The circle will eventually collapse and people may get out of order.  Always remember who you go after. If someone goes out of turn, have them return to where they were. Can set a rule that your hands must visible (recommended) A role, jump, or spin is considered one motion. Once your youth start to understand the strategy to this game it can become extremely competitive.  It is a great game that most enjoy (especially the volunteers!)
  • Eric Gallagher

    Blind Dodgeball

    By Eric Gallagher

    In leading 100’s of games over about 16 years this has been one of the favorites. Materials Needed blindfolds a marked off area (either a square in a gym or made with cones) dodge balls (softer is better) Setup Set up the boundaries.  Have each person find a partner.  One of them will be blindfolded and the other will not.  Place a good number balls scattered around within the boundary.  The blindfolded person will be in the boundary area and their teammate will be on the outside.   To start, no one should be holding any balls and it works well to move the person around a bit so they don’t know exactly where they are at or which way they are facing when the game starts. Game Play When the leader says “GO” the teammates on the outside of the play area will guide their teammates to grab a ball and throw it at the other within in the play area.  When a person gets hit by a ball or goes outside of the boundary, they are out.  Play until only one person is remaining. I found many versions of this on YouTube.  I’ve included a video I found of the version we played below.  
  • Jonah Soucy

    Live Mafia

    By Jonah Soucy

    A twist on the classic Mafia! Make sure you check that one out first so you have at least a small understanding of the rules.  How the game works: Pick a few teens to be "mafia" members. This is done secretly, either having everyone close there eyes and hold out their hands, or by giving out cards and having the face cards be the mafia. Usually I do about 1 mafia for every 5 regulars. The game is played in rounds until all mafia members are eliminated or the mafia win.  Each round goes as follows: All lights in the area are turned off (youth minister and adult core team can have flashlights and walk around) and the youth are free to walk around the area. It needs to be as dark as possible for it to work well. Mafia members can eliminate townspeople at any time by walking up and lightly touching someone's neck. THERE IS NO RUNNING ALLOWED. Townspeople can't run away from the mafia or purposely try to give away who the mafia is. Once eliminated, townspeople have to lie down and "play dead".  When a townsperson finds a "dead" townsperson, they yell "PINEAPPLE" (because we don't want people to be screaming "Dead Body"). When PINEAPPLE is yelled, the round ends immediately and the lights are thrown on.  After the round ends, the townspeople gather for a town meeting. Everyone who has been eliminated gathers nearby, but they cannot speak AT ALL. The townspeople (with the mafia still pretending to be townspeople, then get a chance to try and vote off people who they believe to be mafia members. This is a game of deception and stealth. Mafia members are trying not to be spotted when they eliminate people, and they can even be the ones to find a "dead body" and yell pineapple. Townspeople try to hide, not get killed, and reason out who they think the mafia are.  Suggestions: This game works best in areas where you have multiple rooms (No closed doors for liability/protecting God's Children Reasons). Make sure there are core members around looking out for people. Also, if PINEAPPLE isn't called, it's best to set time limits. I've heard of people playing with a doctor and sheriff like the original mafia but I've never done it and am not quite sure how it work. Let me know if you have any questions!  
  • Eric Gallagher

    Egg Russian Roulette Game

    By Eric Gallagher

    This game was a huge success at our summer camps.  To start you will need one dozen eggs for every two teams.  Seven of the eggs in each dozen should be boiled and five should not.  Mix them up in the carton so you can't tell which ones are which.   We had the teams (small groups) send a representative up to challenge a representative from another team.  They each selected one egg and (on a count of three) smashed it on their head.  The first team to get three of the raw eggs lost.   Here is a video of Jimmy Fallon doing this with Ryan Reynolds:   Please share other ideas and stories of your experience of this game below! Photo by Kate Remmer on Unsplash

Our community blogs

  1. May the Peace of Christ and the sacrificial love of Saint Valentine be with you.

    Here we go with another set of weekly news items to assist your ministry with pertinent information and formation. 

    • Kara Powell of Fuller Institute offers three faith building tips that any youth leader might offer to parents. 
    • Tis’ the season.  As we near spring, we begin to engage in the season of hiring.  US Catholic magazine asks a related question and wonders if our hiring practices, especially when it comes to a rejection letter, have become a social justice issue?
    • Last week, I posted about “small v” vocation assessments.  I found this article from the New York Times about how colleges are becoming more intentional about vocational discernment.  We should be looking to answer similar questions.
    • Quote

      Thinking about vocation often requires parts of a college that do not usually work together to think cohesively. Professors might spend time in discussion with the careers office, or the office of community service, in order to plan projects that extend beyond the classroom. At Grand View University in Iowa, such thinking has meant a class in which students use digital tools to create maps of common refugee routes, while they also undertake a service project with refugees in their community who have traveled these routes in order to arrive in Des Moines. At Wake Forest University, it has involved the creation of an Office of Personal and Career Development that is so thoroughly entwined with the curriculum that you can even take courses for credit in career exploration.


                Are we using all the parts of our community to help young people understand their own personal vocational call?

    • In two weeks’ time, the Holy Father will gather Bishops from around the world to address the abuse crisis in the Church, For a wider perspective, read the Houston Chronical report on how this has also plagued the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest religious denomination in the US.

    Wade Burleson, a former president of Oklahoma's Southern Baptist convention, says it has long been clear that Southern Baptist churches face a crisis. In 2007 and 2018, he asked SBC leaders to study sexual abuse in churches and bring prevention measures to a vote at the SBC's annual meeting.
    Leaders pushed back both times, he said. Some cited local church autonomy; others feared lawsuits if the reforms didn't prevent abuse.
    Burleson couldn't help but wonder if there have been "ulterior motives" at play.
    "There's a known problem, but it's too messy to deal with," he said in a recent interview. "It's not that we can't do it as much as we don't want to do it. ... To me, that's a problem. You must want to do it, to do it."

    • Still got space in your life for a New Year’s Resolution?  Want to be a better leader?  Mark Cole has 11 Statements for you to consider in the remaining 11 months of 2019.

    On this week of Valentines' Day, know that you are loved... as a child of God but also as someone who accompanies young people in faith.


  2. Youth Ministry Games

    Eric Gallagher
    Latest Entry

    By Eric Gallagher,

    This game was a huge success at our summer camps. 

    To start you will need one dozen eggs for every two teams.  Seven of the eggs in each dozen should be boiled and five should not.  Mix them up in the carton so you can't tell which ones are which.  

    We had the teams (small groups) send a representative up to challenge a representative from another team.  They each selected one egg and (on a count of three) smashed it on their head.  The first team to get three of the raw eggs lost.  

    Here is a video of Jimmy Fallon doing this with Ryan Reynolds:


    Please share other ideas and stories of your experience of this game below!

    Photo by Kate Remmer on Unsplash

  3. Fundraising Ideas

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    Recent Entries

    Eric Gallagher
    Latest Entry

    By Eric Gallagher,

    The Jail Fundraiser is one of those fundraisers that does far more than raising money.  It's a ton a fun, draws in the entire parish community, and it doesn't ever really get old. 

    To start, this fundraiser only really works if it's part of a larger parish event like a parish bazaar.  

    Brief Explanation

    Set up a space designated as "the jail" where people will be able to sit when they are arrested.  It should be able to hold roughly 10-12 people comfortably.  People will pay you to have someone else arrested for a set amount of time.  You will issue the warrant and the arrested individual will have three options; 1) serve their time, 2) pay to not be arrested, or 3) counter-arrest (post bail and have the person who arrested them be arrested instead).  

    It's really that simple!  Here's our list of tips:

    • Borrow a large kennel or something to make the jail even more real
    • Purchase or borrow police outfits, handcuffs, etc. to make the experience even more real.
    • Ensure there are little information signs all over that explain the process
    • Put a limit on how many times an individual can be arrested.
    • Offer something fun to do in the jail (reading, facts about prisons, etc.)
    • To keep track of finances well, have an adult manage the jail and the log, require warrants for arrest, etc. 

    Documentation Needed

    Arrest Warrant - should include the name of the person arrested, who arrested them, cost, and the three options for the arrested person.

    Jail Log - keeps track of finances, arrests, etc.   

    I'll be putting together a package of resources very soon to make available in the Marketplace.  Stay posted!




  4. The other day, I was having a conversation with a parish youth leader about discipleship, and I started mentioning some of the basic fundamentals of discipleship (i.e. meeting youth where they are, in small groups, in an atmosphere that helps them grow deeper). Before too long, they responded with “that sounds a lot like what Father is doing.” I hear this kind of response often, but usually after we begin to dig in to what I mean when I say “discipleship,” we find that what “Father is doing” is not exactly what I mean when I speak about discipleship. Typically this means he has picked a curriculum or program that he feels will be the most engaging to the youth involved. It also usually means he is picking topics and discussing them in a way that is more interesting than how other teachers have done it in the past. This pastor may very well be helping these young people grow as disciples of Jesus Christ, but the way he is doing it, it is not what I would call “discipleship.”

    So what is the difference between “discipleship” and “discipleship?”

    One way of speaking about discipleship is discipleship of Jesus Christ. This is done through practicing the disciplines of a disciple (daily prayer, devotion to the Sacraments, reading of Scripture, loving your neighbor, etc). Following Jesus with this commitment and accountability is a discipleship relationship.

    I propose through Discipleship Focused Youth Ministry that the way we can most effectively lead others in becoming disciples of Jesus Christ is through discipleship itself.

    Discipleship is way of teaching. Jesus’ disciples followed Him because he knew the Father and was teaching them His ways. The closer and more committed the disciples were to Jesus, the closer they were to the Father. In a similar way, we seek to create this sort of relationship through discipleship groups. When a youth commits to a healthy and properly ordered discipleship group, they commit to doing what it takes to deepen their love for Christ and the teachings of the Church and they are communicating their desire to be held accountable in that way as well. The leader facilitates this by establishing the Four Earmarks of Discipleship in their group as well as modeling and sharing their own faith.

    It is time to look for this deeper commitment in our parishes, especially from those youth that are desiring it. Discipleship is willing to push them out of their comfort zone and challenge their commitment to the difficult teachings and demands necessary to go even deeper (see John 6:60). When we begin doing that, we can start calling what we do discipleship.

  5. I've literally been asked dozens of times how I'm able to work in ministry and support my growing family while my wife is also able to stay at home to take care of the house and little ones that are not yet in school.  The quick answer is always...we make it work.  With the launch of the new Catholic Youth Ministry Hub and the freedom to blog "as I wish" I'm planning to use this space to share ways that my wife and I have been able to make things work.   The title "Other Duties as Assigned" gives insights into how we've really been able to make things work.  

    With my first youth ministry job, I was responsible for the parish website.  Using what I learned in that process, I actually started my own web management business.  At one time I had about a dozen clients (parishes and local businesses) that paid me a monthly fee to maintain their website for them.  

    Now that I spend most of my time in my work at the Diocesan level, I get the privilege of consulting and working hand in hand with parishes.  I've always desired to share with I have learned.  This led me to starting the Catholic Youth Ministry Hub (long ago) as well as several other websites focused on youth ministry, discipleship, etc.  

    To say it bluntly, while I'm incredibly grateful for the salary and benefits I receive in my Diocesan work and I believe they are paying me what is right and just, it would be extremely difficult for my wife and I to live on that income alone.  We have four children, three of which are attending our parish catholic school, and we made a commitment early in our marriage to get out of debt and to never return.  About two years ago, with the supplemental income we were bringing in through little side projects, saving through rewards programs, etc, we are now debt free and working on our next financial goals (primarily a 10 year anniversary vacation and small (overdue) home improvement projects).  

    Anyway, I'm hopeful that this new blog will give me a space to share with you many things that I have learned and  have allowed me to stay in ministry and continue doing what I love!

    Be sure to click the follow button above to receive emails and updates when I post to the blog!

  6. I’ve been an Amazon customer since 2002 when pretty much the only thing that people used it for was to avoid going to the University bookstore and paying full price for college textbooks.  Now Amazon seems to be the first place I look whenever I have need for anything!

    To start off this new Catholic Youth Ministry Blog I’ve decided that for my first post I would go through the last 16 years of my Amazon orders and share with you the top 8 things I’ve purchased for youth ministry.  Also, please note that if I were to give a true top 8, it would likely include 5-6 books. I’ve decided that I’ll stick to games, resources, supplies, etc. and I’ll devote another post to my favorite books.  So here we go:

    Please note: these are affiliate links that allow us to receive a portion of any sales made when you purchase these items by clicking through on our site.  This "kickback" goes to support the work of the Catholic Youth Ministry Hub.

    Games Supplies

    41EZ7jfE6eL.jpg.e39ba174724c5386962426bf407453ad.jpgPoof Soccer Balls

    We tried out three or four types of balls to use for dodge ball in our gym.  These were by far the best ones we could find. They are soft enough, they last a long time, and more importantly it feels great when you zing that youth with one of them!

    See it here.

    926074725_71g2dWpHtL._SL1143_.thumb.jpg.353afd5b9107aeb2b6d6dc043a63d509.jpgSpike Ball

    An excellent game to have sitting around in a youth room, at camp, etc.  It’s a very common game that most know how to play and it can serve as an excellent ice breaker.  It’s also extremely affordable and is great quality!

    See it here.

    814Y6mlybJL._SL1500_.thumb.jpg.3df1b8c91a67b82e0d1bf85496563cbb.jpgKan Jam

    This was another well known game that I discovered later on than most.  Similar to Spike Ball (above) this is affordable, it’ll last forever, and most people can just pick it up and play it.  

    See it here.

    Board/Party Games

    81NVh-Xo3fL._SL1500_.thumb.jpg.e63686824196a7e5186518be4c30753d.jpgPharisees - The Party Game

    This is the "Christian" version of the popular youth ministry game "Mafia".   I often tell people it's the perfected version of the game.

    See it here.

    51sNNr1v8iL.jpg.8bee9e81bbb6e473afce84158a2ca5f0.jpgCurses Game

    This is an older game but it’s one of those go-to games that is great for small groups.  In larger groups it’s entertaining enough that observers have no problem just watching!

    See it here.

    91mSHaL6oEL._SL1500_.thumb.jpg.2654aa6dee0879a7d55e016b7910d89a.jpgExploding Kittens Game

    I have officially ordered 25 of these from Amazon.  It is an awesome game that can be played in 3-5 minutes and rarely gets old.  It’s another one of those games that observers enjoy watching. It can be expanded to take more players as well.

    See it here.


    61G67XHSTGL._SL1500_.thumb.jpg.612d32b07c756a2ee1a02fee4d618d67.jpgSleeping Cot

    I got tired of air mattresses and these have been an excellent replacement for when we need additional beds at camp or on retreat.  They are durable, long lasting, and fairly inexpensive. They aren’t the most comfortable to sleep on but those who have them are usually grateful to have anything!

    See it here.

    41ww3L0DXOL._SL1000_.thumb.jpg.88811d4fd9a171cdc67b56a12f511fab.jpgPope Francis Bobble Head

    Definitely the coolest affordable prize that I have bought so far!

    See it here.



    I hope you've enjoyed this list!  If you have other items you'd like to mention, please comment below!

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