I had no idea of the extent of what “Life Teen” was when I first walked into the office in Mesa, AZ in June of 2010. For all I knew, it was a company that I would serve my time with as an intern in order to add another line to my resume.
I had no idea that walking into that building was step 1 in God’s plan to forever change my life.
I had no idea that I would spend the next couple years working in this ministry. All in all, it ended up being one summer as an intern, and then 5 years and 8 months as a full time employee. March 1st was my last day there and over the last week I couldn’t help but reflect on all that Life Teen has been for me, and all the ways God has changed my life through this movement.
For my own memory, and in order to honor all the good — let me share with you my experience:
In the years I was there I was able to be mentored by leaders whom I look up to in countless ways for how they manage a company, minister like Christ, and live balanced lives striving for virtue. In turn, I was able to give back and mentor others — be it writers, photographers, or apprentices.
This circle of giving and receiving taught me to always prioritize people over projects. Souls are always more important than sales. At the end of the day if I knew I hadn’t turned away from a person who needed me in favor of a blog that needed to be posted, I was content.
Methods and Message
The message and methods that Life Teen uses to evangelize teenagers and to train youth ministers, priests, and volunteers is one of the best in the Church right now. The leaders of Life teen understand who Jesus is and how He ministered and they strive to emulate Him and His ways in all the resources. It’s beautiful. It may also look unconventional to a aging church culture that for so long has done the same thing for teenagers no matter how effective or ineffective it may be.
Understanding Life Teen’s “real” recommended message and methods (not one priest, or parish’s interpretation or execution of it) changed my life because I was even more convicted that we can’t hide away from the world we live in and push away anything that doesn’t have a “catholic” stamp on it. That’s not what Jesus did. He entered into the mess of the culture and engaged people where they were at. Jesus would have been the one sitting in Taco Bell listening to Twenty-One Pilots with a teenager before sharing a personal invitation to something more. When evangelization is stripped of personal, relational encounters, when people are objectified as a number and told to leave their music and apps and 21st century slang at home — we are further, not closer to life-changing ministry. Life Teen taught me that.
One of the toughest parts about walking away from the office I spent 5 days a week at is that I won’t be seeing my tribe every day. Those people whom I was blessed to share space with became not just coworkers, but my best friends. They were there with a hug through my tears, a high five through my victories, and compassionate whispers through my migraines.
Different seasons of life come with different blessings and challenges, but working with the staff at Life Teen was never a challenge.
I found my vocation through Life Teen and I will praise the good Lord forever and ever that I met Dan because of Life Teen. We first became aware of each other because through my work at LT, and his work on Imagine Sisters, we were both featured on FOCUS’s list of 30 young Catholics under 30 years old who were doing awesome things for the Church. Later, he became friends with my coworkers at a convention, which swayed his decision to move to Phoenix one summer for an internship.
Dan came by the office on May 11, 2015 and my coworker (and our mutual friend) Rachel knocked on my office door to introduce to the man who I didn’t know would be my husband and best friend. We took this selfie that day to send to another mutual friend.
Little did she know we had been eyeing each other for a couple years on social media, both of us thinking the other was attractive-but-off-limits. How cute are we?
Miracles of Grace
It was because of Life Teen that I have been convicted that the most powerful evangelization tool is the grace of the Sacraments. Miracles happen when you expose teenagers and their families to the power of the Eucharist, the healing of Confession, and the tradition of the Mass.
We saw time and again that despite the most perfect talk, or the most beautiful music, it was the God’s work through the Sacraments that converted souls. How humbling for us. It’s humbling because it was never about us. And it was humbling because we got to be God’s instruments that He used to lead teens to the Sacraments. I am astounded by the power, the miracle of the Sacraments and what God can accomplish in teens’ lives through them. They can be transformed. And in turn, they transform their families, and those families transform their whole parish.
This movement changed my life and I couldn’t be more grateful. Don’t get me wrong, like everything in life every moment of every day, or every encounter, and every conference wasn’t perfect. There were plenty of ups and downs and times when I had to forgive people, and choose to move past any hurts. There were things that I struggled through. But that changed my life too. You see, maturity means seeing the good and the not so great and using it all to grow! I am more patient, more understanding, and have a thicker skin because of my years in that career/ministry. I cried over to-do lists being long, or angry comments online, or weariness from another emotional conversation with a teen. But I can look back and see all that God used all of it for my good. Just like He promised He always would (Romans 8:28).
Life Teen changed my life for the better. As sad as it was to walk out those doors on my last day (definitely cried in my car), I walk away a different, more mature, more faith-filled person. And I praise God for that.
Lastly… here are some more of my favorite memories…
You Are Enough
Don’t ever forget that okay? You are beautiful and precious and deserve good things — and I can’t tell you that enough! Look I even dedicated a side-bar-box-thing to it. God has a plan and a purpose for your life and He died and rose again because He wants to spend forever with you! Okay, read on. Important reminder over.
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God & Spirituality
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.” Psalm 23:1-3
“Today matters.” I feel God whisper to my soul. Today there are lessons to be learned. People to be loved. Gifts to be given and received. Growth to be had. Life to be lived.
Life sucks sometimes and it’s just the reality of a broken world. Our bodies don’t work perfectly. We have sickness, and broken bones, and imperfect fertility.
If we attach God’s blessing to our fertility and our families it would mean I am more favored by God than the woman next to me who can’t have children. And we know God’s love doesn’t work that way.