“So, if the “Zombie Apocalypse” occurs, what skills will you bring into the new future?

It was a confusing question. The family was sitting down for a picnic dinner and my young adult children were playing a game called Zombie Apocalypse. It was “What can you contribute to the general good?” sort of game… which is not an uncommon young adult sort of question. What did zombies have to do with it? A staple of horror films, zombies are formerly dead characters walking this world mindlessly attempting to consume the life and flesh of the living.

My eldest daughter explained her understanding of the game, “We’ve grown up with so many real-life villains — from Columbine to the 9/11 terrorists to Hurricane Katrina to British Petroleum – that zombies pretty much reflect them all. The game reminds us that we must all share what we have with one another.”

The zombies of my own youth came to mind, the back-up dancers in Michael Jackson’s video “Thriller.” As dancers they were choreographed to be slow and stilted in their gate, emotionless in their steps, and slightly menacing.

This summer, youth ministry programs around the nation will be taking young people off to summer youth conferences, leadership camps, and work-camps helping those in need. During these summer days, they will attempt to live out the model of the early Christian Community, devoting “themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

In these moments, they will experience the Church that Pope Benedict XVI discussed in his instillation homily in 2005. As a Catholic, I was emboldened when he proclaimed “…The Church is alive. And the Church is young.” As these young people return to their own church communities, this is a good time of assessment for us. Are they returning to a Church that is alive and young? Or might it scarily resemble the slow, lifeless, faith of the undead?

As faith communities, there are many things that we can do to ensure that the vitality and vibrancy of our Church.

> We must find more ways to inform, form, and transform the faith of parents. They are the first witnesses of faith for young people. Whatever kids understand about the Church was likely both taught by and caught from their parents.

> We must make a commitment towards greater inclusion of young people into the ministries of the Church, especially within our communal worship. We must work towards inclusion in our worship and engaging “the life” of young people into it.

> When we do minister with young people, we must find ways to elicit their energy, passion, and skills towards making a meaningful difference in the world. Pope Benedict encourages young people to make “definitive choices” regarding their lives and faith and we should do the same.

As Church, we need to recognize that young people are fully ready to engage against that which is perceived as assaulting civilization with hostility towards human life. Young people must recognize the Church as alive and young; we cannot risk sending them the perception that we are a lifeless zombie culture.

From their summer experiences, hundreds of young people will be returning to parish pews this summer and will look at the Church through new eyes and ask “What can you contribute to the general good?” Our response must match the rhythm of their lives, expressive in our response, and slightly reassuring for the future. Let us consume the fullness of life together with the One who came who that we might have life more abundantly. (John 10:10)

D. Scott Miller is the coordinator of adolescent Faith formation for the Division of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Archdiocese of Baltimore. He blogs at www.catholicYMblog.com

I’m not going to pretend here … I’m not a cool youth worker. I don’t have any tattoos, I don’t have any creative facial hair or wear trendy clothes. I shop at Target and TJMaxx. My idea of a good time is football, watching Star Wars on DVD or playing video games. I don’t listen to the bands no one has ever heard of. I’m still not totally sure what Dubstepping is and that’s all I heard about at Summer Camp last month.

There’s a lot of unspoken expectations that the youth worker from the church be cool = and if you are more power to you. I am thankful that God is using me even if I’m not soaked in coolness. Be honest … how cool are you, youth workers?


Everyone loves Veggietales, right? Many of our students grew up on the stuff, so we made a series of videos for HSM Summer Camp called Fruity Tales. Meant to be funny/awkward/clever throw to’s in the program without explanation. Here’s the first, I’ll post a couple others later this week, too.


I wanted to thank and encourage a key volunteer the week after HSM’s Summer Camp – so I shot him a quick note:

Dude, just wanted to again say how awesome you were at HSM Summer Camp and how incredible the Helmet of Shame moment was. You were such a good sport — last night I was thinking, why didn’t we just use chocolate syrup instead of marinara sauce combined with soy sauce? Oh well, you’re the man! Thanks for loving students my friend! JG

What I was surprised by was how the encouragement would come back around. How awesome!

Thanks man, I had a lot of fun that week! I’m always down for doing something crazy/stupid. But you’re right, chocolate sauce would have been easier haha. In all seriousness though, camp was so incredible and such a growing experience for me. God really challenged me that week, and I feel like I grew so much as a leader, and know that much more how much I wanna keep on volunteering with high schoolers.

Well anyway, thank you for being an awesome leader for HSM. When I see all the great things you are doing there, I feel so blessed to be able to be apart of it. You make HSM a great place for students AND volunteers. Thank you.

Need some encouragement? Try it on someone else! Made my day …


Team fatigue sets in right after a huge event is in the rear view mirror. Team fatigue hits hard right after astounding, life-changing decisions have been made by your students. It seems that sometimes in youth ministry right after life change comes complete exhaustion. Team fatigue seems to come after the spiritual highs. Maybe team fatigue sets in right after your youth ministry summer camp. Here are some symptoms to recognize if your team is fighting serious team fatigue and what to do about it:

  • Members of your team start to bicker with each other.
  • Words have a sharper edge than normal. Humor hurts a little.
  • Stuff that normally doesn’t bother someone bothers them easily.
  • It has become easy to tear down rather than build up.
  • People start going through the motions instead of being creative or pushing for the winning idea.
  • The default shifts to programs and the team starts to cheat relationships with students.
  • The team doesn’t work hard to resolve conflict little things fester.
  • Systems start to falter and things start falling through the cracks.
  • An unhealthy emphasis is placed on what we just accomplished instead of what is ahead.

So your team (and probably you, the team leader) are dying in a pile. Now what?

  • Give time to recover.
  • Ditch a meeting for lunch out.
  • Give permission to slow down.
  • Do something fun together.
  • Go on a retreat or getaway.
  • Force vacation time.
  • Kill off weak programs and bad management systems.
  • Take time to celebrate what God is doing.
  • Offer specific words of affirmation.
  • Cast vision for what He has next for your youth ministry.
  • Pray for God’s Spirit to fill us anew and bring renewed energy and focus.


We played some fun games at HSM Summer Camp this year. Here’s a little breakdown of the action for you to be inspired by and or make fun of!

Fast Food Olympics
This was a series of games each night of the chapel time – we played several events, including Burrito Toss, Will It Blend and had planned Crunchwrap Discus but it was cut for time. Burrito Toss sent a full Chipotle burrito into the crowd, who were holding up signs that made a huge target. Points for both style and accuracy. Will It Blend we blended up an entire combo meal at KFC and the contestants raced to get it down first. Crunchwrap Discus is just what it sounds like.

Helmet of Shame
One of our volunteers made a pipe and valve contraption that allowed 4-players to play a trivia game where each incorrect answer opened a valve and the goo inside moved down clear pipes and closer to your head. It was a huge hit – and of course, no one escaped and everyone got soaked in the marinara/soy sauce concoction coming down the pipes. Why didn’t we just use chocolate syrup? Good point!

Ultimate Squid
Played just like ultimate Frisbee, but instead of a Frisbee, you use squid. The game stinks … literally. And of course, some squid will find it’s way into your cabins, but it is totally worth it.

Slip-N-Slide Kickball
We ripped this game off from the camp we were at last year, just a simple game of kickball on a giant Slip-N-Slide. We had a total blast – this was one of the more simple but super funny games of the week.

We played a few other games, too, but those were by far my favorites!


Here’s the opening video we made for some new on-stage characters that appeared and did funny bits at our Summer Camp. Fun dudes, a great way to put some volunteers in front of students, not to mention them doing epic stunts, too!


We’ve done high school summer camp at the end of summer for a long time – it has served us very well there and honestly, I wasn’t sure my reaction to moving it was going to be positive. This year we made the move (partially for reasons beyond our control, and partially in strategy) to early July. Here are some good reasons for summer camp near the beginning of summer:

Summer Camp launches the summer calendar
This year, camp marked the beginning of summer for us. Our summer calendar really is getting into full swing right now. Camp is now the kickoff of summer, instead of the endcap.

Summer Camp gives us momentum at a typically low time
This past weekend’s (right after camp) services were up almost 40% from last year at the same time. Typically this is a slow time as we ease into summer and get hit right away by the dip of summer freedom. Instead, we get great participation!

Summer Camp introduces speakers
This won’t work in every context, but one of our summer camp speakers, Matt McGill, is teaching an 8-week discipleship study for the rest of the summer. Camp gave us a chance for him to connect with our students and set up that event to win.

Summer Camp builds relationships
We were fortunate enough to bring along a ton of great leaders to camp – having camp early gives us a chance to begin relationships then and carry them through the summer.

Also be sure to check out these archived poll results – “when do you do summer camp?” from April 2010.