Youth ministry shop talk, just for fun.
Currently, I am using a youth ministry program called LifeTeen. It is Catholic and in fact probably pioneered the modern Catholic youth ministry model. It's definitely had it's ups and downs since it's inception (notably, it's founders have become heretical felons and it's liturgy was a bit wonky at first), but it's teaching has always been orthodox and it continues to be so to this day.
My major critique of LifeTeen is that it perpetuates the Culture of Cool. It is an unspoken message of LifeTeen that to get teens to come, we must be cool. Young adults only on the Core Team (the name for the group of volunteers that enables LifeTeen to be so great), dress hip (jeans, tshirts), reference pop culture. To be fair, I don't think this is limited to LT; I think it's an unspoken rule at most youth groups.
Here's my main program with that concept: I'm not the salesman of cool. Eventually, youth become adults - and they will not care so much anymore about cool (God willing). They will care about what is True. And if I'm caught up with selling cool that THAT is my focus, more than showing them what is True, then whatever faith they develop will not last. It will not develop deep roots and grow into a mature adult faith. It will be a phase - along with the pop music, the fashion trends, and the iPhone 6.
My philosophy of youth ministry is more or less based on two ideas: use relational ministry (more on that later), and offer them only Truth. I do not try to be cool because I am not cool. I am a chubby 29 yo bookworm homebody - I'm not going to fool any teen into thinking I am actually setting trends (or even following them). But I am confident that when a teen is facing hard things, when they are suffering or questioning or wondering - I can be there with them. I can show them where I found peace & joy, and show them how to grasp these things themselves. I can introduce them to Christ as I found him: waiting for me in Adoration, coming to me in the Eucharist at Mass, speaking to me in the silence, embracing me in mentors and friends.
The only thing I can see that youth group offers that they cannot get anywhere else is Truth. Everyone else is selling them something, but I am offering them not a lifestyle, not a fashion choice, not a club to join, not another class of human being to try to be - but the knowledge that they come from Love, must live in that Love, and at the end of their life, must make an accounting of that Love to God Himself. This Truth is hard, because unlike the claims of platitudes we enjoy plastering on our walls, Love is not the easiest path. This is why others hesitate to offer this message in plain terms - they are not hearing it from pulpits, from media, from friends. No one else will say "Love is sacrifice. Love is the Cross." But I can't believe that sheltering them from this at all benefits them, since they already experience suffering - shouldn't they know what it's for? Shouldn't they have the chance to have this suffering redeemed?
Cool will never have a prominent place in my Catholic youth ministry because suffering will never be cool. Since I trade in Truth, suffering in love and its necessity to salvation is the concept that underlies what I do. I believe that this message is what the youth hunger for - these 'words of eternal life' that they can get nowhere else, except from Christ. I'd much rather offer them that than cheapen our teachings with trappings of modernism.