On October 31st, my dreams almost came true. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to pass out Halloween candy from my house to masses of gleeful trick-or-treaters. It may sound trivial to you, but I have failed in this endeavour for the past two years. I would purchase candy, wear a costume, and wait patiently by my door, but the kids never came.

I guess that’s what happens when you live in an apartment…probably should’ve thought of that. But now with my new home, this was finally the year that I would be recognised as the coolest house on the block! I went to the store on Halloween to purchase the best, cheapest candy that money can buy. When I got there, all I found were Christmas decorations. Who puts up Christmas decorations in October? Who doesn’t sell Halloween candy on Halloween?! Needless to say, I was stuck buying candy corn, and my dreams were crushed. Now the neighbourhood probably thinks that we have 100 cats.

It is now the middle of November and Christmas decorations are up in most of the stores in America. It is only a matter of time before the radio starts playing Christmas music and the world begins to drink white peppermint mochas (Starbucks has already rolled out their holiday menu) while waiting to see Santa Claus in the mall and carrying bags upon bags of Christmas presents. We skip from Halloween to Christmas; Thanksgiving is left in the dust and even for Catholics who love the season, Advent is barely on our radar. It’s tough enough for youth ministers to embrace Advent, let alone to get our teens to embrace the season of waiting.

I have to ask myself, how can I prayerfully anticipate Christ’s second coming and celebrate the anniversary of my Saviour’s birth all the while making sure that everyone in my life gets a present that shows them how much they mean to me?

Here are four ways that we as youth ministers can prepare our hearts and the hearts of our teens for the Advent season.

I’ve always thought that Advent was only about preparing our hearts for Christmas. While that is a major part of it, Advent is also a time to prepare our hearts for the second coming of Christ. As Catholics, we believe that Jesus Christ will come again, and we are called to be watchful and ready for when that happens. Going to confession and offering an opportunity for your teens to go as well will certainly help them prepare for the day when they shall see God in all His glory.

Ask Questions
Every once in a while I find myself in a spiritual rut. I go through the motions in my life and my ministry. When that begins to happen, I ask myself why I am doing what I am doing. Why am I in ministry? Why do I go to Mass? The answer, I realise, is simple: following Christ is the only thing that matters. He is my rock. So how do we get teens to come to that conclusion? Prompt them by asking important questions. Why are you here? Why did God create you? What is the point of life? It’s a great way to reset our way of thinking to focus on what truly matters.

Serve Others
Christmas in our society has turned into such a selfish holiday. From a very young age, I remember asking my parents every single day for a different Christmas present. Rather than doing what I did, use Advent as a time to ask what your community needs and gather teens together to make an impact on that need. Serving others helps turn our selfish hearts into selfless ones, and it can transform the way that our teens pray throughout the Advent season. When we break down our pride, it is immensely easier to see how much we need God and His unfailing love.

Have a Life Night on Advent
Many teens simply do not know what Advent is or why it is important. Taking an entire Life Night to break open the theme of waiting for Christ will help prepare their hearts for this miracle. It will also provide teens a chance to ask any questions they might have about Advent, hopefully making the season more personal and understandable for them.

We as youth ministers have a unique opportunity to help our teenagers show the world what Christmas is all about by preparing them during Advent. In the world we live, to be Catholic is to be countercultural. There is no better way to be countercultural than to focus on Christ and serve others, particularly at a time when selfishness is at its peak. I pray that you and your teens have a prayerful Advent filled with hopeful anticipation… and maybe even some leftover candy corn. I know a guy.

This articles was first published on Life Teen.