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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Br. Lucio Boccacci LC shares a tool for working more effectively with teenagers

Teen Mentoring
Br. Lucio Boccacci LC discusses a "talksheet" with a teen.

Throughout the year, at ECyD camps and retreats, Brother Lucio Boccacci LC works with young people.  (Read more about his work at his blog Recently he wondered if there was a way to improve the quality of the personal time he spends with these teenagers, and he discovered a tool he wants to share – the Talksheet.

“Effective youth ministry requires one-on-one discipleship, or personal mentoring,” said Br. Lucio Boccacci LC. “Gone are the days when we consider it a success to simply create large events with hundreds of teens.”

Though such events are powerful and unforgettable experiences, he said, youth ministry requires a complementary person-centered approach, one that responds to the specific questions and needs of each individual teen.

“This understanding is indispensable to helping a young person develop a deep relationship with Christ and properly discern his or her calling in the Church,” he said.

During these camps and retreats, Br. Lucio uses the ECyD Method (Experiences, Convictions, your Decisions) to work with the teens.

“In a nutshell, personal mentoring is a way to personally address each teen´s experience of family, friends, school and faith, and to see if there is any encouragement or help I can offer, always under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit,” he said.

But as anyone who has worked much with young people in their teens, Br. Lucio knows it can be challenging.  “Few teens proactively seek to talk with a priest or seminarian,” he said.  “It´s a little intimidating, especially if they don´t know you well.”

There are often recurring difficulties. Naturally open and talkative teens can have difficulty moving beyond superficial topics and find it hard to focus, he said, and naturally shy or reserved teens often do not know what to say, or do not have the courage to open up.

On the other side, adult mentors can talk too much and monopolize the conversation, he pointed out.

“Even if a good conversation is sparked, we may not accomplish or learn anything new,” he said.

Br. Lucio then discovered a series of books by Youth Specialties ( called "Talksheets."  He believes this tool can help bridge that lack of trust teens have and improve the quality of a mentor’s conversation with them.

The “talksheets” are themed handouts with levels for both middle schoolers and high schoolers. Each contains open-ended, multiple-choice or fill-in the blank questions and other “gimmicks” arranged in a way that helps teens reflect on specific topics, and consider their own experiences in these areas. The talksheets are intended to be filled out individually, and then used to help guide and animate group discussions.

“I thought they could also be used for personal mentoring, so I gave it a shot!” he said. He adapted the talksheets so that they would better accommodate a Catholic camp, and prepared one sheet per day on a daily theme.

He adjusted his camp schedule to include time for the teens to fill out their sheets. After breakfast every day, they would pick up that day´s talksheet during their visit to the chapel and take whatever time they needed to fill it out. Br. Lucio was available to answer questions.

The talksheets he used can be downloaded below at the following links:

1. Friendship Talksheet
2. Christ Talksheet
3. In the World Talksheet
4. My Calling Talksheet

After using the talksheets the first time, he was immediately impressed with their usefulness. It was as simple as asking “Why did you write this?" and the conversation would build from there.

“Wow!” he said. “The results surprised me time and time again!”

He noted that naturally open and talkative teens became more focused, and would easily move to deeper levels on a topic, while naturally shy or reserved teens knew exactly what to say, and how to express it.

“It was so impressive for me to witness 11 -15-year-old teenagers talking to me about specific themes and topics without losing focus, for 30 minutes or more, without substantial intervention on my part!” he said.

“It seemed like they just needed little ‘sparks’ to allow their ideas to flow,” he said. “Each gimmick in the talksheets provided that spark. Even teens that I didn´t know well would share their answers without any apparent issues.”

He said some of the teens enjoyed telling him in detail why they gave specific answers. “It seemed like many of them felt proud of their answers, most especially when they were correct! They felt a sense of accomplishment.”

The talk-sheets also helped Br. Lucio better discern what each teen needed to discuss. On certain topics, teens either left off the answer or made an error. “It was easier to notice gaps in their understanding or areas they needed to develop,” he said.

At the end of the camp, Br. Lucio asks the entire group what they thought of the talksheets. He said he got 100 percent consensus that they all liked them.

“The talk-sheets not only gave them something to discuss, they also gave them a sense of accomplishment, of learning something new,” he said. “This is very important for teens.”

Br. Lucio suggests the talksheets could have other potential uses outside the teen camps, including:

  • parents could use these techniques to encourage dialogue with their teens.
  • teachers can use these skills in the classroom to create discussion around specific themes.
  • for a youth group meeting or during a retreat, to create group discussions.



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