Editors Note: This is John Rinaldo’s third blog in his series on Multi-Parish Youth Ministry:
1. Multi-Parish Youth Ministry: A Gift and a Challenge
2. Multi-Parish Identity: Healing the Change
Effective multi-parish youth ministry has eight principles that allow it to be a ministry of growth, success, and transformed lives. Embracing these eight principles allow your multi-parish youth ministry to thrive. Doug Tooke, Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Helena, developed these eight elements as he worked in a rural multi-parish youth ministry setting.
There is no particular order that these principles have to be implemented, but the more of them that are in place, the more likely the multi-parish youth ministry will be to succeed.
Jesus Centered Ministry
Who is at the center of the multi-parish youth ministry effort? It is easy to forget to put Christ first in our ministry. We get caught up in all the paperwork, liabilities, conflict, and programming, that we sometimes lose sight of the why behind our ministry. Research shows that three-quarters of our young people said they want youth ministry leaders “whose personality and lifestyle makes [them] want to learn more about Jesus” (Jesus Centered Youth Ministry, 64). Although these eight principles are important to multi-parish youth ministry, they are nothing without being centered on Christ. If your ministry exists for any other reason than to bring young people closer to Christ through the community, then spend some time in prayer with that thought before you continue reading this article.
Principle 1: Shared Vision
What is the vision for the ministry? Can all the key leaders articulate the vision? How do you communicate the vision? These are all key questions that need to be asked before the ministry can move forward. It is essential that all parish leadership teams, especially the pastors, can agree on a way forward and are willing to buy in to the direction of the ministry, both financially and with their support and mentorship. This vision needs to be created with every parish involved. Do not create the vision yourself and then expect the parishes to buy into it and take ownership. It does not work that way.
In their book, Collaboration, Sofield and Juliano state, “Many good projects, whether at the diocesan, parish, or community level, flounder or fail due to the absence of an articulated vision which clearly defines the direction.” Ken Blanchard defines vision very simply: “A clear vision is really just a picture of how things would be if everything were running as planned. The most powerful dream a leader can have is a vision of perfection.”
If you lack an articulated vision of the future for your multi-parish youth ministry, it is recommended that the key leaders of every parish get together for a day-long visioning retreat to answer the questions above about vision. Create a blue print for the direction that you want to move, and then outline specific goals and objectives that will help you get there. Spending the time necessary to create a shared vision will enable you to serve the young people better, and, save yourself more than a few headaches in the future.
In my next blog, we’ll look into a few more of the principles for effective multi-parish youth ministry.