Comprehensive Youth Ministry is indeed universal. It is not a program, an event, or personality based. It is a vision, a framework that guides and directs how we do what we do. It is more than a grid, a calendar, or a group of people. It guides and directs ministry towards the whole of the person and reaches out to all people, regardless of social groups, high schools, and other demographic isolations.
I would hope that this could also be said for the various youth ministries that I have been involved with over the years. I see that youth ministry needs to be truly universal, reaching out to all sorts of young people and their families with a team of people.
Youth Ministry is also a place where young people can connect with positive role models, ask tough questions, receive the Truth of our faith, and have a great time while doing it. Many adults misunderstand this idea of fun. When a teen says that he/she has had fun, it usually means that they enjoyed the time with other people and received something out of the experience. The complete opposite is when a teen says they are bored. A teen says they are bored, they usually mean that they did not have a meaningful experience. In the adult world, “fun” usually refers to something that has entertainment value, and boredom is when we feel like there is nothing to do. This is a very important distinction to know while looking at a personal vision for youth ministry. Youth Ministry events must be “fun” for teens (enjoyable time with other people and the teen receives something out of the experience). So, really a teen can be doing a fairly boring project (panting a house, doing dishes, etc) but if they can share that experience with a friend and receive some type of meaning out of it, it becomes “fun.”
This is crucial to understand the teen view of “fun.” How does this play out in a vision of youth ministry? We as adults may be tempted to development ministry based on our adult concept of “fun” being entertainment and transfer this as a guiding principle for youth ministry. However, any event or activity can be fun to a teen, as long as the teen is able to share that experience with another teen and they receive something out of the experience, i.e, they become personally invested in whatever the event/activity is that they are doing together.
An important part of my personal vision is for all events to be “fun” for teens while they know, love, and serve God. There may be opportunities for socialization and entertainment, but it also means that we do not shy away from the service projects, fundraisers, nursing home visits, bible studies and many other activities that really help to holistically develop young people into disciples and have “fun” doing these activities.
To summarize, I believe that my vision for youth ministry would be to lead teens and their families closer to Christ and His Church by loving and serving others, and have fun while doing it. This is an evaluative tool to use against any young ministry event:
- Did this activity help to lead teens and families closer to Christ and His Church?
- Did this activity point young people towards loving and serving others?
- Did the teens have “fun” while doing it?
These three questions can help us to reach out to all young people regardless of high school, social groups or various demographic groupings. These three questions can be very helpful in measuring what we are doing against our vision. Many times we can get caught in the trap of doing event for the sake of doing events so that we appear to have a full calendar or to cater to a particular person. However, the important thing to remember is how are we serving the teens of our parish and greater community? We can also make improves for future events by making changes based on these questions. In this way, we can be truly holistic and universal in our approach toward ministering with young people.