What if you could take a week long break with your family and go to Disneyworld while a team of youth ministry “guru’s” came in and did an extreme makeover of youth ministry at your parish? When you returned and yelled – “Move that bus!”, and the bus rolled away – what would be different? Here are 3 key elements that I have found that form a solid foundation of Catholic Youth Ministry in a parish.
1. Community Investment-
In the TV show – Extreme Home Makeover, when they move the bus, the house has changed and the friends and people of the local community have been transformed. It’s not so much the free materials or appliances, but the community that cared enough to come and build a new house. The same needs to be true for ministry at your parish. If you and a select few are the only ones trying to build a strong youth ministry at your parish, you are missing a key ingredient. The entire parish needs to help build youth ministry. As soon as people understand the needs and gifts of young people in your community, they will be glad to help. Often times we try to build the house and try to “impress” people by making it look like we have it all together to get them involved. I have found the more transparent we are and share the struggles, challenges and dreams we have, the more people want to help.
How transparent are you with your parish community?
2. Focus on Relationships with Young People-
In the TV edition of the show, the team doesn’t just come in and plug a cookie cutter design in and hope the family likes it. They spend time getting to know the family first and then build a house that fits that specific family. The same is true for Catholic youth ministry in a parish. Most parishes have a distinct personality. The only way you are going to learn how to build the house you need to build is to be in direct relationship with the young people and families you are serving. Find out about what they are like, what they do for fun and what their relationship is with their Church. Let them tell you what they think ministry could look like at the parish. Keep asking them even after you start building. It’s important that you and your core team really know the teens. Yes, of course, you need to make sure you are following your diocesan guidelines for safe environment at all times. It is worth all the extra effort.
How well is your parish being relational in it’s ministry to teens?
3. Constant Sacramental Passion-
The TV show Extreme Home Makeover is not only passionate about building – they are the most passionate about providing hope for a family. If you look down the road 15 years and ask the question, “What would I like our teens to be like in 15 years?” I believe for most of us we would answer something like this – ” They would be active Catholics, attending Mass and Reconciliation regularly either as a preist, religious, single or married with their family. They would be true disciples, who would be bringing others along on the journey and bringing about Glory to God in how they live” -in other words, still growing in their holiness. If youth ministry at our parish is not passionate about the Sacraments, how do we expect the teens and families at our parishes to become passionate about the Sacraments? A key feature of the house we are to build in Catholic Youth Ministry is to lead teens to the Sacraments. Making Mass a priority. Encouraging Reconciliation monthly and giving the teens the opportunity to go to reconciliation on retreats as well. To build a Confirmation program that has impact, not just leads teens through the motions. The parishes that are seeing teens discern religious vocations are all parishes that maintain constant Sacramental passion.
How passionate for the Sacraments is youth ministry at your parish?
Does youth ministry at your parish need an “extreme makeover?”