Wednesday Witness: Youth Ministry Done Right
When we moved to Minnesota 15 years ago, Jodi and I were blessed to land at a parish with strong youth ministry. We made Mass and prayer a priority for ourselves and our family, of course, but aside from that personal example, the most important thing we did for our kids was allow them to engage in youth group in middle school. At our home parish of St. Michael, the most common characteristic of teens who continue to practice their faith and engage in the life of the Church through high school and beyond is whether they were “hooked” in middle school through activities like Friday Night Live (FNL), Winterblast and Extreme Faith Camp (EFC).
Superficially, these events look like middle-school youth ministry at a thousand different churches everywhere: a cacaphony yelling and laughter; goofy games and fun activities; lots of pizza, pop, and candy. Scores of students show up energized and return home exhausted.
Too often, such events result in fond memories of friends and fun, but very little lasting fruitfulness.
Done right, however, Catholic youth ministry is focused on personal relationships with Jesus and other disciples and on the sacraments. This is why FNLs generally include a topic, a lesson, and small groups. This is why Winterblast, the upcoming middle-school lock-in at the Maple Grove Community Center, begins with Mass. And it’s why, at the end of every Extreme Faith Camp, a weeklong summer camp packed with food, fun, and friendship, the most common answer to “What was your favorite part?” is Adoration.
Why is this approach effective? The long answer is that we are made for relationship, and finding our way back to an eternal and intimate relationship with God is the whole purpose of our lives—so much so that God gave us the sacraments as signs drawing us into this relationship and sources of grace that enable us to live out this relationship in a fallen world.
The short answer was proposed to me by a teen who was “hooked” at EFC: If you want people to have a relationship with Jesus, put them in front of Jesus and let Him do the work.
We are blessed at Saint Andrew to have a pastor and staff that is supportive of this approach to youth ministry. We are blessed to have two dedicated volunteer youth ministers, Jim Lang and Kent Yoder, who are pouring themselves out to get middle-school and high-school youth ministry off the ground here. And we are blessed to have a team of teens and adults who have taken on additional spiritual and volunteer commitments to grow in unity and form a Youth Core Team to help lead other middle- and high-school teens to Christ.
So take advantage of this. Our Youth Ministry webpage (www.saint-andrew.net/youth-ministry) has the schedules for middle-school and high-school youth events, as well as the forms needed for registration. By this weekend, November 3-4, details and permission forms for Winterblast will be posted—we will need your RSVP by mid-November to attend this great event!
We hope to see your middle-schoolers with us this year—and to watch them continue their journey to Jesus as high-schoolers, drawing the next generation of middle-schoolers with them.
Wednesday Witness is a weekly blog post from Jim Thorp, director of evangelization and catechesis. For past posts, visit The Net's main page.