I have to begin this post by simply stating the same thing I say to youth workers around my Diocese and to those that follow the blogging that I do, that… it’s time. It doesn’t take long to look at the average Catholic youth ministry program in any given parish and see that it is time for a makeover. I am not saying that we are not making an effort, but let’s just admit right now that there is very much room for improvement.
I do not need to waste your time going through the statistics of what is happening to the youth that go through Catholic parish youth ministry programs and end up leaving their faith after high school. Many consider it an accomplishment or a goal if they can even get them to continue their faith journey through their last two years of high school.
Yes, there are many parishes and programs doing great things and may even being doing things as well as they can be done. Those people are probably not the ones that have picked up this book. Let’s start by identifying the key things that help us realize the need for a makeover in our parish youth ministry programs:
1. You have been doing the same thing for a very long time
It doesn’t necessarily mean that what you are doing is wrong, but things change, people change, the youth change. How long have you been doing the same thing in your parish to try and engage the youth?
2. You have no goals
If you are not moving forward, you are moving backward. If you do not have goals in place, what is sustaining your ministry? It is time to aim for something and focus intensely on that something as long as it takes to get there.
3. The parish does not know the vision
Does your parish struggle each year to find more adults to help with religious education or youth ministry? Does you have a hard time convincing people of the need to have adults investing in the spiritual lives of our youth? When you look at the families in your parish, do you see hope or do you see emptiness? It’s time to offer hope by giving a glimpse of what could be.
4. You do not know what’s in
Yes, some people can get by with their own style. Some people, if they take the time to actually look at what others are doing or are humble enough to ask for input and advice, they might find that they styles they are accustomed to are not really what’s in and actually are probably turning people away. How often do you network and learn from others that are successful in their efforts? How much time do you spend being a learner and a student of youth ministry?
5. Your communication efforts are failing
If you rely solely on your parish bulletin, email, and flyers around the Church to promote events and programs, you are ready for a makeover. Who do you have in your parish that is working to build relationships with the youth that no social media platform can?
6. The phrase “New Evangelization” has no meaning to you
We will get into this later in this book, but the New Evangelization is the style right now. The New Evangelization is why I decided to start casting this vision and process for how to evaluate and “makeover” your youth ministry program. In a sense it is the answer that we have been waiting for. The call for a New Evangelization is breathing new life into the Church and it can only benefit us when we jump on board. Are you ready to jump in?
Like I mentioned before, it is not that parishes are not trying. There are many efforts being made. It is simply time for something different. Just like a person may seek the wisdom and counsel of a makeover artist, it is time to take in the wisdom and talent that goes beyond our own means. It is time to grab the energy and life that the New Evangelization will bring into the Church and let the Holy Spirit move our ministries in ways that we never thought possible. It is time to think outside of the box and be open to something that is still the Church and it still demands our time and sacrifice, but will produce much more fruit.
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