Basic Recipe for "Leavening" the Youth Lump
The trick to getting them to experience Christ's personal love: teens evangelizing teens.
"To sum up my experiences as youth minister to this wonderful group of teens and volunteers is difficult. We have all let the Holy Spirit guide us in all our endeavors and the teens have opened up their hearts to ways that Christ can move in their lives and they realize that He has already been at work in their lives from the beginning." Pete Rogers, Youth Minister, St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church
The need it meets
Grow the Church by evangelizing the adolescent, seeker subculture.
The program helps to introduce parish teens to the Church in a way that makes sense to them without compromising Church teachings.
Where it came from
This method springs from Fr. Pleus's professional experience in education and youth counseling before becoming a priest, and from practical experience as a pastor.
How it works
- Have one person (youth minister) the kids can consistently identify as their leader who is responsible for meeting their ministry needs. Over time, this person creates the one-on-one relationships with the teens that are vital for gaining their trust and becoming influential in their lives for Christ.
- Provide solid, consistent, authentically Roman Catholic and Eucharist-centered teaching and preaching.
- Make adoration a regular part of the youth meeting experience. This may seem counter-intuitive, but our results prove otherwise. Teens can get fun anywhere - they can only get Christ in the Eucharist HERE.
- Provide a youth-oriented Mass with well-executed contemporary music.
- Through personal conversations with the natural leaders of the group, the youth minister needs to create a culture of "teens evangelizing teens". The older, more responsible members of the youth group should be given responsibilities and encouraged to take the initiative.
- Give them FOOD!
These steps have led to a huge increase in attendance in the youth program. Attendance at a regional summer youth retreat went from 3 to 30+ over the course of 3 years.
- Building a relationship, friendship, and trust with one identified leader gives teens the security and stability they need at this point in their lives.
- From this foothold they are more open to consistent, timely, transmission of the Truth - something teens acutely crave.
- Adoration then gives kids an opportunity to apply what they are learning in a practical way - through developing their personal relationship with Jesus Christ in prayer.
- Creating a culture of "teens evangelizing teens" is important.
- Food at the meetings and a youth Mass with great music appeal to the typical felt-needs of teens - a pleasant wholesome experience with friends, and an emotional experience with Christ.
How to implement it
- A mission or small parish has to hone its ministry focus to maximize resources. For a tenfold return in talents, it pays to invest in that one, consistent person in a youth leadership position who can transmit the truths of the faith to teens.
- Motivate a core group of teens, 10th and 11th graders, to draw and invite other teens into the program - culture of "teens evangelizing teens".
- Mentor teens using text messaging.
- Person-to-person invitations to join others for Mass and fellowship afterwards - emails and generic announcements are not enough.
- Emphasize the fun factor to learning their faith. We can't stop with fun, but if we don't start with it, we won't reach this age group.
- Make sure the teens take ownership of the running of the program. Give responsibilities and support their initiatives.
- Meet in a social setting and then take the meeting into the sanctuary.
Fr. Adrian Pleus is pastor of
St. Vincent De Paul.