Evangelization, Youth Work and Youth Ministry

I’ve tried to see if their were any other threads on this subject, but I can’t seem to find any, so please forgive me if I’m going over old ground.

I’m a professional youth worker undergoing my final year of a Youth and Community Work and Applied Theology degree. I was hoping to hear what sort of youth work/ministry people were up to in their parishes and what form it takes.

Here in England, the current trend is for parishes to employ professionally qualified (to government standards), full-time youth workers and ministers who will provide quality youth work in a parish for ‘Church’ and ‘non-Church’ young people.
So many parishes/churches are raising money just to join the queue for one of many youth workers/ministers coming out of Christian university courses to work solely in Christian environments. In addition, churches are also applying for government and trust-fund monies to employ youth workers who will double as service providers in their areas too - by this I mean that as well as evangelizing and cathechising young people in the parish they are providing family support, for example, or working with local groups to develop community strategies, much of which will not involve explicit evangelisation.
It has got to the stage where there are now more youth workers employed by the state church (Church of England), doing much of what I have described above, than there are by the state, which I find interesting - and it could be argued that they are also doing the state’s job for them!

I’m a Catholic but I’m employed by the Church of England to work in a parish near to me. It would have been nearly impossible for me to follow what I believed was my calling (to work full-time) in a Catholic parish in this country, and so I am grateful to the Church of England parish for taking me on! BTW, one of the reasons I got the job was because I spoke more about the Holy Spirit than the other (non-Cathoic) candidates!

In the Catholic Church here, their are very few youth workers/ministers who work within just one parish, though some do so over either Diocesan or Deanery level or as school chaplains, working within a number of feeder parishes. Are there Catholic parishes over there employing youth workers/ministers? If so, are they working with both ‘Church’ and ‘non-Church’ young people?

While I am enjoying my placement I still have a desire to work within my own Church and I’m thinking and praying very deeply about how best to do that. So, come on - let me pick your brains - I would love to hear people’s reflections and experiences, principles and values, about different types of youth work, both within and without the church.

El Paulo.

very interesting description of situation in England, thank you

I shudder to think what would happen in America if the state took over training, certification and licensing of youth ministers. it boggles the mind.

almost every American diocese has something in its particular law that advises each parish to employ at least a part time youth minister. There are national standards for YM, and a bishop’s document, on defining and implementing YM. Actual fact, more affluent parishes employ a YM, poorer parishes may have volunteer youth leaders who run a youth group, but catechesis and sacramental prep are run by a DRE with volunteers. If there is a YG, it comes and goes, depending on how committed the volunteers are, and how busy the kids are on other activities.

Real YM, as you describe, discerning and attempting to meet pastoral needs of all youth in the parish, whether or not they are attending Mass or CCD, is the ideal, but very rare. We are outdone by youth pastors of our Baptist, Pentecostal and Evangelical neighbors, which is why we lose a lot of our youth.

Thanks for the reply, puzzleannie!

Sorry, my mistake! I meant that churches are now looking for youth workers who are accredited to the same level as government youth workers - their training is still happening within Christian colleges. I am taking one of these courses and the content is excellent. Obviously, there is a theological arm to the study and we reflect theologically on the information that the government wants us to know.
Another reason why churches are wanting state recognised qualifications in their youth workers is that they want to be SEEN to be squeeky clean regarding child protection policy and procedures. It’s taken a while but churches are now very careful about who they employ and I’m sure it’s the same for you guys are over there.

almost every American diocese has something in its particular law that advises each parish to employ at least a part time youth minister. There are national standards for YM, and a bishop’s document, on defining and implementing YM. Actual fact, more affluent parishes employ a YM, poorer parishes may have volunteer youth leaders who run a youth group, but catechesis and sacramental prep are run by a DRE with volunteers. If there is a YG, it comes and goes, depending on how committed the volunteers are, and how busy the kids are on other activities.

Real YM, as you describe, discerning and attempting to meet pastoral needs of all youth in the parish, whether or not they are attending Mass or CCD, is the ideal, but very rare. We are outdone by youth pastors of our Baptist, Pentecostal and Evangelical neighbors, which is why we lose a lot of our youth.

In England there has been a lot of discussion about whether one is a youth worker or a youth minister. In my understanding, the former is more to do with (though not exclusively) service provision and providing very ‘practical’ support for young people. The latter is more to do with (though not exclusively) explicitly Christian missionary and pastoral work with young people. Of course, this is a gross simplification but many churches in the UK seem to be opting for Youth Workers as opposed to Youth Ministers, and I find this fascinating!
One reason I believe this to be the case is because churches want to be seen as relevant to today’s society - doing tangible and visible work that impacts communities - however, this choice has some very obvious challenges and raises serious questions about what youth work really is. What are your thoughts on this?

In reflecting on your post, as well as on my own experience, I have been shifting my own outlook on Christian youth work for some time and am now thinking seriously about what a ‘youth worker/minister’ should be. For me, there is a difference between what they look like in Catholic and non-Catholic parishes.

For me, I feel that social action and community cohesion have begun to play a greater part in my vocation. I have always done youth work in a voluntary capacity - this took the form of discipleship of Church young people - but any youth work I do in the future is more likely to be focused on the wider community as well as our young people. I am quite willing to be challenged on this so as to hone my understanding of the work!

I have also been inspired by the phrase lex orandi, lex credendi* - meaning as we believe, so we pray - I have felt for some time that the teaching of spiritual disciplines can play an important role in the way our young poeple learn about the faith. But the question I am asking myself is… if what we believe affects the way we pray, can the way we pray affect what we believe? I would really like some feedback on this train of thought!!!*

Thanks again, in advance! :slight_smile:

The parish I am a member of has a full time youth minister. He runs the high school youth group and junior high youth group. He plans out mission trips and community service projects. He is also in charge of planning the music and such for the youth mass each Sunday evening. I don’t really know what else he does, though I suspect there is quite a bit more to it.

Many large parishes have full time youth ministers. Smaller parishes in geographic proximity tend to share resources, this may include a youth minister at times.

Also, most major universities have Newman Centers, and often the full time ministers at these are trained as youth ministers.

Additionally, I think virtually all diocese have a director of youth ministry.

Then there are also things like church camps that probably employ youth ministers.

I don’t really know what a “youth worker” is. I suspect either this is something unique to Britain, or something we use a different term for.

It seems that if you are going to be working for the Church of England and you are Catholic, you probably would be better off doing work that is not specifically sectarian or perhaps even religious. While I can see no problem with running programs that do community outreach or recreation, I can see problems if you get too tangled up in ministry. While Catholic and Anglican beliefs are largely similar, they are not identical. This could at some point put you in an odd spot if you had to discuss one of these areas of difference with the youth you are working with.

the two biggest magazines for YM in this country are both of protestant or evangelical origin, Group and Youthwork, and their editorial content reflects, I think, the different ideas abroad on what constitutes YM.

Group is primarily written by and for persons trained and employed by protestant congregations as youth pastors (although everyone I know, Catholic and non, involved in YM subscribes because they have their pulse on the field, and have such good ideas for working with youth). The term youth pastor seems to be more defined as a person, working under the Pastor, who takes care of all pastoral needs of youth in their congregation, including outreach to the unchurched. That involves religious instruction and bible study, but goes much further, to evangelization, youth group as a social or service organization and means of keeping youth involved in the congregation, and pastoral care, counselling, visiting sick or incarcerated youth, chastity and moral training etc.

Group focuses on how the YM or YP does his or job, issues that arise such as with parents, senior pastor, congregation, among the youth etc.; OJT for reaching youth, involving them, activities, lots of ads for mission trips, service projects, conferences etc., good methodology for conducting YG meetings and so forth. Plus salary surveys and reviews of the profession itself.

Youthwork (or Youthworker) I am not as familiar with, but seems to incorporate those who work under any faith-based organization with youth in any capacity–RE, pastoral, teaching, YG, mission trips, service, social services, justice system etc. It focuses on articles and advice for handling specific issues that arise with youth: alienation, pregnancy, STDs and all the problems that arise from premature sexual activity, gangs and other criminal behavior, self-destructive behaviors and all such counselling and psychological problems, family problems, peer relationships, and also of course child safety, professional ethics and so forth.

The best resource for understanding what the US Bishops mean by YM is the national standards written for the bishops by the big Catholic national organizations for Catechetical leaders and Youth Ministers. I don’t have that stuff here in front of me, in a minute I will go search usccb.org for the reference. There is also bishops letter on YM, I think it is Sharing the Light of Christ, which came out in the 80s and was recently updated, along with a national survey results on Catholic YM and pastoral needs. Similar to an NCD for YM. (national catechetical directory for youth ministry).

all standards aside, what usually happens, at least where I have worked is that if there is a YM he or she is part-time, or is the seminarian or junior priest, and basically runs confirmation prep and RE for youth, with a youth group if there is one. What I do not see, and the survey shows a crying need for, and our protestant brothers are responding to beautifully (to our shame) is actual pastoral ministry to youth who are in danger spiritually, psychologically and physically because they are enmeshed in the Culture of Death.

Renewing the Vision: A Framework for Catholic Youth Ministry (refers to ages 12-18) and Sons and Daughters of the Light: A Pastoral Plan for Ministry with Young Adults. (ages 18-35)
is the title of the document, you can buy it from the USCCB publishing, I did not see it on-line
they tend to separate YM and YA/Campus ministry as two spheres, but in practice the same person in the diocese is in charge of both.

Yes, many Catholic parishes over here tend to have a youth worker/minister spread over an area, though very, very few have one all to themselves!

I don’t really know what a “youth worker” is. I suspect either this is something unique to Britain, or something we use a different term for.

Mmmm. I’m not sure what I’m saying has been translating very well - maybe there is another name for youth workers over there. Youth minister seems to be an accepted term eveywhere, but over here they tend to work solely within a parish, doing little for young people outside - they are more ‘pastors’ than outright evangelists.
Youth workers here have the reputation for being service providers, and is a title mainly used by government employed youth specialists. I think the reason why some churches want youth workers is that youth ministers don’t tend to be trained to work in communities or with non-Church young people - at least not here in Britain - Christian courses are now training youth workers because they have this additional ‘outward-looking’ focus. Maybe this reflects a bit more where some Churches see their activities moving?
How much community work is done by youth ministers in the United States?

It seems that if you are going to be working for the Church of England and you are Catholic, you probably would be better off doing work that is not specifically sectarian or perhaps even religious. While I can see no problem with running programs that do community outreach or recreation, I can see problems if you get too tangled up in ministry. While Catholic and Anglican beliefs are largely similar, they are not identical. This could at some point put you in an odd spot if you had to discuss one of these areas of difference with the youth you are working with.

Yeh, this is a tough one. At present, my role is two pronged. My wage comes from a local government fund for regenerating communities. Therfore, as well as working with the young people in the CofE parish I am meeting local youngsters (providing various activities) but with little or no evangelistic intent. This decision is due to respecting where the monies have come from.

As regards working as a Catholic within a non-Catholic parish, you are correct. There have been times when I have been in situations where I may have held an opposing or different view to those I have been working for/with. However (and I’m chosing my words carefully here!), the parish has been very respectful towards my Catholicism and I have been respectful and understanding of those things that they disagree with me on - Ecclesiology and Eucharist to name some - while I don’t agree with or teach their beliefs, I respect the sincerity with which they are held. What I try to do is to work in ways that honour those things we can both agree on as Christians and build God’s Kindom in that way - I would love to hear some other views on this.

As a final point regarding youth work/ministry, a local theologian (as well as some other Christian commentators) have suggested that at present British churches are caught up in what he calls “the cult of young people”. What he means is that they are focusing so much on reaching out to young people and getting them into church that they are ignoring the other age groups within the worshipping community. One thing that is going on in many churches is the establishing of “Youth Congregations”, though this is mainly happening in the protestant denominations. What are your thoughts on this and is there a similar situation where you are?

Hum…

Interesting. I think I understand the terminology better now. Here in the US it usually seems to be Youth Minister or Youth Pastor, depending on the particular denomination involved.

While there seems to be a great deal of similarity between the circumstances in the US and UK, there are some very real differences as well I suspect. In particular, we take a very different view of the role of government in such matters, it seems. Also, the number and type of denominations in this country is quite a bit different. Finally, from all that I understand, religion still holds a far more important role in US society in general than it sounds like it does on your side of the pond.

I think there is some similarity regarding over-focus on youth to the exclusion of other things. I know some of the very large Protestant churches have been known to even build separate worship spaces for their youth services. I think this problem has not become quite so acute in the Catholic Church, because we never really dove into the various youth ministry ideas to the same degree others did. The downside of that is that many of our youth find the programs their Protestant friends have to be more interesting.

My parish is likely odd by having a full time youth minister. But, we do have something like 1500 families and 4000-5000 people in the parish, so there is a fair sized group of people to serve.

It sounds like the relationship between you, the Church of England, and the government is a bit unusual, at least by American standards, but then again we have a rather peculiar history regarding Church-State relations.

puzzleannie gives a really good definition of what youth work (as understood in Britain) entails on the whole. This is the sort of training, along with theological formation, that youth ministers are coming out of university with. Sorry that I didn’t take the above into account - I was composing my post at exactly the same time! Thanks! :slight_smile:

Wow, your parish is huge!

Thank you for your reflections on all this! It’s intriguing to get another view point on it and to find out what the challenges are in a different part of the Catholic world.
I was particularly intersested in your thoughts on youth services/congregations etc. I am thinking really hard about all this because my gut reaction is to resist divisive stuff like this. There is quite a famous exmple called “Soul Survivor” near London which was one of the first youth congregations and came out of an Anglican parish. It was, and still is, very big although it is not so much a youth congregation any more, but rather a 20-30’s congregation!!! In addtition, there are whispers within it that there isn’t much of a desire to remain as part of the main church anymore - this must be resisted at all costs in the Catholic Church - but it doesn’t mean we can’t be creative in our youth ministry.
In the protestant churches here, the Sunday service has become THE focal point of the Christian life to the detriment of all other things, IMO. It’s got to the point that every church has a service which caters for every single niche market or age group and, as a consequence, those different groups are tending to meet less and less with one another. The Catholic Church is becoming one of the only places where you can go and have a broad spectrum of people.

Some of my recent musings have been around spirituality, which we have a wealth of in the Catholic Church, and it seems to me that we don’t tap this enough. If the protestant churches in this country have been going down the youth congregation route (during the 90’s and 00’s) then the Catholics have been exploring youth communities - this is more in keeping with our spiritual tradition and our understanding of authority and ecclesiology. This is what I would like to explore further, as I was a full-time member of such a community for three years. I’m hoping that offering this sort of community will be a healthier alternative to the narrow view of church many young people (and, unfortunately, our Catholic young people) are now being offered.* Are there any examples of this sort of thing in thing US or elsewhere?*

i nearly choked on my coffee when I read in Group magazine (evangelical) a description of lectio divina and a recommendation that youth ministers involved in bible study focus on teaching that prayer tradition, and not so much on analyzing word meanings and technical details.

one example strong on college campuses in the 70s is the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, which started in colleges and spread. It is still an active and important spirituality in this country, some Catholic parishes incorporate charismatic worship styles, and many people are still involved in their prayer groups that were intended to carry out in daily life commitment to that, or cursillo (originated among Hispanics) and similar renewals.

more mainstream in America are small faith sharing communities, which are the products of several parish renewal & evangelization “programs” such as Renew, Christ Renews His Parish, Disciples in Mission etc. Now these are geared for adult laity, but all have a component to involve youth of the parish. That usually gets implemented through CCD/RE or Confirmation prep programs. There are always a few youth who remain committed to their prayer groups, but when kids move away to college, they have to find something else. That is why campus ministry efforts often involve small groups.

communidades de bases, small faith base communities, is another outgrowth of Hispanic spirituality and usually begin with faith sharing, gospel based, and often move out into social action of some kind, depending on the needs of the larger community. When youth are involved there it is usually as members of families who participate. That is one thing I see here in our majority Hispanic area, that I did not in the north, is spirituality and practice of the faith is much more likely to be a family affair, not an individual thing. That is the culture, as people are always telling me.

We initiate small groups as part of our HS RE & Confirmation program, and each year a small but solid group continues meeting in their groups, at least informally for several years. Many of our kids live at home and go to local colleges, so they continue even in college, and glad to say are also active in their campus ministries.

A larger group of Catholic youth join protestant youth groups or prayer groups such as Fellowship of Christian Athletes, or CCC Campus Crusaders for Christ, because the find nothing similar in their parishes.

A study on the success of mega-churches, huge non-denominational congregations characterized by charismatic pastors and TV satellite feeds found that the success of these congregations in attracting, keeping and serving members is small groups, meeting in homes or at church, for bible study, service, prayer, support etc. Youth groups in such congregations often follow the small group style.

Could you explain “lectio divina” and why you nearly choked on your coffee? I am thinking it must be a Catholic approach (as opposed to evangelical). My rusty Latin suggests that it means “divine readings” or perhaps “Holy Scripture” and refers to the Bible.

lectio divina, divine reading, is a method of reading, meditating and praying with Sacred Scripture (or any spiritual book) that arose in the monasteries very early in monastic tradition, and was jettisoned along with everything else when the monasteries were destroyed by the Reformation.

search on the spirituality forum under lectio and there are several threads and links that describe the method.

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