Growing a Catholic Youth Group

Hello everyone!
At my parish we have had a youth group for a couple years now. It is not very big, but slowly growing. I recently joined (back in March), and am part of the leadership team for the group.
The problem with the group is that it lacks anything to do with the faith. I mean, most of the time we don’t even say grace before eating! When we do occasionally talk about faith
(really not often), the discussion seems very forced by our main youth minister and none of the youth show any interest at all.
Me and a few others on the leadership team have been talking, and we really want this group to become a truly Catholic youth group. We want to have regular prayer time, adoration, mass, and learning about the faith! I have been praying a ton for the Holy Spirit to guide us, but I was wondering if anyone out there has any ideas on things we could do to get the youth interested or ideas of things we could do during our meetings. Thank you!

I’m in charge of the youth group at my church. These are kids who have done their confirmation already. Were talking between the ages of 14-17. This was my 1st year in charge. It was a small group but very cooperative. The group ranged from 7-12 members.

We would start with a quick prayer. Then talk about how our week went. Everyone talked. We sat in a round table. Then what I would do was ask them a question (faith, family, school, society, sports) and had each one give me their opinion. Once in a while I would dedicate it to faith only questions. But that was once, the ice was broken. To me, if you get them going, if you get them involved, they begin to open up.

On special days like, November 1st, All Saints Day, December 12, Day of the Virgen of Guadalupe, around Lent, I would ask them. Imagine I wasn’t Catholic, and I wanted to know about who Mary was, what would you say. Man, they would raise their hands and just start giving me responses.

Get them involved. Let them speak, and I know what I’m going to say is going to sound erroneous or weird, but don’t make it about faith all the time. i have 4 rules when teaching my classes, make it about God, Family, friends and what’s right. At the end of the day, the last 3 things are in reference to God.

  1. you have to put an end to the eating at a Church function without saying Grace. That is a disgrace. NOTE: I’m not judging your parish, I’ve seen it at my own parish too :frowning:

  2. Youth need single-sex, small discipleship groups for faith sharing. It’s find to do fun things as a larger group, but in order for faith sharing to work at that age, it needs to be in small groups. (to be honest, small groups works best for adults too)

  3. I highly recommend YDisciple from the Augustine Institute.
    [LIST]
    *]YDisciple is part of FORMED.org and can be accessed there.
    *]You can also learn little about it here at ydisciple.org.
    *]Contact your Lighthouse Catholic Media / Augustine Institute Parish Consultant for more information. Of if you don’t have a Parish Consultant, please feel free to PM me and I can tell you more and get you in contact with someone local.
    [/LIST]

God Bless!

[/LIST]

First of all, you need a Curriculum. NO flying by the seat of your pants.
The adults should be meeting a week out and assigning tasks to you youth volunteers.
No feeding people, unless you have a party planned. It wastes time, and it send the parents the wrong message. “we’re babysitting your kid”.
No. NO you’re not.
1)Start ON TIME. If we stand around waiting, it makes it look like you can miss something and get by. If you start with an ice-breaker game at 5 minutes after the hour they will want to be prompt so as not to miss the game. Games do NOT have to be elaborate. But they always have to lead in to the theme of the night. If you there is handing down tradition through the Magisterium, then play telephone. Did everyone get the message accurately? Or did things change upon many passing? The Church Doctrine remains constant. See the tie-in?
2) Switch it up every 15 minutes. Kids zone out after a long lecture, and you’ll lose them. They’ll go home and say it was boring. Someone can show a video cli (like from Busted Halo) and then one of the adults can talk about what you want to cover. Give Bible and Catechism references, and have kids take turns reading those aloud. By the end of the year everyone should be proficient in finding books of the Bible and how to use the Catechism if you do this.
3) Break up into small groups for discussion. Have the questions pre-printed on index cards for the leaders, and use the teens to break open the discussion because most kids are shy or simply don’t want to share. They’re afraid of being “wrong” . Stress that there are no wrong questions, but turn to the adults if things get off track. Small geroup should last no more than 20 minutes.
Switch it up again. If you see them nodding off, use a Brain Break (google it) they last one minuste are a great way to get any group revitalized.
4) NO homework. We use a point system fro rewards at the end of each semester. Every group that has the most points get s small reward, a night for pizza, a movie, something.
5) Make sure everyone is doing (and you offer) some kind of Community service project at least once a month. Keep track of their hours, and post the total hours in the bulletin for the parish at large to see all the good work that they do. This is how you gain respect and donations for the program.
6) Have tee shirts and have them wear them to EVERY parish function. When the elders see the young people carrying chairs, helping little kids, putting out mulch or serving hot dogs they’ll say “wow, what nice teenagers, and their teachers do so much with them!”
Another way to get donations for summer mission trips.
7) Have Adoration at least quarterly, prayer at the beginning and at the end of each night. They can write prayer intentions on cards when they arrive if you want. Greet everyone BY NAME. Make a point to include kids who don’t know anyone. One of the best ice breakers at the beginning of the school year is talking about what high school they go to. Many kids don’t realize that someone new to town or the youth group is at their school. It goes a long way to have somene from Church wave at you in the hall. Name tags for the first couple of months. Laminate them, and collect them each night. Keep them anonymous unless they ASK for it to be read aloud. Sometimes it’s enough to know your friends are praying for your special intention.

There’s more, but you get the idea. Just don’t yammer on for eons, and encourage them to talk and share. There should be around 3 “teachings” per session if you meet for 2 hours. The time flies by.

ALSO: You never know what some of the really quiet ones are going through. Make sure they understand that the Adults are there to listen and help.

God bless!
Clare

Everyone has come up with great suggestions!

I attended a youth group in junior high (years ago) at our Catholic school which was very similar. Basically, it was “What do you guys want on your pizza?” And “What should we do next time?” It never really got off the ground.

I think the fact that you and the peer leaders are all on the same page is awesome! First and foremost, I believe the youth members need to see YOU (the peer leaders) getting fired up about the Catholic faith! You will be an inspiration to them especially when you lead by example!

You could begin by saying that a few changes will be made because you wish to incorporate the Catholic faith into Youth Group to differentiate it from just a social group.

My daughter attends youth group and is in peer ministry leadership at our parish. It is extremely organized and active. There is a sign in sheet. It began last year as a deterrent for those teens who told mom/dad they were at youth group, but were elsewhere. Parents are notified by email with a list of attendees including those who were late or left early.
The youth group meets weekly for 2.5 hours.
They discuss their week or any issues (every one has a chance to speak and everything is held in the strictest confidence) There is prayer time and occasional Adoration at which time the sacrament of Reconciliation is offered. It’s out of this world to see how humble the teens are! Nearly everyone goes to confession!
There are retreats a few times per year at the parish, Summer Camp for 4 days/ 3 nights out of town with 3 other parishes! (Parent chaperones are needed for these events.) At the retreats or camp, there are usually a couple teens who give a talk “witness” to the way the Holy Spirit is working in their lives, etc. I love these!
There are also a couple of day trips downtown; one during the Summer and one in December. They usually entail visiting a few beautiful churches Adoration/Mass, lunch, shopping or going to the zoo. And much, much more! I have to say that our youth group does a great job of making our faith fun and focusing on a relationship with Christ!

Our priests are very involved! Grace is always said at meals! One of our priests is newly ordained and new to our parish and a deacon who will be ordained a priest this Spring. They are both very young, energetic, and extremely well received by our teens. Next youth group the new priest is having an “Ask me anything” session!

Maybe you could kick off the new and improved Catholic youth group off with some sort of group service project?

May the Holy Spirit guide you in this endeavor!
Peace and all good!

I wonder if it would be a good idea to link it to the mass, maybe some Bible study of the parts read last Sunday and some discussion. Teens can feel a bit disconnected from mass. The other thing that I wish I had learned as a teen is how the parish works and the different roles that make it work, maybe that could even lead to some"work experience" opportunities, I think post-confirmation teens often want to continue learning about their faith but aren’t sure how or where they fit into the parish as a whole and this would help.

Yes. We are required to interview the Confirmandi before reception of the Sacrament to ensure they are ready , and find out where they see themselves participating in the life of the Parish. Once they are confirmed, we can steer them to the various ministry heads to begin adult participation.
Following the Liturgical year, yes, is a must do.

I agree with you. What is the point in being part of a Catholic youth group if no elements of the faith are used. Start talking about Jesus and how much He loves us…mention what the Eurcharist means to them and start talking about young saints so they can look up to them. St Therese the little flower, St Dymphna was Irish and only 14/15 years old when she died. There are many many more…but they are great example and an inspiration to young people. St Therese was only in her early 20’s when she died I can relate to her alot cause she had great difficulty keeping her concentration to pray and she suffered OCD. O St Bernadette of Lourdes is another great example. She gave up everything for Jesus.

Last night at our leader planning meeting we were discussing the idea of going on retreats and such together. Also we are doing adoration and some praise and worship at our next youth gathering! We are also planning on getting the youth more involved in the mass (youth choir, lectors, etc.). We also made it clear that we shouldn’t be spending our money on new games or another Xbox, but rather on more religious stuff for the youth.
I have a lot of hope for this group, but often our youth minister just doesn’t seem like he cares a lot and lacks organization, so our ideas don’t get implemented. But we will keep pushing for sure!

Is he real young? Many times a Pastor believes that only a young person can relate to young people. :shrug:
We have some teen CORE members, but the teachers are all seasoned catechists that simply enjoy teens.
Good luck!!!

He’s in his thirties. I think with him it’s he’s not on fire for the faith so isn’t as interested as us in sharing the faith. Also, I think he may be worried that not as many kids will come if we’re more religious. He seems very focused on numbers. It’s always ‘how can we get more youth to come?’ rather than ‘whag should we do with the youth we have?’.

I think for a youth group the idea of needing things to look a certain way is not always necessary. In the town I grew up in, after graduating high school my Catholic friends started a youth group outside of their church that they considered “non-denominational.” Really it was a youth group led by young Catholic adults, that was meant for everyone. The group was similar to an evangelical/protestant youth group, there were games, food, discussions, but there was also prayer and a scripture based message. The messages were given by Catholics, protestants, and a couple more progressive-minded Christians. I thought this was a fantastic style youth group, because it allowed a very open discussion (led by a Catholic leader) for everyone, developed friendships which allowed for people to open up more about their faith, and challenged people’s thinking. It was good for those of us at the time that were not Catholic, and those that were, to be able to defend our faith, and to learn from the perspective of those with different beliefs.

Here’s the thing:
If one realizes that teen want to know that you will tell the TRUTH.
Not sugar coated, not watered down, the truth and why the Church says it’s a certain way. Period. They respect that. They know when people are dancing around something difficult.
The have to know that they are loved as Christ loves us. Many of these kids have no real feeling of love from their families. Their families are busy, and may indeed love them very much. But they show it through “thing” and purchases, and privileges. When all they want is a sincere look in the eyes and someone to listen.

Once the kids tell their friends that it’s a straight up thing, and that the adults REALLY care…they’ll come. They’ll practically knock the door down.
God bless you.

Growing a youth group isn’t easy. My friend just became a youth minister for a smaller parish and took them to Steubenville. His teens weren’t all into the retreat, I had to remind him that every group is different and it takes time to get them to embrace the faith. The youth minister I help has been at our parish for over 5 years and I have seen a spiritual evolution in the teens. This year several teens were praying over other teens during Adoration. It was an amazing sight.

Usually when the group meets there is an icebreaker/game for the first part. Sometimes once the teens are settled down there is a skit or video for reflection which leads to the topic discussion. Small groups are a great way to change things up, but if you don’t have someone who knows what they are doing leading each group it could fall apart fast. One of the most successful tools I’ve seen being used in our youth group is music. One of the young adults who helps out sings and plays guitar, so for the closing prayer he plays a few worship songs (Oceans by Hillsong United is always popular). Having a live performer is always better than a recording. Having good teen leaders helps a lot too. You should put a team together that meets once a week before the youth night, preferably a few days before to help plan the youth night. The leaders need to be involved. They should lead the opening prayer, lead the game, lead the small groups, give their testimony on their faith. Teens respond when they see other teens involved. Some teens aren’t up for all that, so be prepared to see leaders come and go. In fact, lots of teens will come and go. Youth ministry is a roller coaster of faith. Finally, if you can feed them. Teens are hungry and having a snack after you finish keeps them happy.

It’s true, “Oceans” is a great song! I’ve heard it at various conservative, evangelical, and progressive (protestant) churches.

That in itself sounds good. I have never seen that done, in my experience most teens drop out after confirmation and the link to parish life isn’t there. My only other thought is that don’t be afraid if the numbers drop at first after making changes, growth isn’t worth it if it comes at the cost of neglecting the faith.

Interviews are required here. Usually the priest does them.

But our pastor allows the CORE team (Catechists) to do them.
We Confirmed 42 people last spring.
18 want to return as Teen Core helpers, 3 want to be EMHC, 4 want to Lectors, and 4 want to be Sunday School helpers for the young. The rest, are frankly, working and going to school. :shrug: But they’re still coming to Mass!!!

Try watching the documentaries Finger of God, Furious Love, and Father of Lights (www.wpfilm.com) which features interviews of young adults (among others) who’ve been taught about the Charismatic gifts, intercessory prayer, etc, and have seen the Holy Spirit move in miraculous ways…

Young people see so many messages in the world that question God’s existence, and at the same time are seeing lots of reality tv shows, movies, music that feature the supernatural/occult world.

They need to experience God in a tangible experience or emotional way, not just a religious/ritualistic way to be convinced of HIS reality and HIS love for them. It’s happening to young people all over the world today via the Charismatic gifts of the Spirit, and young people are falling in love with God!

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.