How to start a Youth Ministry?

The youth (12-17 year olds) in our parish are not very engaged in their religious lives. They attend the “Faith Formation Classes” that seem to do anything but form their Faith. Some don’t come to Mass, but attend the class and most don’t really know what the Mass is about or why we do it. Several hardly even realize the Catholic Church is Christian or that Jesus was a real person who actually existed!

So I would like to start a Youth Ministry to help bring the Faith to our youth. However, I need resources and a plan before I present my idea to our parish priest. Any suggestions or ideas would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

With your priest’s approval and guidance, a few thoughts.

  1. Make sure everyone understands the basics of the faith. Make sure it is upbeat and to the point. The real presence in the Eucharist. “Body of Christ” means ‘body of Christ.’ The importance of Confession, also known as the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You need to be in a state of grace to partake in the Eucharist.

  2. God, Jesus Christ, is alive right now, and someday we will meet Him and have hope that we will live with Him in Heaven.

  3. A lot of young people today do not have healthy outlets to enjoy themselves. Movies, music and video games like Grand Theft Auto are an influence. Filling your head with adultery, cohabitation is OK and seeing movies so that you can catch a glimpse of some body part you shouldn’t fills your head with images that young people shouldn’t dwell on. Self-control is hard to accept when “everybody’s doing it” or “Hey. What’s the big deal? It’s just a movie, game and so on.”

  4. Learn about ways to help the poor. They can be little things, but don’t forget them.

  5. Even at a young age, we need to tell others about our faith in a way they can relate to. Today, things seem so easy. No effort required. Yeah, eventually you’ll have to get a job, but what about a family? Especially for the older teens. Future fathers should understand what that means, even if their own family is not on the same page.

  6. Questions. Get ready for the questions. Make a list. Answer those you can and research the answers and get back to the questions you can’t answer right away.

  7. Don’t be discouraged. Even if some drop out, realize that doing something, and doing it with the proper guidance, is a lot better than doing nothing.

Let me assure you that as I went through life, God sent me fun, interesting and trustworthy people that inspired me in the faith and about my life in general.

  1. Being around that age means meeting girls will become more and more of a priority. Learning how to make friends with a girl you like is important. That’s what real relationships are about. Thinking of her as a person who is more that just an attractive face and body is important. Think about the places and things that young men and young women could go that would be pleasing to God. In our paganized media culture, that excludes a lot but still leaves room for good, clean fun.


Thanks Ed, Those are good ideas, I’ll keep them in mind when I talk to my priest. Also, I was wondering if there are any good programs or books that I could have the group follow. That way I could have a solid plan of what the group is about and what we will be doing. Any suggestions would be very helpful!

You’re welcome. A few books to consider:


Good for you for wanting to engage the youth of your parish!

I have been the volunteer youth minister at my parish for about 14 years. The program has evolved a great deal over that time as I experimented with what worked and what didn’t. There are LOTS of resources available…so many that it can get a little overwhelming. Check these…

Our youth group meets every Sunday from 7-8:30. Here is my basic outline for most meetings…
7-7:10 Students sign-in/play basketball (we meet in a gym) or do some other mixer while we wait for everyone to arrive.
7:10-7:25 Guest speaker (I invite different guests from the parish to give their ‘testimonies’–why they are Catholic, how they have been challenged in their faith, how God is working in their lives. Some stories are extraordinary and some are every day. The purpose is to make teens aware that God is also working in THEIR lives…actively.)
7:25-8:00 Lesson supported by activities such as group discussion or written exercises
8:00-8:10 Audio/Visual segment (learn a song or watch one of the many great video clips available for Catholic Teens–search outside da box on youtube.)
8:10-8:15 Closing Prayer/Announcements
8:15 Snacks

This year we will be using T3 Teen Bible Timeline. It is a ‘packaged’ DVD driven program. There are student workbooks available to help guide the teens through the material. I will not be using the workbooks because I have seen so many end up in the trash and they are rather expensive.

I have also used Theology of the Body for Teens, which is another DVD driven program.

Teens are interested in basic apologetics. They ARE challenged at school, but don’t always know where the questions are coming from. I’ve done a basic apologetics course several different times and it was always well received.

Another thing I try to do is show the teens how their faith relates to current events. The possibilities are endless as there is so much out there to be explored and discussed.

Hope this helps a little…


Thank you both! These are exactly what I was looking for! Also, thanks KathyA for your schedule and the links, I will use them when the ministry (hopefully) gets started! Any other comments or suggestions are always welcome!


One thing you might want to consider…Rome wasn’t built in a day, and poorly catechized high school juniors and seniors might need more time than you have with them to undo a decade of ineffective faith formation. With the older youth, since your group is just starting, I recommend shooting for two and only two objectives:

  1. Leave them with a positive impression of the Catholic faith

  2. Introduce and connect them with organizations that will guide them in the next steps of their faith journeys (college Newman Centers, young adult groups, etc.)

To me, everything else you do for those high schoolers is just gravy at this point, and anything you do that is not leading to those two objectives is not a good use of your energy.

With the younger teens, they will potentially be involved in youth ministry at your parish for many more years, and you have more opportunities with them to go deeper into catechesis, faith sharing, experiences with Sacraments, etc… But with the older ones, I would consider it a huge victory if they leave high school with an open mind about Newman Centers and Catholic young adult groups.

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