What is the deal with Youth ministers?


#1

I’m definitely making generalizations based on my experience. I think there is something wrong with the formation of youth ministers. The parishes I have been involved with have all had youth ministers that are focused not on bringing kids to greater holiness but in arranging social events. There doesn’t seem to be any desire to do catechesis, Bible studies, traditional Catholic prayer experiences (the retreats seem quite new agish). I am wondering if there is a benefit to even having a youth minister.

I’m sure the answer lies in their educational formation. We have an orthodox parish, but the youth ministers have been liberal. In fact, our current youth minister compared going to Confession to going to the bathroom. There’s a good analogy to present to young people! :eek:

Once again, I am generalizing on my experience. I’m sure there are good youth ministers out there.

Do you have a youth minister at your parish? Is she/he teaching authentic Catholicism?


#2

I think youth ministry is an uphill battle because the teens involved are their parents children, and just like the parents don’t want to learn what true holiness entails, neither to their children want to hear the truth. What saddens me is that the Catholic Church has so much to offer, but these programs try to copy cat protestant programs instead of creating a truly Catholic youth ministry. Social events are very important to teens and I’d be delighted if my parish had that much going in the way of youth ministry. And that comment about Confession is simply crude. I’d make an appointment to speak to that individual about the inappropriateness of that remark. Egads! No wonder people are confused about the sacraments. Have you talked to your pastor about that comment? Ugh! What a terrible image that analogy presents.


#3

[quote=JMJ Theresa] There doesn’t seem to be any desire to do catechesis, Bible studies, traditional Catholic prayer experiences (the retreats seem quite new agish). I am wondering if there is a benefit to even having a youth minister.
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Do you have a youth minister at your parish? Is she/he teaching authentic Catholicism?
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It seems to me that the role of a Youth Minister is more for social activities. “Catechesis, Bible studies, traditional Catholic prayer experiences” would fall under the role of a Religious Ed Director NOT the Youth Ministry. We have a very good Youth Ministry coordinator but unfortunately since the departure of religious ed personell she has had to abandon the social aspect and has had to act more as a Rel. Ed Director.


#4

This is going to sound awful, but we had two women who were ours – mid-20s or so, maybe late 20s? We all suspected they were more than just “friends” but no one wanted to make such wild accusations and be wrong, ya know? It was just…odd


#5

[quote=JMJ Theresa] I think there is something wrong with the formation of youth ministers.
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You assume first of all that youth ministers have formation. This is not always the case. Youth ministers vary from a paid staff position with a job description and educational requirements to a volunteer position that is likely a parent or someone who is involved in teaching CCE.

[quote=JMJ Theresa] The parishes I have been involved with have all had youth ministers that are focused not on bringing kids to greater holiness but in arranging social events. There doesn’t seem to be any desire to do catechesis, Bible studies, traditional Catholic prayer experiences (the retreats seem quite new agish). I am wondering if there is a benefit to even having a youth minister.
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There is a difference between “youth ministry” and Religious Education. They are not mutually exclusive yet they are not the same thing either. They are different aspects of formation of children and we shouldn’t necessarily expect youth ministry to be what it is not intended to be-- catechism class.

There is a social dimension to the communal life of the Church, and yes, youth ministry often involves social activities. I would say there is nothing wrong with that-- it is a major aspect of helping the youth look towards the Church for this outlet rather than-- say-- hanging out at the mall.

That said, youth ministry should go beyond social only-- it should really strive to balance 4 S’s-- social, spiritual, sports, and service. This engages the body, mind, & soul in all aspects of Christian life. Hopefully a good ministry works in conjuction with Religious Education to complement those programs.

[quote=JMJ Theresa] I’m sure the answer lies in their educational formation. We have an orthodox parish, but the youth ministers have been liberal. In fact, our current youth minister compared going to Confession to going to the bathroom. There’s a good analogy to present to young people! :eek:
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Again, not all youth ministers are paid positions, and some have minimal to no formation-- many are volunteer parents. However, a specific and concrete example of a person who is in charge of youth teaching something against Church teaching-- or expressing positions like you describe-- needs to be reported to the pastor.

[quote=JMJ Theresa] Do you have a youth minister at your parish? Is she/he teaching authentic Catholicism?
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At my old parish, the last 3 youth ministers have left their positions to enter the seminary, so yes, I’d say they were very good and taugh Catholic teaching well. They also blended the 4 S’s I mentioned above to reach kids at all levels. Our parish also participated in Life Teen so youth ministry and religious education were very well integrated and focused.

I am now at a rural, small country parish-- the “youth minister” is a parent who wants to try to promote fellowship among the (few) teens we have and also give them some church sponsored alternatives to the secular activities going on. Youth activities are not necessarily oriented towards catechism-- they are oriented towards fun.

I see nothing wrong with either of these-- of course my large, city parish which had money to pay two full time youth ministers who integrated YM with catechesis and formation is the ideal in my mind. But, that’s not the reality of all parishes, or probably very very few.


#6

**JMJ Theresa…I’m with you. Our youth minister is all about fun and games. You can get that anywhere. I think it would be really nice if we had some spiritual dimention to our youth group. At my church, you won’t learn about God from the youth group and I think that is sad. **


#7

My kids arn’t in high school just yet, so I don’t know from personal experience what the current youth groups are like.

I do know that when I was in high school we had a really neat group. One week we would have a teen Mass either in church or at someone’s house. The following week we would have a potluck. The next week we would have an informal prayer meeting and scripture discussion (followed by dessert :smiley: ) and sometimes we would go on weekend outings together. It was a lot of fun and gave me a good alternative to public high school.

What I liked best about it though, is that the youth minister never had a dividing line between religion and social events. All of our social events were preceeded by prayer and scripture, and all of our “spiritual” events were followed by social activities. It was a good combination.


#8

My biggest frustration is probably that our youth minister runs the Confirmation program. So, he is involved in catechesis. Or, should be. In this area, it seems to be pretty typical for the ym to run the confirmation program.

Our youth minister has a masters in theology, so he is supposedly trained for the position.

His analogy for confession as a bathroom experience was actually in the ym column in the Church bulletin. So, I know the pastor knows about it. I don’t know if there was a reprimand.

To form a whole person, fellowship should be integrated with spiritual formation, shouldn’t it? Also, there is such an urgent need for catechesis with our teens, shouldn’t this be a priority?

I know this is a complex age group to work with. However, for some kids, this is a very critical time before they head out into the “pagan” world of college.


#9

JMJ I am a youth minister myself and I must say that I absolutely hate to see youth ministers thinking that their primary focus is to arrange social events. It is simply not enough to be a good speaker or leader; one needs to be chosen based on their ability to lead youth towards God. That is the MOST important thing needed. JMJ you bring a good point and I think that you should tell your Parish priest to inform any youth ministers to bring back their primary focus on God. Like you, I would also see youth ministry as pointless if my youth were not being geared toward God. I think many times the youth ministers themselves get fooled or pressured by their youth group members to have more social events. Certainly I had pressures like these, but I had to rise beyond them because the youth group members are not running the show; ceratinly they have input but ultimately most of our activities should focus on increasing our Holiness. Youth ministers need to know that. God bless.

-Alison


#10

Wow, this makes me grateful for our youth minister. She’s very devout and is working hard to teach the kids the truths of the faith. She’s even brave enough to start up high school adoration. It hasn’t started, but I hope to offer my help in getting it off the ground. —KCT


#11

Youth ministers need to be young enough to be able to relate to the teens. But most young adults are still not fully formed in their own faith. For many of us here on the forums our “spiritual journeys” took circuitous paths until we became really grounded in our faith (often in our 30s or 40s). As a parent of teens, I try not to be critical of the Catholic youth ministers that I have known. In fact, I bend over backwards to support them because it is so important to have a youth ministry for our teens in this day and age. Our youth ministers work closely with our priests and with the DRE.


#12

[quote=newf]**JMJ Theresa…I’m with you. Our youth minister is all about fun and games. You can get that anywhere. I think it would be really nice if we had some spiritual dimention to our youth group. At my church, you won’t learn about God from the youth group and I think that is sad. **
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I think that part of the problem is that you can get “fun and games”, or socialization, anywhere. If we don’t provide it as a community, our youth and young adults will seek it out somewhere else. If we can, and do, provide social events with a decidedly Catholic (and catholic) focus, our children are less likely to want to “try out” the Protestant youth programs.

The youth groups in our three parishes gather for adoration once a month - and they are very devout about it. Yes, there is social time - usually snacks afterwards (last night, pizza was delivered after the 1-1/2 hours of praise and adoration). This is a part of the Youth Ministry, and I’m all for it!

Adoration is only one of the items on the Youth Ministry calendar, and yes, our Youth Minister works with our DRE on a number of projects. It is true. Our Youth Ministers cannot only be concerned with social activities, but that is a big part of life at the age we are talking about (the youth, not the ministers).


#13

As a youth minister for the last 10 years, Catholic youth ministers are encouraged to use the guidelines and parameters set up by the National Federation of Catholic Youth ministry which is the arm of the US Catholic Council of Bishops.
You can check out their document at this link
nfcym.org/catholicym/index.htm

At our parish, we strongly use the document called Renewing the Vision which involves goals
Discipleship
Connection
Giftedness and growth
Comprehensiveness
Entire church (parish) involvement
Catechesis is certainly as much as part as social justice, ministerial involvement, leadership, building community etc. as well as social activities.

Even though a great percentage of the ministers are volunteers believe me they work very hard under constraint and direction to protect all God’s children


#14

Well, to be truthful, I don’t know what directives our ym was given. Perhaps when he was hired, he was told to emphasize the social activities–which aren’t well attended, by the way. I’m just feeling frustrated over the whole confirmation program as administered by our youth minister.

Despite his masters in theology, he doesn’t seem well formed. However, I know he works very hard for not a whole lot of money. Like many of those who give their lives to the church.
I know that he is very good at setting goals and being very diligent in pursuing them. I just don’t like the goals, necessarily.

Our parish hired him among many applicants, so I guess whoever hired him was satisfied with his credentials, formation and philosophy. Hopefully, the formation that is lacking now will be occur as he grows in his ministry. I just wish he was growing somewhere else. Not very charitable, I guess. sorry.


#15

[quote=newf]**JMJ Theresa…I’m with you. Our youth minister is all about fun and games. You can get that anywhere. I think it would be really nice if we had some spiritual dimention to our youth group. At my church, you won’t learn about God from the youth group and I think that is sad. **
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It’s about showing, by doing, how to enjoy fun and games in a spiritual way. They take ‘typical’ recreational activities and infuse them with a sense of spirituality without lecturing them.

Movies - introduce kids to ‘real’ movies worth watching as opposed to the ‘secular favorites’. They have popcorn, candy and a movie…afterwards they discuss whether it was a waste of their time or not. Usually, they are surprised to find out that these movies can be entertaining. When they see enough of these they are able to select their regular TV and movie viewing better than before.

Games - ours uses DDR, karaoke and laser tag. These are activities which are popular ‘outside’ church. Bring laser tag into the church rec center and focus on team playing, trust, and you help bridge the gap between ‘cliques’ which carry into church from the public school environment. Same with DDR and Karaoke - kids who normally would not socialize together do so at youth group in these games and that carries over into their broader social circle.

Once the fun is established, you take these same kids who’ve bonded through games to social ministry opportunities…collecting food for the pantry, repairing houses, shoveling snow, visiting retirement homes. They don’t mind getting together to do these things and they learn by experience that it’s pretty cool, too. They go home feeling good about themselves.

Religious Education is where they learn the details of the faith.
Youth Ministry is where they learn to live the faith.


#16

What age are the youth involved in the youth ministries? In my area, CCD goes through middle-school ending in Confirmation. After that there is no more CCD for the high school kids. The youth program is only for the high school kids. So middle school gets CCD and Confirmation class, and high school gets the youth ministry. The youth group is more than social–it is social, community service, and education.

I wish the youth program were for the middle school kids and CCD continued for the HS kids. Very few kids participate in the youth group because their parents say that they can quit religious education once they are confirmed in 8th grade! No wonder we have so many Catholic adults who don’t know their faith. They stop learning after 8th grade! Tells you how important parents see their Catholic faith. Would they let their kids quit math, science, or a foreign language at 8th grade? :mad: My teen kids don’t have a choice in the matter–DH and I are firm that religious education is a life-long process.


#17

[quote=ReginaNova]What age are the youth involved in the youth ministries? In my area, CCD goes through middle-school ending in Confirmation. After that there is no more CCD for the high school kids. The youth program is only for the high school kids. So middle school gets CCD and Confirmation class, and high school gets the youth ministry. The youth group is more than social–it is social, community service, and education.

I wish the youth program were for the middle school kids and CCD continued for the HS kids. Very few kids participate in the youth group because their parents say that they can quit religious education once they are confirmed in 8th grade! No wonder we have so many Catholic adults who don’t know their faith. They stop learning after 8th grade! Tells you how important parents see their Catholic faith. Would they let their kids quit math, science, or a foreign language at 8th grade? :mad: My teen kids don’t have a choice in the matter–DH and I are firm that religious education is a life-long process.
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We have religious education from pre-school through 8th grade.
From 9th-12th there’s youth ministry (where the fun/games/social work come into play…the focus is on living Catholic in a secular world without being embarrassed about it).

The confirmation training happens in 9th & 10th grade…it’s intensive, similar to what some others here have posted - service hours, letter to priest, research on saint, retreat, etc. This way the kids have to participate in youth formation for a year or two before they ‘finish’ their training. By doing it this way our parish finds the kids keep coming back after confirmation.

For college singles there’s “Theology on Tap” which is where people over 20 meet in local dining establishments for a meal and a lecture from a priest or Catholic author/speaker. They meet once a month or every other month.


#18

[quote=JMJ Theresa]I’m definitely making generalizations based on my experience. I think there is something wrong with the formation of youth ministers. The parishes I have been involved with have all had youth ministers that are focused not on bringing kids to greater holiness but in arranging social events. There doesn’t seem to be any desire to do catechesis, Bible studies, traditional Catholic prayer experiences (the retreats seem quite new agish). I am wondering if there is a benefit to even having a youth minister.

!

Do you have a youth minister at your parish? Is she/he teaching authentic Catholicism?
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for the most part there is no specific formation for “youth ministers” because very few parishes hire a person who has been educated for that profession. Many parishes, including otherwise orthodox ones, have no clue what a youth minister is or what his role is, have given no thought to defining that role. The term is applied to anyone who works with teenagers in any capacity, from the softball coach to the parent who volunteers as youth group moderator, to th confirmation director.

there are national standards for youth ministers, and a national Catholic professional organization for youth ministers, and a clear direction from the catechetical documents to bishops and pastors to provide for youth ministry, but if you ask 10 pastors you will get 10 different answers on what a youth minister is, or if one is even necessary.

YM is NOT by definition catechesis of teens or confirmation preparation, but in many parishes those are the primary duties assigned to a YM. Either that or the YM is the person, usually a volunteer, often a parent, who chaperones and loosely plans the Youth Group meetings. Youth Group is also a term with an elastic definition. YG is NOT CCD or Confirmation preparation even when it involves some of the same kids.

If there is a problem with youth ministry in your parish it begins with the pastoral assessment and definition of the role and importance of youth ministry, and the parish perception that derives from the pastor’s leadership. When the parish gets the priorities for YM in order, they will be able to define the role of a YM and find someone whose formation serves that role.


#19

[quote=JMJ Theresa] I’m definitely making generalizations based on my experience. I think there is something wrong with the formation of youth ministers. The parishes I have been involved with have all had youth ministers that are focused not on bringing kids to greater holiness but in arranging social events.
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Our old church had a YM and Youth Group…it was used as a glorified baby sitting service for parents that wanted an hour or two without the kiddies.
No religion was taught, no religious activities where planned. It was a glorified hour or ping pong and video games :frowning:


#20

[quote=Karin]Our old church had a YM and Youth Group…it was used as a glorified baby sitting service for parents that wanted an hour or two without the kiddies.
No religion was taught, no religious activities where planned. It was a glorified hour or ping pong and video games :frowning:
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What age were the “youth”? They must not have been teens or even middle-school aged kids who babysit themselves.

I sense that Catholic “youth ministers” are more closely supervised today in light of the recent abuse scandals. Certainly, increased oversight of youth ministers is a step in the right direction.


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