Our desire is to make the running of youth ministry in your parish as stress-free as possible. The Source is our solution to many of the problems faced in setting up a youth group.
The common problems of youth ministry
In our experience, these are the challenges many parishes face when starting a youth group:
- Recruiting and keeping volunteers
- Keeping young people long term
- Developing and leading spiritual formation
- Providing opportunities for further faith exploration
What the Source provides
The Source is structured as a meal for young people on a regular, usually monthly basis. The leader’s guides come with ‘icebreaker questions’, a formation video and segment that can be tailored to your group. The meeting finishes with some sort of group prayer which is again provided for group leaders. As a recommended staring point we suggest after one of the main masses being the time the Source is hosted. Depending on space, it is sometimes running in it is own room or at the back of the parish hall during the normal after mass teas and coffees.
How this structure addresses common problems in youth ministry?
Recruiting and keeping Volunteers:
Far and away this is the hardest thing for a parish youth group to do. After an initial buzz of enthusiasm, many groups can end up being solely reliant on 3 or 4 people to attend and lead ever group. This can be exhausting and is one of the primary reasons for groups collapsing.
We try to address this problem in the Source be hosting it immediately after one of the Sunday masses. This generally has the desired effect that volunteers are happy to hang around and chat with young people as they are already out of the house and are not having to give up one of their free evening to support the parish. Obviously safeguarding and DBS’s must still be done but normally this does result in a much higher volume of volunteers.
In larger parishes where the hall or parish rooms are often very busy, the Source can run on other days like a normal youth group as normally parishes like this tend to have more people readily able to volunteer.
Keeping young people long term:
Like with above, it is often really hard to get young people coming to a youth group, particularly over a certain age. Two main reasons are; they normally have so many other things on and they will only go to something if people they know are there.
We try to address this problem in a few ways. Like with the volunteers, placing the Source after mass normally helps as they are already out at church. Secondly; food has a fantastic draw and community building property. Thirdly we suggest running the Source as a post confirmation group as hopefully the community built during confirmation can be developed further in these meetings. Lastly by structuring the Source around a meal rather than a games and chill out together evening, much lower numbers still feel fairly comfortable. An average youth group will either be doing fantastic with many young people or loose numbers very fast if it begins to fall below 10-15 people attending. In the case of the Source, groups can still be thriving with as low as 5 regular attenders.
Developing and leading spiritual formation:
Perhaps the hardest aspect of running a youth group is providing an opportunity for spiritual development. The reasons for this are many but here are some we find most problematic; normally our volunteers or youth group leaders are uncomfortable talking about their faith. Normally these leaders have very little spiritual formation themselves. Normally most young people’s draw to an event won’t be the spiritual formation – at least to begin with. Normally we find it hard to organically turn a conversation towards faith and its role in our life. Normally many young people can be apathetic towards teachings which seem disconnected to their daily lives.
We try to address these problems as organically as possible. This is primarily achieved by changing the lenses through which formation is seen. Instead of creating a school setting, the Source aims to create a conversation setting amongst friends. In a normal gathering, the time spent in formation should only last at max 15-20 minutes compared to 40- 45 minutes of relaxed food and conversation. The reason for this is that we are not just sharing some abstract academic subject but rather a deeply personal revelation that influences the way we choose to live our life. This being so, we need to share not just the academics but our life with them so they may come to see the living faith. The conversational, friendly setting also influences the willingness to listen. As people we are much more willing to listen to someone we know who is talking to us rather than a teacher figure who is addressing a class.
With the setting suitably adapted, we wanted to look at how to best present formation so it was easy to understand and use. There are many great catechists out there, but how do we passionately give a talk about something we ourselves don’t fully understand? The aim was to create a library of topic that explore the various aspects of the faith, primarily through video but then using the bible and catechism to develop further discussion.