“… and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Heb 10:24-25
We believe that on a young person’s journey to spiritual maturity there is no better place for their development than the parish community and the family home. It is in these settings that young people not only hear what it is to be Catholic but see it actively played out before them and can join in this mission. The challenge to contemplate is not “Can we do things for young people?“, but rather “How do we intentionally support young people at each stage of their spiritual growth?”
Each parish is unique
It goes without saying that every parish is unique. Culture, geography, social and economic backgrounds all have large impacts on how the parish lives and develops. Upon being contacted by a parish, our first step is to gather those who want to be involved for a meeting where we can begin to understand the parish’s needs and potentials. A key part of this discussion is identifying what already happens in the parish for young people and at what part of spiritual development does it support.
Examples of how we can support your parish’s various stages of youth ministry
For young people to feel a part of the parish, one of the best things they can do is begin to recognise community members and feel like they are being invested in by these people. One of the simplest ways this can be achieved is by establishing a youth group in the parish. There are many things to consider when doing this and we can guide you through all the stages necessary in this mission. We also have an online guide for those outside the diocese and, in either situation, please contact us for more information.
In addition to this, some parishes find that having a full or part-time paid youth worker/minister is particularly beneficial. This is because having a named individual to organise youth ministry makes everything easier. We can support parishes in several ways when it comes to youth workers. During the process of employing a youth worker, we can help put together job descriptions and advertise the role. Once a youth worker is employed, or even just volunteering, at the parish we also provide opportunities for training, networking, socials, event discounts and retreats, through our Youth Leader Network. If you would like to be added to this network, please contact us.
Throughout the diocese we try to provide multiple medium-to-large-scale opportunities for young people to encounter Christ, most notably The Summit evening. You are always welcome to bring young people of the right age to these evenings. That said, the value of parish-led encounters is phenomenal. Examples of how these can be provided are retreats, pilgrimages, nights of Eucharistic adoration, praise and worship or other prayer groups.
We can help plan these opportunities or groups if you feel they would work in your parish. We have a youth retreat centre called SPEC that can provide both residential or one day retreats and have plenty of experience we can use to help you develop these programmes. Please contact us for further details on parish support or firstname.lastname@example.org for details of retreat options and support.
Conversion of heart
After an encounter with Christ in prayer, the connections you’ve built with your young people will be most important. Having someone to unpack what they’ve experienced makes a huge difference in the speed and success of someone’s conversion of heart. In a parish setting, providing opportunities for confession and spiritual direction are two great ways to support young people as they go through this stage of spiritual development.
In addition to this, as someone develops spiritually, they also may wish to make physical changes to their life and kick unhealthy habits. Having support groups in your parish for various addictions can be very helpful for people at this stage in their journey. For further details on how to support those going through a conversion of heart, please contact us.
Supporting spiritual growth in a parish context is where we see intentionality being the key focus. More often than not, there are several great groups in a parish that provide wonderful opportunities for growth. Bible study groups are a fairly common feature and many parishes run formation classes of one sort or another.
In this section, we find there are two approaches which are both beneficial and normally come down to parish preference. The first is to promote and encourage young people to attend already established groups. This strategy works best when there are already one or more people they know in those groups. The average age of those attending a group is not necessarily a deterrent if the young person feels connected to them. This has the additional benefit of strengthening cross-generational bonds in the parish. Key to this strategy working is the personal invitation to them to join and the investment of group members in the young people of the parish at the connection stage.
The second strategy is to create a new group to support young people/the parish in general. Like with starting a youth group, there are many different factors to consider here and, like before, we have many resources that can help at this level. In addition to this, we run Resonate on a quarterly basis for those looking for diocesan support at this level. For more information on support of young people in this stage of faith development, and the resources we have to support new or established groups, please contact us.
Developing in their faith, the question now becomes, “How do we prepare these young people to guide others through the five steps of ministry?” On a diocesan level, we have programmes like the SPEC mission year to provide an immersive and detailed training. On a parish level, we can provide training for those who want to become volunteers in their parish’s youth group and, if people wish, they can also join our Youth Leader Network. To arrange training for those in your parish in youth ministry, please contact us.