Building strong youth ministry

Do you like being with people, especially those your own age? Does being part of a team and working together towards a common goal interest you? Do you consider yourself a Spiritual person (prayer is part of your daily routine or at least you try to make time for prayer)? Are you concerned for others around you, especially the less fortunate and the lonely (serving others is sometimes on you’re your mind, but you’ve never been sure how to help)? Does having fun and socializing with others make your day? All these things build, shape and strengthen our character and attitude. All these things help us to be a part of a team. All these things describe a youth group — young people sharing their unique gifts and talents with others. 

Are you involved in your parish’s youth ministry?

With summer days coming to a close, schools start classes and youth ministry programs begin another year of Spiritual, service and social events. What are you waiting for? Sign up! You can help build a strong, healthy youth ministry and have fun while doing it. If your parish doesn’t have a youth ministry look for one that does. I’m sure they will welcome you!

I would like to share with you some ideas for creating community with your peers and adult leaders so you can work to strengthen, or create, your own youth ministry.

First, you need to meet regularly. I know what you’re thinking — no one likes meetings (except for the person who’s planning the meeting). These gatherings are important. Here is where you plan and share ideas. The best ideas for youth ministry happen at these meetings and then you decide the best approach to put them into action. The key to a successful and fun-filled meeting is simply listening to others and voicing your own ideas. Of course you’ll need to pick a meeting strategy and stick with it for a consistent amount of time. This helps build momentum to create a bonding team.

Always make time for small talk. Experience has taught me that the best time for small talk with youth happens in the few minutes before and after a meeting. For youth leaders: don’t fill every minute with an overwhelming agenda. Been there, done that — doesn’t work! You do need a meeting plan, but be simple and practical. Build community by letting everyone mix, mingle and make small talk. At first, you may need to get creative to start conversations, but after a while they will happen naturally.

I admit we don’t do much of this in our youth ministry. But, sharing stories is one of the greatest connecting moments in youth gatherings. We’re going to focus more on doing this by simply asking: “What’s been going good? Where have you sensed God moving in your life, school, church, work, etc.?” It’s easy to get caught up in life and work and ministry and not stop long enough to realize that God is indeed a part of it all. Doing things too fast can adversely affect building community. Slow down and share stories that connect everyone.

No single person will have all the answers to the issues affecting your youth ministry. Build your team by creating “space” for everyone to be able to help one another. Brainstorm solutions together, ask for feedback, and appeal to and rely on the wisdom of others. If one person has to care for everyone on the team, how effective is that? The result is burnout! Share solutions and support each other!

Have fun! It’s why you joined the youth group in the first place, isn’t it? Simply playing together is sometimes the best thing for youth ministry. However, youth ministry doesn’t exist for everyone to be entertained, but some timely fun can strengthen a team’s bond. And don’t forget to laugh together. 

Youth ministry cannot exist without celebration, worship and prayer. During your gatherings, make it a habit to focus on the good things that God is doing in your ministry and the life of all involved. Stop and celebrate successes. The goal is to make sure that every time you gather you take the time to find something worth celebrating. Don’t let complaints dominate your time. 

Worship and pray together when you meet. This time will serve to focus your hearts on what matters most and remind you that worshipping God is more important than doing the work of God. 

Our youth ministry has a motto: Lead all to the Eucharist. That is the work we do! That is our goal. That is our prayer! It’s a constant reminder that everything we do in ministry is to build our Church for the greater glory of God!

God bless!

Anchor columnist Ozzie Pacheco is Faith Formation director at Santo Christo Parish, Fall River.

© 2018 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing   †   Fall River, Massachusetts