FAQs: What is Youth Ministry

What is Comprehensive Youth Ministry?

At its basic level, youth ministry is the response of a parish community to the needs of its young people.

To help you understand what comprehensive youth ministry is, consider this:

The Comprehensive Model serves to link all the ingredients that encompass a holistic youth ministry with youth. This model broadens the scope of ministry beyond the traditional approach which often focuses only on youth group programming, by utilising the framework of eight components and by organising programming around five programme settings.

The Comprehensive approach emphasises multiple program formats with a variety of content offered in a variety of time formats and settings, with multiple forms of participation based on interests and freedom of choice.

This explanation barely scratches the surface for explaining, understanding and implementing a comprehensive youth ministry model.  To gain a better understanding of Comprehensive Youth Ministry please read the article found here.

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What are the Components of Youth Ministry?

There are eight components to youth ministry. When implemented effectively, your parish ministry to young people is both effective and comprehensive. These components describe specific areas of the mission of the Church that work together to provide ministry with adolescents.  The components support and enhance each other. Our ministry becomes more effective when we work to balance our ministry response across the eight ministry areas. This balance is not necessarily achieved by developing separate ministry programs in each component; sometimes a single program, such as a retreat, incorporates several ministry components. We look for balance over a season or year of ministry to determine our ministry response in these components.

These descriptions of the eight components are excerpted from pages 26-47 of Renewing the Vision.

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What is Required for a Comprehensive Youth Ministry Program in our Parish?

It's all about vision.  The comprehensive mindset is about seeing the different systems, resources, alternative and opportunities within our parish communities.  Adapting this mindset to your parish can be better explained and understood by reading the following article by the staff at the Center for Ministry Development.

Twenty recommendations from CYM are listed in the document below.

Related pages that might interest you.

CMD Resource Center

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Is there a Goal for Effective Youth Ministry?

According to Renewing the Vision there are three goals for ministry with adolescents, which are as follows:

  • Goal 1: To empower young people to live as disciples of Jesus Christ in our world today.
  • Goal 2: To draw young people to responsible participation in the life, mission, and work of the Catholic faith community.
  • Goal 3: To foster the total personal and spiritual growth of each young person.

To read more, visit the USCCB site and read the rest of Renewing the Vision.

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How do I know where to begin?

To chose how to shape your ministry to young people, take time to listen to parish leaders, parents of youth and youth themselves.  Think about your community.  What model fits with the ways your parish gathers and your style of being community?  What are the issues and concerns?  A variety of factors about your community could impact and shape your model.  Factors can include, but are not limited to the distance families and youth have to gather at the parish.  The demographics of your parish, are you urban, suburban or a rural community.  Another factor can be the ethnic and racial diversity that comprise the parish community.  Different ethnic communities have different styles of ministry with youth.  Vibrancy of your parishes life can be another factor to consider. Studies have shown that parishes with a vibrant community reflected a collaborative environement between the parish staff, leadership, and various ministries of the parish.  Effective youth ministry helps youth to move seamlessly between their peer community, parish community, wider community life and ministry within their families.

To help you, CYM has two processes to consider. The first is "Leading Change" for parishes who just want to adjust their ministry efforts. The second, "Starting from Scratch" helps parishes build from the ground up.

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What makes Youth Ministry effective?

Youth Ministry is more than just the gatherings, activities, and events that we provide for young people in our parish.  Effective youth ministry is a relationship and it has many dimensions.  At the heart of all relationship there is a pattern of listening, caring, responding and sharing.  When choosing a model for your parish youth ministry program, you are choosing a way to put all of your resources together to build a relationship between the entire parish and the young people that encompass the community.   Parishes with effective youth ministry typically have the following characteristics:  

  • Youth Ministry is supported and understood by the parish community,
  • Ministry responds to the real lives, needs and interests of the youth,
  • Gatherings are marked by generous hospitality and intentional relationship building,
  • There are a variety of ways for youth and their families to be involved,
  • Youth are active in making youth ministry happen.  

You can read more about effective youth ministry by reading this article by Tom East, Effective Youth MInistry Practices and Models.  

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If we have a leadership team, who is in charge?

Every team needs a captain. Even though a chair is selected by its members, the parish needs one person – or a few if the parish is very large – to animate the response to young people that is articulated by the YMLC. The coordinator of youth ministry empowers and coordinates ministries to happen. The team is the “keeper of the vision” while the coordinator works with other volunteers who also work directly with the young people.

Catholic Youth Ministry offers the following guidelines for establishing a Youth Ministry Leadership Committee. Please note that the specific make up of the team may vary from one parish to another, but all parishes are required to have a team in place to ensure effective comprehensive youth ministry.

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Whose Job is Youth Ministry?

Short answer: it' s everyone's job. The Church is not a place where, it's a people who. 

Youth ministry, at its core, is about a parish community being in relationship with young people. Words like “youth group” and “CYO” have given way to new words like “youth ministry team” and “a comprehensive mindset.” Ministry with young people requires the involvement of the entire parish community. We can no longer depend on a youth minister as a “do-er” of the ministry, where the challenge of working with young people rests solely on his or her shoulders. Today it’s everyone’s job. The comprehensive approach puts the emphasis on the parish process. Youth ministry happens most effectively when a team of adults and youth are supported by the parish in taking responsibility for developing ministry to, with, by and for young people. This is where a Youth Ministry Leadership Committee comes into the picture.

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What is a Coordinator of Youth Ministry?

Suppose one Sunday at Mass the pastor wanted to give a special blessing for the Coordinator of Youth Ministry. For the sake of our story, we’ll call him Tom. The pastor invites Tom up to the front of the church and asks him to say a few words about himself and the work he’ll be doing. Tom introduces himself to the parish. Then he asks all those who have children to stand. The parents and grandparents, young and old, stand in their places. Then he repeats the invitation, this time asking all those who coach to stand. A third time Tom addresses the parishioners and asks all those who encounter young people in their jobs to stand. Finally, Tom asks all those who encounter young people at Mass or at parish functions to stand. Tom has everyone in the assembly, standing, so he turns to the pastor and says, “Father, the youth ministers are ready for their blessing.”

In a parish where ministry to young people is effective, everyone in the parish shares responsibility for ministry to, with, and for young people. It’s everyone’s job to include young people in the life and mission and ministry of the parish. It’s the Coordinator’s job to make sure it happens. The Coordinator of Youth Ministry literally coordinates the parish’s response to the needs of the young people.

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Does a child have to be Catholic to participate in CYM activities?

No, but please keep in mind that at times your child will be encourage to participate in activities, such as prayers or Mass that are specifically Catholic.

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Is there a way to evaluate our Parish Youth Ministry Program?

There are two ways to evaluate your ministry for effectiveness. 

One of the easiest ways to get a snapshot of your current ministry and identify areas for growth is to complete the Youth Ministry Grid. Use the following process to identify your current programs and potential resources.

The other way, required by all parishes once every four years, is the Youth Ministry Effectiveness Tool. This resource asks 100 questions of a youth ministry leadership team to help gauge the effectiveness of a parish's relationship with young people. 

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How can I help my volunteers be more effective?

Clear expectations and consistent communication are important. In addition, consider the following opportunities for your volunteers:

  • A Youth Ministry Access subscription for your parish or school, giving adults access to journal articles, training tools, and more
  • National Certificate in Youth Ministry Studies, hosted by CYM to give professional training to youth ministry personnel
  • The document below gives 100 ideas of how to support and encourage your volunteers in their ministry efforts

Related pages that might interest you.

CMD Resource Center

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What is Renewing the Vision?

Renewing the Vision is the Framework for Comprehensive Youth Ministry, as presented and published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1997. It is the guiding force for youth ministry in the United States today and serves as the framework for this document. According to Renewing the Vision youth ministry is: Drawing youth into the adventure of discipleship. Helping youth to make the right connections. Growing young disciples. Responding to the needs and including the gifts of youth. Seeing youth as gifted and growing. Seeing parents as partners. Seeing our parish as ready and able to respond to youth. Seeing the wider community as collaborators and resources. Seeing youth ministry as a relationship, not just a program. Investing in youth with our time, attention and resources. To read the document, click here.

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What is the best model to use for our parish youth ministry program?

In the old model (i.e., “youth group model”), youth ministry was often an oasis from parents. Today youth ministry is a support, partner and resource for families. A Coordinator of Youth Ministry is just that, a coordinator of ministries to, with, by and for young people. He or she facilitates the gifts of the entire parish in organizing and empowering the community to minister to and with young people with the advice, input, and assistance of the YMLC. The youth group model was consistent with the needs of the young people—in the past or today. Programs were established first and then people in the parish were invited to participate. But programs are made for people; people are not made for the programs. Therefore, comprehensive youth ministry recognizes the changing needs and life situations of young people and their families. If your parish were to chose to use a "cookie cutter" model of ministry, you could still be doing good ministry with young people, but you would have several populations of young people in your parish who needs were not being met.

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Should I have a team of people involved with youth ministry?

Once upon a time the youth minister relied on a few steady volunteers who were constantly present. With the advent of the Youth Ministry Leadership Committee (YMLC), many adults representing the multiple facets of parish gather at the same table to discuss ideas, plan for responding to the needs of young people, and strategize ways to best engage young people in the life of the parish. Each member of the team brings a unique perspective and a special giftedness to the table, and is an essential part of a parish’s relationship with the young people within its ranks. This model of youth ministry help to prevent burnout of your coordinator and also ensures you are meeting a greater variety of the needs of the young people in your parish.

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