As the starting point for youth ministry since 1997, Renewing the Vision (RTV) was studied by many youth ministers as a part of their training & formation. It only makes sense, then, that the recent document entitled You Give them Something to Eat (YGSE) written by Canadian youth ministers and published by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops would have similar core elements. The three goals and eight elements for youth ministry are all present in this document, but have been joined by a one more goal and one more element for youth ministry in a twenty first century Canadian context.
The first part of this summary on YGSE looked at the context in which we do youth ministry; this second part will look primarily at the four goals and nine elements as they are presented in YGSE.
Goals for Effective Youth Ministry
Renewing the Vision spoke of three goals for youth ministry; empowering young people to live as disciples of Jesus Christ; drawing young people into the life, mission, and work of the Catholic community, and to foster the total personal and spiritual growth of each young person. YGSE has built upon these three goals but has taken them a step further.
Goal #1: Effective youth ministry calls the Catholic faith community to continually renew its affective and effective option for young people.
While the other three goals are either adapted or taken directly from RTV, this one is brand new, and prefaces the others. The authors of YGSE are asking the Church in Canada to “renew its option for young people” (YGSE, 12) – in other words, to do youth ministry on purpose – embracing the fact that those who do ministry may be changed as much as the young people they will serve.
Goal #2: Effective youth ministry fosters the total personal and spiritual growth of each young person.
Those who engage in youth take a vested interest in the well-being of young people. This interest is certainly spiritual – showing care for the souls of young people – but it also involves their minds, intellects, physical development, moral development, emotional health, andmental health. YGSE states that “Well-balanced youth ministry promotes and actively works to provide for the growth of healthy, competent, caring, and faith-filled Catholic Christian young people” (YGSE, 13) in hopes that these will grow into adulthood with the same qualities.
Goal #3: Effective youth ministry youth ministry invites and empowers young people to live as missionary disciples of Jesus Christ in our world today.
The explanation of this third goal is perhaps the most beautiful part of the document: “Youth ministry sets out consciously to facilitate moments of encounter between young people and the God who loves them, Jesus Christ who redeems them, and the Spirit who sustains them” (YGSE, 14). Young people are not simply consumers to be served, but they too have a part to play in the mission of the Church. Once young people have had these moments of encounter, the task of youth ministry is to help them understand what it means to be a disciple sent on a mission – exploring their gifts and weaknesses, and ultimately discovering their God-given vocation.
Goal #4: Effective youth ministry draws young people to participate responsibly in the life, mission, and work of the Catholic faith community.
The Christian call begins with Baptism and is renewed at every Sunday Mass – so each young person has a share in the Church’s mission to bring the Gospel to the world. In youth ministry, this is perhaps best seen in the context of an apprenticeship, where youth are “drawn ever more deeply into the life, prayer, service, and ways of the Catholic Christian community” (YGSE, 15). Just as experienced tradesperson takes on an apprentice with the intention of showing, sharing, and ultimately entrusting the work to his or her apprentice, those who minister in the Church are invited to do the same. In this way young Catholics are invited to “explore and try out possibilities for how they might use their God-given gifts and talents, skills and abilities” (YGSE, 16) – first, under the guidance of a mentor, and ultimately as equal coworkers in the vineyard of the Lord.
Elements of a Vision for Youth Ministry
Under the direction of RTV, comprehensive youth ministry has often tried to build itself on eight elements (or ministries):
While each one of these could receive an article-length explanation, what is notable is that in YGSE, they have been joined by a ninth element of youth ministry: intentional relationships. YGSE states that “most people will encounter Jesus Christ in and through his people” (YGSE, 20) – something that has been the case from the very beginning. Jesus called His followers by name, and you might argue that the twelve who were most profoundly impacted by His ministry because they had the opportunity to live in intentional relationship with Him. In the words of Clayton Imoo (director of youth ministry for the Archdiocese of Vancouver) “youth won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
This section ends with a call to action: “At this moment in our history, there is a great need for a refocusing, a recommitment, a revitalization, and a renewal of the efforts of the Church in Canada for ministry with, by, for, and among young people” (YGSE, 30). This call is followed by twelve action points spread out over eight pages which could easily serve as an introduction to youth ministry for the parish who has never done this before or as an evaluation tool for the parish who want to strengthen their ministry.
The last section of the document is a series of appendices, practical ingredients that a parish might use in establishing a vision for youth ministry, or assisting those who accept the call to work in this field. These appendices include themes that can be found in a well-balanced vision of youth ministry, a sample vision for youth ministry, sample job descriptions for the parish and diocese, and other evaluation tools for youth ministry.
Having spent the last eighteen years of my life serving in youth ministry, I am pleased that the staff from CCYMS took the time to put this document together. In the introduction they state that YGSE “offers assistance for a future in which each parish, arch/diocese, and community of faith has a vibrant outreach to and with young people” (vi). Given the many hungers of young people today, may we as a Church bring our loaves and fish to Christ so that together, we can all give them something to eat.
Mike Landry is a father, husband, geek, speaker, musician, and most days, he serves as Chaplain to Evergreen Catholic Schools west of Edmonton. Read more of his writing at www.thirdplaceproject.com.