Making Stronger Young Disciples


The Junto has on occasion discussed the pros and cons of the typical parish Youth Ministry program.  The discussion generally goes as such:

It’s good that the youth are attending, but are they growing in the faith and equipped for adulthood, or more likely are they just there to hang out and have a good time?  Many of the activities are childish with “just a little” religion mixed in.  Certainly we all know the exceptions – the youth that take the Faith seriously and have solid roots.  But does the typical Youth Ministry program provide the best result in achieving the objective of making souls holy and prepared for future temptations?  Where do the parents fit in – besided dropping them off?  Is the Youth Ministry model simply an extension of the children’s liturgy concept, where parents are removed from being the primary teachers of the Faith?

The Augustine Institute out of Colorado has taken a fresh look at Youth Ministry in light of similar questions.  As a result, they have create a new model of Youth Ministry called YDisciple.  It is based on the concept of mentorship/apprenticeship of small groups of youth by their parents and other adults.  This program claims to serve the purpose of creating a stronger bond of religious-context personal interactions, enabling the teens to be better prepared for the challenges to the Faith that they will experience in adulthood.

Whether this new program will catch on will be determined by whether parishes feel that the status quo Youth Ministry programs continue to be culturally relevent or not.  But as Catholics face the expectation of heightened opposition and active persecution in society, we must be ready to take that next step for training our youth to be the remnant of the Faithful in future generations.  Perhaps this program could be a step in that direction.

I know of a couple local informal meetings of parents & youth that are applying this principal.  Comments for or against this concept would be interesting to consider.

One comment

  1. J. Thorp says:

    I have heard good things about the YDisciple approach — and for the record, the idea of small-group, relationship-based youth ministry has been in place at the high-school level at our parish for some time now. Teens on the Core Team have a standing small group with an adult leader that meets regularly, prays together, keeps each other accountable, etc. Teens (and even middle-schoolers) not on the Core Team still have frequent small group activities led by adults and older teens they’ve come to know and trust. The youth who get involved early stay involved — we see them not just at youth events, but at daily Mass before school, at adoration, and in the seminary! (We see potential benefits to moving in this direction, with our Confirmation program and adult faith formation, too.)

    There are challenges, of course. Parental involvement is low — most of the adult leaders seem to either be young single adults or young parents with no teens in the program, or older adults whose children have already left the nest. It is good to have other trusted adults in a child’s life, but we know that no one has the same impact as parents (especially dads) in terms of the long-term practicing of the faith. (Still, any faithful adult is better than none.) There is also the perception, especially at the middle-school level, that the youth program consists of barely contained chaos and goofing around. On the flip side, inviting kids to come and have fun in a church environment enables us to invite them deeper. Most of the kids going to camp this week found out about at open youth room and other recreational activities — and outside of parental example, Extreme Faith Camp (in particular, Adoration) is the most common thread that connects the teens in our parish who continue to practice their faith in high school, after Confirmation, and beyond.

    What concerns me about YDisciple (and Forming Intentional Disciples, and other such discipleship “movements”) is that while they say the right things about the personal connection and trust required to evangelize and encourage discipleship, in an effort to make it manageable, they break it down into “X easy steps.” We need to stay flexible — understanding that no one model of evangelization is going to be the magic key that unlocks the hearts of the masses. We need to be responsive to what appears to be working, but also to those individuals it’s not working for.

    And again, there is no substitute for parental (especially fatherly) leadership. I am grateful to be a part of a group of dads working with our teens outside of the parish’s programs to help lead them to Christ and heaven!

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