“Christus Vivit” is an apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis that speaks specifically about our youth. The document states that “The community has an important role in the accompaniment of young people; it should feel collectively responsible for accepting, motivating, encouraging and challenging them. All should regard young people with understanding, appreciation and affection, and avoid constantly judging them or demanding of them a perfection beyond their years.”
Families of Parishes (FOPs) allow for an enhancement of youth ministry at the parish level, with accompaniment and relationship building at the core of reaching young people. As FOPs, we can develop intentional youth ministry plans which reach out, cultivate connections, and bring young people into and through the Detroit Model of Evangelization.
Effective youth ministry involves the efforts of many people. There are three steps each FOP can use to determine the best way to minister to adolescents and their families.
Each FOP should spend time in prayer with youth ministry leaders asking the Lord to guide the FOP’s youth ministry efforts. From there, a strategy can be developed using the suggestions below to address intentional ministry to young people within the FOPs.
Four youth ministry models have been developed to be used as tools to determine how to best serve teens within a Family of Parishes. A brief description of each is below. In each model, youth ministry is parish-based with a coordinator named at each parish site. These models will allow for focus on specialized areas and less ministry duplication.
Model 1: Charism Model — In this model, the coordinators have ministry responsibilities based on their own charisms and experience. Recognizing the different gifts of the coordinators and their teams would provide a variety of options across a FOP.
Model 2: The Attract, Encounter, Grow & Witness Model — This is where the coordinators have ministry responsibilities based on the different areas of the Detroit Model of Evangelization paradigm. Each parish site would have designated programming to meet where young people are at within the model.
Model 3: Age Group Model — It is similar to the previous two models; however, the coordinators have their main ministry responsibilities based on young people’s ages. For example, this may mean one coordinator focuses on content for middle school ministry, another focuses on gathered high school events and someone else coordinates high school small groups.
Model 4: Director/Team Model – This utilizes one Director of Youth Ministry for the entire FOPs, and very importantly, a Coordinator of Youth Ministry at each parish. While each model should have all the coordinators collaborating, this would be one person driving the vision for ministry to young people at the parish with other coordinators serving as their team for implementation of the vision.
Finally, Families of Parishes will need to communicate a vision and plan for youth ministry to their community, helping them understand the direction for this ministry, how each parish site has a coordinator and celebrating the gifts young people have to share. The vision and plan should be one that people can get excited about! This may be highlighting just a few of the gifts that young people bring to the community, having opportunities to celebrate the teens of the parish or sharing ways for families to grow through your youth ministry efforts.
Youth ministry integrates adolescents and their families into the total life and mission of the Church. The culture of youth ministry can only be efficient and effective when it is first aligned around relationships. Pastoral care can then happen as well. You cannot “microwave” youth ministry. You cannot put it in a box, press a button and have it come out prepared just the way you like it. Ministry to youth takes time, relies on intentional resourcing, helps young disciples grow now and invests in the future of our Church.
The US Bishops’ documentRenewing the Vision shares that the parish community “ … should be a place where [young people] feel welcome and … have a sense of belonging and acceptance [with] a wide variety of opportunities to use their gifts and express their faith through meaningful roles.” Families of Parishes provides us with the opportunity to do just this.