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How Your Family of Parishes Can Support Young People — And How They Can Support You How Your Family of Parishes Can Support Young People — And How They Can Support You

“We must make every effort to encourage, challenge, mentor and raise up the young to take up their rightful roles in the mission of the Church, entrusting responsibility to them as appropriate. As Pope Francis wrote, there is an ‘urgent need for the young to exercise greater leadership.’” - Unleash the Gospel, Marker 5.4

Families of Parishes allow us to re-examine our commitment to young people. If teens are an intentional focus of our current strategic efforts, then our future shines much brighter. Young people and adolescents are gifts to be shared with our Families of Parishes. We need them!

Teens bring unique gifts which are an asset to our Church. Their talents and abilities match what our parishes need: energy, enthusiasm and vitality. In addition, young people are uniquely suited to draw other young people into the life of the Church. Archbishop Vigneron writes, “They have a unique ability to reach the people of their own generation, and they can help us think in new ways.” ( UTG, Marker 5.4 )

The reality, though, is that many young people do not feel like there is a place for them in our Church. A 2018 report shows that some as young as 10 or 11 years old decide to not identify as Catholic. Many feel that if they were not part of the parish, no one would notice or miss them. Families of Parishes provide an opportunity to not only meet young people where they are at, but to help our parish community flourish by recognizing, celebrating, and nurturing their gifts and talents.

Intentionally focusing on building and maintaining relationships with adolescents is vital to a Family of Parish’s present and future reality. In 2019’s Christus Vivit , Pope Francis wrote, “I encourage communities to examine, respectfully and seriously, the situation for their young people, in order to find the most fitting ways of providing them with pastoral care.” Purposeful plans to accompany young people through the attract, encounter, grow, and witness stages of evangelization will bear fruit in the parish community. “All should regard young people with understanding, appreciation and affection, and avoid constantly judging them or demanding of them a perfection beyond their years,” the Pope continues.

Adolescent young people are at a critical life stage, and it is essential to be mindful of their needs and growth as Families of Parishes take shape.

Each Family of Parishes can take some time reflecting on the Detroit Model of Evangelization in the specific light of middle school and high school youth, considering what intentional and engaging strategies they can use.

While some of this planning will be ongoing, here are some things you can do right now to affirm your young people:

  • Include mentoring in your Faith Formation and Youth Ministry initiatives, providing safe ways for young people to connect with other adults at the parish who can pray with them and help strengthen their gifts. This could be based on hobbies, desired career paths, skills, etc.
  • Include prayers for young people at every Mass across your Family of Parishes.
  • Intentionally invite a group of adolescents to brainstorm ways to make the parish more welcoming to young people, and implement them to enhance a sense of belonging.
  • Review the discipleship path you currently have in place for adolescents at the parish and consider areas that could be strengthened or need reinforcement.
  • Invite young people to share their witness at parish events or via the parish social media channels. Provide training and guidance for those who need it.
  • Get to know the young people within your parish boundaries to understand their needs and interests and help you intentionally minister to them.
  • Consider how a young person could use their gifts in the ministries that are currently available. Do any ministries need to be adapted or created? How can we intentionally invite and encourage young people to participate?
  • Host a prayer challenge where young people are prayed for regularly (ex. every Friday at noon). You can pray for all young people or focus on a specific grade level each week.

Families of Parishes bring with them a need to assess several aspects of parish life. Enhancing our outreach and deliberate ministry endeavors with young people in their adolescent years is essential to our current and future church.

To share ideas and discuss ways your Family of Parishes can support your youth and young adults, visit the Encounter Grow Witness online community!