Getting Youth Involved in Parish Life

Holidays are a great time to get youth plugged into church wide and community wide events. Some are rather “routine”, like special Christmas choirs, food drives, and coat drives. There is always a need helping decorate the church for Advent and Christmas. Youth can also volunteer to be greeters before Mass especially on Christmas. This is a great way to meet others in the Parish and reach out to those who have not been to Mass lately. Sometimes a simple hello can mean a great deal.

Another ministry where I have involved teens is Communion calls to shut-ins. Christmas break is great time to do this since these visits usually occur during the day. The elderly love seeing and interacting with young people. I feel the key to making youth participation meaningful and lasting is to look for opportunities in existing ministries. We need to consider youth as full–fledged members – not merely the “clean up crew”.

There may also be “under the radar” opportunities that one needs to be attuned to. While these can seem to be more of a challenge to find for those of us in small communities such as mine, they are there nonetheless.

A recent example was when I happened to stop in at City Hall get something I needed for a fall 5k race our school was sponsoring. It was then that I saw a friend I met while working at a hospital in a neighboring town. Tina had recently been named the Director of The Downtown Authority. I popped my head into her office to say congrats. She sprang from her seat and exclaimed – “You are the guy I need to talk to!” It turned out she needed some people to help decorate downtown for the fall season. A week later two adults leaders and I led a band of teens to help with the project. This small act has spawned a new relationship with the City. I expect we will be called on again for other service opportunities.

BTW ; the teens had a blast – the cider and donuts from the City did not hurt.

Another local opportunity will occur this Saturday. We will join forces, as families, with other local churches to package food for relief efforts and help feed local people in need. In a mere two hours we will package over 20,000 meals. Many of these will be shipped around our country and the world. As Saint Theresa of Calcutta said, “Not all of us can do great things, but we all can do small things with great love.”

Pope Francis is challenging all to get out of our offices and into the world. So go out and connect with the other ministries in your parish and further connect with your local community. Do not limit yourself to the obvious. Ask as many people as possible what needs to be done. You might be surprised by the answers.

How to Get Youth Involved in Parish Life

George Rutherford

George Rutherford is the Coordinator of Youth Ministry at Portland St Patrick Parish in Portland, Michigan. George entered full time ministry after retiring , so he thought, form full time work as a Hospital Administrator - George likes to say “ God must have a great sense of humor, why else would he call an old dude like me into full time ministry at my age “ . George lives by the motto : “Growing old is mandatory , growing up however is optional”

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