Secrets to Building a Youth Ministry Legacy

I was just in New Orleans at the National Conference for Catholic Youth Ministry with a great crowd of 2,500 youth ministry leaders from across the country and beyond! What a wonderful event! I had the privilege of presenting a workshop titled, “Secrets to Building a Youth Ministry Legacy.” We had a great discussion around six ideas to help move our ministry to the next level.

Before we got into the meat of things, it was important to invite the participants to answer the question: how would you define success in youth ministry? There were many great responses, some of which I’ve listed here:

  • It is often said that “it’s not all about numbers.”  This statement is true, but part of success is about numbers.  If I have growth in the program, I see that as successful.
  • Youth who are being drawn into their parish and community by members of the parish.
  • You see teens go from always receiving to teens that really start to lead and give back to the ministry.
  • Five years after graduating from high school, what are they doing with their lives? If they are making a difference, then so did you.

Legacy is a big word and defining what success is defines whether you feel that you’ve left a youth ministry legacy in your parish and community. Here are the six points that we discussed that will help us build that legacy.

  1. Lead the organization with the long view. Shortcuts and under-investment are all too common in youth ministry, with the hopes of reaching youth in an effective way. Unfortunately, there are too many examples where this has not worked.
  2. Focus on relationships, not programs. We’re in the business of creating disciples, not running programs.
  3. Create a leadership culture. This starts with personal growth. Is your EGO Edging God Out or Exalting God Only?
  4. Value team leadership above individual leadership. Create structures that empower your leaders.
  5. Partner with parents. Parents are not looking for replacement parents. They are looking for partners to help pass on a legacy of faith to their children.
  6. Walk away from the organization with integrity. When it’s a leader’s time to leave the organization, he has got to be willing to walk away and let his successor do his own thing. Meddling only hurts him and the organization.

Thanks to all those that participated in this great workshop.

I’ll be posting my PowerPoint presentation with other notes and resources very soon on my Presentation page, so look for that to get some more details about the workshop.

John Rinaldo

As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.


John Rinaldo


As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.



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