In the Archdiocese of Chicago, Cardinal Cupich wrote an editorial describing “the parish of my dreams.” In doing so, he described seven priorities that might assist in measuring parish vitality. Not being above building upon someone else’s hard work, here are my own modifications designed to help define vitality of youth ministry in a parish. We’ll keep Cupich’s headers, but let’s define them deeper towards youth ministry.
We bring people to Christ
Youth Ministry seeks to evangelize everyone to live more fully as intentional disciples. These intentional disciples are continuously evangelizing others by making known the presence of the Church and Christ’s mercy in the midst of the community. When the Lord commissioned us to “make disciples of all the nations,” He did not offer an exemption for youth ministers to limit themselves to teens alone. Our efforts MUST expand to parents, Confirmation sponsors, and all the adults we encounter along the way in our ministry related to young people.
We support each other in knowing Christ more deeply
Youth Ministry enables a lifelong process of formation for deepening one’s faith and relationship with Christ. We do this by passing on the Church’s teaching and tradition to parishioners of all ages. Any effort that implies a sense of completeness (or graduation) is counter-intuitive towards a “lifelong process.”
We encounter Christ and receive nourishment through prayer and worship
Youth Ministry is intentional in engaging in the parish’s culture and tradition of prayer, devotion, and well-prepared liturgy. The Eucharist as the “Source and the Summit.” When youth ministry goes at it completely alone, it implies experiences adolescents will naturally understand that they will mature out of. Engaging with the parish on different levels will help the youth get a whole, well–rounded understanding of the Eucharist.
We build bonds among each other to sustain our life in Christ
Youth ministry engages young people into a genuine Catholic community. The Catholic community is conscious of its solidarity in Christ with the entire church of their local diocese and the Universal Church. Young people need a wider set of relationships and a wider vision. We must be responsible for assisting them in establishing mentor / apprentice relationships in faith. Further, they get to see stuff from the Church that is bigger than their own local experience… and it ain’t really bigger if the bigger stuff is limited to the spiritualities of their parish or their parish youth leaders.
We transform the lives of others through service as Christ’s missionary disciples
Youth Ministry prepares and sends parishioners as missionary disciples into the world to transform society with the joy and truth of the Gospel. We offer service not as a hurdle qualifier for a sacrament or graduation, but as an invitation towards the lifestyle of a disciple.
We respond to the call to holiness by journeying together with Christ
Youth Ministry accompanies the baptized on life’s journey to become more Christ–centered. In doing so, we encourage them to be resistant to sin, merciful, and continually attentive to building a mature, well-integrated adult spirituality. We challenge the youth to be committed to charity, peace, prayer, and virtue.
We take responsibility for the administration and leadership of the parish as good stewards of the gifts Christ has entrusted to us
Youth Ministry thrives under the visionary leadership of the pastor, who works in collaboration with his associates, staff, and the laity to ensure that the parish’s mission can fully flourish as a result of proper administration. Youth Ministry fosters a culture of stewardship and a spirituality of gratitude that inspires all to generously share the gifts Christ has entrusted to them in support of the mission of the church through the parish, the archdiocese and in the world.
Archbishop Cupich concluded by using some words from Pope Francis in “The Joy of the Gospel”:
I hope that all communities will devote the necessary effort
to advancing along the path of a pastoral and missionary conversion
which cannot leave things as they presently are…
Mere administration’ can no longer be enough.
Throughout the world, let us be ‘permanently in a state of mission.’