Starting a Ministry with Youth
Firstly, be clear on why you are undertaking this new ministry direction. Does it fit within the parish vision and goals? Do you understand the difference between an ‘intergenerational’ approach and an approach which treats young people as having specific needs to be met? If you’re not sure, have a quick look through this Powerpoint here.
Most of the information below is based on the idea that you will be starting from scratch and need to explore what kind of youth ministry would be appropriate. If this process is done properly, you will be creating an effective meeting point for young people in your parish. Whether once a week or once a term, youth groups can be significant places for social and spiritual growth among young people. They can offer young people faith experiences and connection with adults who can share and lead them further along their faith journey. Youth Groups should also provide a safe environment where young people can seek answers to spiritual questions.
Starting from Scratch:
Sometimes parishes say they “have no young people.” But the question then becomes, “How has the parish attempted proactively to engage young people and their families?” When was the last event or program aimed at young people?
If engaging with youth, children and families is a strategic priority, then a small core of committed people is all you need to get going.
· Parish Council Discussion. At your next PC meeting, reflect on the ways in which your parish community invites young people in; how it forms / catechises / educates them; how it disciples them and challenges them. Decide formally to call a meeting (a Forum or ‘Listening Day’) of adults and youth to discuss starting or re-starting a parish youth ministry. Contact us and we can facilitate this event for you – there can be advantages in having a neutral outsider in this role.
· Youth Ministry Forum or Listening Day. Invite both adults and youth to come together to discuss and generate ways to connect and engage with young people in your parish. Ensure you have a solid process for documenting the ideas which are gathered, e.g. ‘Listening Circles’ / ‘Open Space Technology’.
Ask those present to assist with the organising of one of the ideas.
Immediately create and promote a second gathering to keep the interested youth and adults together, e.g. a youth service or youth BBQ.
· Youth Ministry Team. Gather a group of young people and adults who meet regularly to discuss and organise parish youth ministry initiatives. The team should be thinking about a variety of activities and initiatives to cater to the Stages of Faith Development and needs of young people. This team should be connected with, and accountable to, the Parish Council and Rector/Priest-in-Charge, and in return should be supported by the provision of a Youth Ministry budget and other appropriate resources.
· Start a Youth Service (worship).
The weekend Eucharist / Holy Communion is the most common way in which an Anglican faith community gathers. Help young people connect with this weekly celebration by engaging them in its preparation. Alternatively or additionally, holding a “Youth Service” may empower young people to prepare a Service for the community which both includes young people and helps them unlock some of the mysterious elements of the liturgy. It may be that another parish in the Deanery or beyond would be willing to host one for you at your Church or otherwise show you how they have done it.
(It should be pointed out that professional youth ministers sometimes disagree on whether it is advisable to set up a ‘Youth Service’ as a regular parish service. The argument against it is that it may encourage a perception that ‘Youth’ are a separate group from the rest of the parish.
In favour of it is the idea that it is possible for youth to attend a regular service of their own and still be heavily involved in all other aspects of parish life. This issue should be discussed at Parish Council and at the Youth Ministry Forum.)
Regular communication with young people, parents and parishioners is essential in any parish youth ministry.
Establishing a regular point of communication (e.g. a small section of the parish newsletter) helps people find out what is happening in the life of the parish.
This tool for communication is not just about sharing what is planned for the future, but also for sharing the good news of what has been happening and the positive experiences and impacts that have occurred.
Connect more widely:
Diocesan YCF initiatives, often run by the Ministry Education Commission (MEC), are designed to support the life of local parishes and deaneries. There is a large range of events and training opportunities which occur on a Diocesan level. Connecting young people from different parishes is a great way to excite and energise.
Offer a Formation/Training program:
Formation and training are essential to develop and sustain your parish youth ministry.
Connecting young people with faith formation programs (e.g. Diocesan Lenten studies) to reflect upon and enliven their faith lives, or with leadership training (e.g. RISE or Bring It!) will assist the formation of effective young leaders for your parish.
Practical steps in starting out:
With all of the above in mind, you may still be wondering exactly what to do next to get your youth group going. There are many excellent resources available which spell out exactly how to go about creating and building a comprehensive YCF program. For copyright reasons, we are not able to reproduce vast amounts of detail here, but we recommend the following books:
· A Comprehensive Approach to Ministry and Mission (John Roberto, US)
· Strategy for Youth Leaders for the Twenty-First Century (Ross Farley, Aust)
· Any books by Doug Fields or Jonathan McKee (US)
Here’s some great advice for starting from scratch from the Sticky Faith team:
Here’s my summary of another great book called Youth Work from Scratch by Martin Saunders (UK): Youth Work from Scratch summary
Almost all of these are available free of charge from the Roscoe or Trinity Theological College libraries in Brisbane.
The staff of AYCF Ministries (MEC) are always happy to come to your parish or deanery and conduct a free consultation to get you started or to help you build upon what you have in place (just Contact Us).
· Think about starting separate groups for younger and older teens, as their needs can be different.
· Combine resources with a nearby parish if you need to, or look at how it might work from a Deanery level.