by Alison Blanchet
Family Honor Presenter/Youth Minister
At World Youth Day in 1995, St. John Paul II exhorted: “As Jesus with the disciples of Emmaus, so the Church must become today the traveling companion of young people.” This description is referenced over and over again as what Catholic Youth Ministry aims to accomplish – to help families know that the Church loves and supports them at all times, but especially in the occasionally tumultuous years of adolescence.
Youth ministry is a resource for parents as they strive to hand their faith on to their children. Youth ministry can never replace the important role of parents as their children’s primary catechists, but should be seen by parents as “reinforcements” in the battle for their children’s soul!
How can parents take advantage of what youth ministry offers? Each parish will differ, but some ways to make the most of this partnership is:
Pray for the teens in your community and parish and for those who work with them.
- Give parish programming a chance.
It’s so important for students to feel that they belong to the Universal Church and participating in youth ministry activities like retreats, service projects and faith formation give teens a sense of belonging as individuals – not just because it’s the Church their parents attend.
- Contact leaders.
If you hear something about parish youth ministry that is a cause for concern, contact the leadership first. Rumors can spread quickly, verify the facts before complaining to your pastor.
- Volunteer with youth ministry at your parish!
Helping to prepare dinner or snacks, driving for trips or leading small groups isn’t just a great way to help lead this generation closer to Jesus- it’s a way to bond with your child!
- Spread good news about what is happening for teens in your parish.
Just like you’d encourage a friend to bring their child to try swim team or little league, encourage them to bring their teens to youth ministry. Positive parent recommendations are the best publicity!
- Sign up to receive updates via text or email.
Don’t just rely on bulletin announcements or your teen remembering to tell you about an event.
- If your parish doesn’t have a youth minister …
… consider inviting your teenage child’s friends over for a book club or bible study. Select one of Fr. Mike Schmitz’s videos on YouTube for discussion: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLeXS0cAkuTPpJ6j3eH59WudJhJ4q1tpwH.
- Host your parish priest for a Q and A night.
There are many ways you can facilitate teenagers’ engagement with your parish, even if you don’t have someone designated to. (If you do have someone designated for this job, do this anyway! “Too much time talking about Jesus” is not exactly a complaint anyone has about their teens.)
Finally, remember that the Gospel is truly for everyone. Teens can come from diverse experiences and many not always know how to act or what to do in Church. When a teen arrives and demonstrates behavior that might seem awkward or inappropriate, be patient and correct gently. St. Paul persecuted Christians before his conversation, and thus there’s hope for every student – even those whose behavior is less than ideal.
Having trouble connecting with your high-school age teen? Book a Family Honor Staying Connected program. It’s a short, one session program for parents only (no teens attend) and geared towards helping you respond and discuss some of the more challenging topics your older teen may be asking about. For more information: https://familyhonor.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Program-Brief-16-17-Staying-Connected-for-Parents-of-High-Schoolers.pdf
And a couple more links:
Letters to a Young Catholic