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Youth Ministry Has Failed

I have never been a fan of youth ministry as it is conceived within the Catholic Church. We have 2,000 years of doctrine, liturgy, art, and music upon which to draw in order to bolster the faith and Catholic identity of our youth and we give them watered down doctrine, bad music, bad liturgy, and felt banners. Our youth deserve more.

So it is that I am amenable to drawing the same conclusion that many pastors are now forumlating. That "Modern Youth Ministry a '50-Year Failed Experiment.'
The film is produced by the National Center for Family Integrated Churches in association with LeClerc Brothers Motion Pictures. The producers released the documentary earlier this month online, and have made it available for free until Sept. 15.

"Divided" follows "edgy twenty-something" Christian filmmaker Philip LeClerc on a quest to find answers to why his generation is increasingly turning away from attending church. Recent surveys have shown that as many as 85 percent of young people will leave the church and many never return.

NCFIC Director Scott T. Brown told The Christian Post that today's modern concept of youth ministry is a "50-year failed experiment." Brown said that when he was a church leader in the '70s and '80s he could have been the "poster boy" for the youth ministry movement in California. However, he said he now feels that dividing children from adults at church is an unbiblical concept borrowed from humanistic philosophies.

"The church has become divided generationally," Brown said. "It's not doing what Scripture prescribes and is actually doing something foreign to Scripture by dividing people by age or by life stage."
As Catholics, we should be teaching our young about the glories and difficulties of our faith, about our rich history, about the music created by masters for God's own purpose. We hide our riches from the young and as a result they go looking elsewhere for it.

I grew up with this garbage and I always knew it was garbage. Kids are not stupid. We should teach them good doctrine, good liturgy, and good music. If we teach them, if we pass it on, they will stay.

ht ‏ @amywelborn2

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68 comments:

Anonymous said...

Glad you can make such a sweeping generalization of all youth ministers and their programs. Here in the KCK diocese we youth ministers have amazing programs of outreach and discipleship. Don't be so harsh against those working tirelessly for His Church and its youth.

ceciliamaria said...

Amen to that!

Maeana said...

Kids know the difference between candy and real food. If all you feed them is candy, they'll love it for awhile, but what they really want is something that truly feeds them. If it isn't given to them in their church, they will look elsewhere. An all fluff diet gets really old, really fast.

ceciliamaria said...

(That is amen to Patrick's assessment...)

Patrick said...

I'm with you, Pat. My Catechesis before Confirmation (10th Grade) was on the inellectual level of maybe 3rd or 4th. It's a travesty, really. Now, I'm sure there are great youth ministries out there, but all of my experiences with YM have been a joke.

Blackrep said...

The failure begins when we export them out of Mass when they are three and hand them a box of crayons. So begins the lifelong habit of choosing amusement over self-control, what is easy over what is hard, and what is trivial over what is important.

Anonymous said...

Young people want authenticity and challenge. They resent being patronized. "Youth ministry" is spiritually crippling and exploitative. The real youth liturgy is the traditional Latin Mass.

Romulus

Dwayne Evans said...

I really don't think it helps that sexual misconduct is still going unchecked. In the case I know of it's at a Catholic grade school but the diocese will not return parents' calls because the diocese continues its established view that it's up to the priest to take care of issues. Well, it doesn't help when the priest isn't doing anything. How can anyone believe that the children are protected? The kids are not dumb.

Noah said...

Total agreement. There are some wonderful and holy people in youth ministry, but the idea of youth ministry as I knew it growing up is broken. My earliest memories of Sunday school are resentment for being separated from the "real stuff". From early youth through to today it's always been a huge thrill to me to experience well-crafted liturgies that draw us beyond ourselves toward Christ our God!

Anonymous said...

Dwayne Evans? Have you reported it to the authorities?

Dwayne Evans said...

It's been reported to the authorities but so far there's been one charge brought against a person who is still allowed to attend school.

SherryTex said...

Personally, I wouldn't indite youth ministry, I'd say catechism period has substituted fast food for what should be a slow roasted feast, crayon paper coallges for what should be stained glass. When adult formation is weak, children will follow.

Paul said...

I had an incredible experience of youth ministry, and the program I went through has grown to over 400 teens on a weekly basis with 250 plus going on retreats twice a year. And they are not coming back just because they get to play games--they're coming back because they have a real encounter with Christ.

Plus, a number of solid priestly vocations came out of it, and I, along with a number of my close friends, even entered seminary to give priesthood a serious look because I was so moved by God in my experiences with youth ministry.

I think what your title should have read was "BAD Youth Ministry Has Failed."

Mena said...

It seems to me that the problem with youth ministry - aside from the geregious dumbing-down of Church teaching and liturgy - is that at some point, the youths involved grow out of it. We Catholics should never outgrow any part of the Faith.

Patrick Archbold said...

Of course, not every individual program has failed, but I think it is safe to say that youth ministry programs as generally conceived have failed to bear the anticipated fruit.

I am sure there are some good people and some good programs, but generally they are nonsense.

maxCohen said...

"I am sure there are some good people and some good programs, but generally they are nonsense." I think that sums it up very well.

Julie said...

I agree with Paul - BAD youth ministry has failed. My home parish had a fantastic, vibrant youth ministry, where I watched kids minister to their poorly-catechized parents and bring them back into the life of the church.

Don't be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Scott W. said...

When Catholics ape the youth ministry of Protestants through things like pseudo-iturgy with the praise music and lyrics splayed up on the video screen, then yeah, you can attract a following. We know something is off, but we really can't say what. I'd say it's the Matrix of therapeutic culture. Therapy of course is all about the self and your feelings are the ultimate arbiters of right and wrong. Feelings of course are fickle, so guess what doctrine is going to be. We don't see this because secular therapeutic culture has swallowed the world and civilization lives in its belly. This is why Life Teen can put out doctrinally sound materials and turn around and foster dreadful liturgy. You've heard the expression, "He went over my head". Well, therapeutic liturgy appeals under your head so to speak and can obliterate sound doctrine.

Anonymous said...

As a child we had the "folk mass" (that's about the same time that some church musicians started calling themselves music "ministers" as they were part of the "music ministry". I guess my dad was part of the collection ministry.). The children were expected to attend the folk mass in the basement. One could hear the organ from the mass upstairs. When I was old enough my parents let me attend mass by myself upstairs while the rest of the family when to the folk mass.

Anonymous said...

Youth ministry works when there are enough adults involved to provide coaching, modelling (positive and involved example), and direction. Like sports - where adults teach children or Scouts where the "dads" also wear uniforms and are right in the middle of the woods with their sons... so too a good Youth ministry will have enough adults and everyone doing 'adult' level Catholic things: liturgy, piety, doctrine, corporal and spiritual works of mercy... introducing the kids to what adult Catholics do, what we pray, the sacraments we attend, etc.

priest's wife said...

anonymous at 11:51- YES! There needs to be adults right there- not one 20-something 'leading' a large group of teens.

a suggestion to parents- do NOT allow your children to be taken out of Mass for the Liturgy of the Word and the homily

Anonymous said...

We had a youth group of about 15 kids (sponsored by a co-habitating couple)that would meet every Sunday for about 2 hours. These kids really loved being there. The problem is they never went to Mass and were not encouraged to go! Most of the time, these groups are more focused of fellowship than actually learning the teachings of the Church :(

Anonymous said...

Pat, it's a big project, but go give a read to the 2010 Apostolic Exhortation "Verbum Domini"--it lays out goals for Catholic formation centered on Scripture: in the liturgy, in EVERY family and home,in every pastoral activity, etc. It's a very, very ambitious set of directions for a change in Catholic formation and spiritual habits. Oh, and if you haven't heard anything much about it because "that's the long one for bible nerds", you're not alone. Implementing it is the work of at least a generation. But I think talk of reforming (rebuilding) our catechesis really has to include the specifics of "Verbum Domini".
Cecilia Lopez

Anonymous said...

I will go so far as to say that the touchy-feely sessions, sitting on shaggy carpet squares (orange or avocado in color) helped to push me away from the Church. I was searching for Meaning and Answers and Truth. Catholic programs for youth in the 70s and 80s did not provide this and I went looking for it in very secular places. There might have been an element of Truth in some of these secular things, but it wasn't the complete Truth. By the grace of God, the search for Truth did bring me home again, eventually.

It is frustrating for me that youth today still must endure touchy-feely retreats and felt banners in order to 'earn' their sacraments of initiation. Stop the madness!!

Elodie

Lynda said...

This is true. Generally it has been led by an anti-doctrine liberal faction. Generally, it has produced feel-good believers who do not know the faith or understand the basis of morality. I know of many who spent years involved in youth groups but who will not support the prolife or promarriage or defence of faith and conscience battles in the real world.

Rick DeLano said...

Pat:

Spot on.

Thanks for pulling no punches.

Anonymous said...

As a person who has worked in campus ministry for many years I can tell you that if a college student went to a Catholic High School and was involved in a "Life Teen" type ministry, there is a 98% chance they will NOT practice their faith in college. This is not just my experience, but the experience of dozens of Catholic campus ministers. Teen ministry may bear fruit, but it does not "bear fruit that will last." The focus of the ministry is not on God but rather on the teens. It is similar to the worship of the Golden Calf, the worship of the worshiping community.

Anonymous said...

My parish was starting a youth group last year, and some of the teenagers involved asked the priest if I would kick-off the first meeting by telling my conversion story. The priest kindly asked if I would, and I said "of course", and then I told him that part of my conversion from a secular academic to a orthodox Catholic involved a moment of clearly seeing demons before me (and no, I'm not crazy or feeble-minded). After that I was quietly dis-invited. Apparently, we are not to tell teenagers that demons and spiritual struggle are a feature of the faith life...
Scott

Anonymous said...

I think a good apostolate to youth prepares youth to be adult Catholics with a firm and informed faith, and a reverence for the liturgy celebrated with a Catholic spirit. Bad youth ministry merely caters to their temporary, passing youth.

JoshD said...

Speaking as a youth minister and someone who has taking a serious interest in the scholarship of catechetics, catechesis, and youth ministry, I wonder if anyone bothered to watch this entire film, before actually ranting.

The film has strong points, but it also has some serious flaws, and utlizing it to have a conversation about Catholic Youth Ministry is quite problematic, when the resource that is explicitly Fundamentalist, Evangelical Protestant.

That being said, I want to echo that youth ministry is not the problem, event things like Life Teen that was previously mentioned. The problem is bad youth ministry. Youth ministry that eliminates the parents as primary educators is bad. Youth ministry that waters down doctrine or eliminates it all together in the name of relevance is bad. Youth ministry that does not embrace the Church's traditions in Liturgy, art and beauty, and philosophy, are bad. Youth ministry that separates youth from the community is bad. Youth ministry that is dumped off on youth ministers by the pastor, and that spiritual fatherhood removed is bad. Youth ministry rooted in the "spirit of V2" and not the teachings of V2 is bad.

JoshD said...

*excuse the couple of typos. My passion got ahead of my fingers :-)

Ann said...

Our parish has used the Life Teen model for our youth ministry. The youth ministers through the years have been rock solid and orthodox as well as the core team members. One of our priests is present at every Life Night as well as our Wednesday's ministry hour. The fruit has been young people who continue to regularly receive the sacraments once entering college. We have 2 brothers (biological not religious) who were ordained together last year to the priesthood who had been active in Life Teen. One former core team member who will be ordained this month to the priesthood. One former Life Teen member who will be ordained to the transitional diaconate this Saturday and 3 other former members who are at different stages of the seminary. Our teens kneel on the hard floor every Sunday during the Eucharistic prayer. They joyfully kneel in adoration at XLT and sing those contemporary songs that don't hurt everyone's faith, as some would have us think.
I grew up with bad youth ministry so I know what you mean. What our parish has is bearing so much fruit and I am thankful to God for the gift our teens have in it.

Heather said...

@JoshD:
I have watched the entire video. Because I have been to numerous Life Teen Masses and find them repugnant, I wanted to agree with the video's conclusions, but all the premises (youths in youth group don't believe in a "Young Earth creation," complete Sola Scriptura outlook, misreading of Plato/Socrates, distrust of tradition, etc.) made that impossible.

Thinking back to so many saints of the last few hundred years, not least of which is St. John Bosco, who educated children and youths for the good of all, having "age-segregated discipleship" cannot be all bad. The video would say that this is a secular mindset that (anachronistically) stems from the secular Sunday school movement. Silly. That being said, the Church quite wisely teaches that parents are the first educators in the Faith of their children.

As you have stated it, I would love to have been in your youth ministry. As it was, I was Protestant at the time and was a social pariah, so impossible on many counts. Keep up the good work as parents need good allies and support in raising their children in the Faith in this day and age! :)

Anonymous said...

Is that a plank I see in your eye?

This overgeneralization is over the top. There are plenty of faithful Catholics bringing teens to Christ by showing them the beauty of the Sacraments, Scripture, and the Church.

In our youth program we teach them about the transcendentals. We teach them how to use a catechism, we teach them how to read scripture.
we teach them about the saints, about the Eucharist, about how the most important thing in their life is their relationship with God. We teach them morality, theology.

but most importantly we love them with the Love of Christ, and they see this love and they see our love for the Church and they want to know how they can have this peace and hope, as well.

Proclaim the truth in love, BXVI taught us.
Introduce teens to the person of Christ and his love, and the doctrine will follow, JPII taught us.
Witness Christian charity in your life, and people will want to know WHY you have such joy, PVI taught us.

(Dr) Carole Brown said...

Sorry to say, since this is my FAVE blog, this is one of the few times I utterly disagree with you. Had it not been for some of the trite, cheesy, at times misguided, but nevertheless usually fun youth ministry of my early youth.......

I would not be the orthodox evangelical Catholic female theologian I am today.

Tammy said...

We had a good youth group in Kansas, but since we moved to VA, the youth groups have been awful...the hour and a half of misery were what I described as "90 reasons to become protestant". The latest version of "youth group" was actually a very dry lecture series...I love lectures, but my 15 year old, not so much.

I encouraged our church to adopt the Lifeteen model, but they refused. I withdrew my kid lest I scare her away from church forever.

Jane said...

A couple notes that I see are missing in the conversation regarding youth ministry in the comments:
a) faith formation is the primary responsibility of the parents, not the paid or volunteer leaders in youth ministry at a parish. Let's put some responsibility back on the lack of good adult faith formation and community building to bring our adult community into contact with Christ as well
b) it would help if people were a little more informed about what the bishops have written regarding youth ministry (Renewing the Vision), and which the Certificate in Youth Ministry Studies (offered through the Center for Ministry Development, cmdnet.org) aptly sticks to and teaches those who become certified to be coordinators of youth ministry. I would say that if this certification were more supported in parishes that coordinators would be more informed regarding the importance not only of the need for our inter-generational Church, but also (among other things) the need for adults and parents to be involved in the faith formation of the community's youth. Really, if our church leaders knew this amazing document put out by the bishops existed and really tried to fulfill their dream, I don't think we'd be seeing these same problems.

Anonymous said...

Where is this youth ministry you speak of?

Anonymous said...

The problem doesn't begin, or end with youth ministry. Youth ministry just tends to be the scapegoat. Faith Formation, CCD, Religious Education - all of these set up youth ministry to fail, and parents set up religious education to fail for the most part. And, when it comes down to it, we haven't really had much sound teaching and preaching from the pulpit for how many years? It is too simple to make such a statement Patrick. I think you are right that many youth ministry programs focus on the wrong things, and so do not bear much lasting fruit, but by the time young people get into the hands of the youth minister, the foundation has already been very firmly established, and it is very difficult to overcome, no matter how sound the catechesis. I haven't even begun to speak about liturgy yet, and you touch on it when speaking about music, but reality is shaped by how the liturgy is done, and for many, many years, we as Catholics have been formed in totally erroneous and damaging ways in regard to the liturgy. Anyhow, glad you brought the topic up, and I do agree that youth ministry needs to change, but we are already doing damage control, or triage, by the time we get most teens, because the total lack of formation from their parents, their priests, and their religious education teachers (who are often poorly catechized parents).

Anonymous said...

There are really dynamic youth ministry programs out there that are really solid in terms of what they are teaching, and modeling and mentoring the teen into, but in general, a very large number of teens, once they hit college, still drop out, or drift, or lose their faith. You can't build a house on sand. Sure, there are stories of vocations, and teens who are staying involved in their faith in college, and strong. But has anyone looked at who those teens are? Most often, in my experience, they are the teens that came from strong Catholic families, for whom youth ministry was a supplement to the firm foundation that they had already set for their teens.

Sophia's Favorite said...

All I know is I hated Life Teen when I was a teenager, and I basically avoided it like the plague during my entire youth. I was never cynical about the Faith: but you come to me with Christian rock top-40 and self-esteem bromides, and I will devour you alive. I've been that way since I was, oh, 12.

How about we show kids how full on badass this religion is? I had to find out about Aquinas and Bernard of Clairvaux and the Knights Templar on my own time. Life Teen was too busy being white-shoed Protestants who happen to be in union with Rome.

Fr Bill P said...

It was a huge mistake to create Catholic youth ghettos that pandered to entertainment instead of substance. But laying the problem on Catholic youth ministry is passing the buck. Most parents want quick and entertaining when it comes to religion for themselves. They want a religious experience that sates an emotional need and does not challenge behavior for themselves. Much of Catholic youth ministry copied the worst of protestant youth ministries. Why? Because that was what this inane culture and its hedonistic values wanted. I am tired of parents grumbling that we are not meeting their needs when they do little to nothing to be the first teachers of their children in the ways of the faith. I have had to suffer through hours of milquetoast parents who 'want Johnnies to decide participation in faith himself'...a standard that wouldn't get leveled against studies, a whole host of extracurricular activities and ESPECIALLY SPORTS! Most parishes felt backed into a corner to be 'fun' when it came to youth. I have tried for years to run solid educational programs soaked in the meat and potatoes of our faith...know what I got...a chorus of crickets complaining that it was 'too churchy','too old fashioned', 'too conservative'..and all the families who used the excuse that programs were too liberal and fluffy...guess what the response was? Oh, well, Johnny plays baseball that night, or Mary has a softball tournament then, or Willie's coach schedules their football practice then. For all the self-righteous positioning I see from parents about the programs being too this or too that and thus their kids are falling away from the practice of the faith, while I will say the parishes have waffled...the parents did first and routinely make the practice and education in the faith secondary to their worldly pursuits. How many of these whining parents did so much as pick up a catechism or Bible and started reading and reflecting with their children? How many of these 'pass-the-buck' types pray as a family at all? How many of these disappointed parents put faith before sports? How many read a story of a saint? Watched uplifting and faith filled media? All I hear is a litany of lame excuses and accusations of why not. I continually deal with parents who think it is the parish that has the primary task of raising up faithful Catholics. I have news for you...if parents do not make it a priority and see to it that their children value and practice faith, you could have SS Bernard and Thomas Aquinas themselves preach and it will fall of deaf ears. Faithful parents produce faithful young adults.

Fr Bill P said...

In my family: we read the bible and stories of the saints. we prayed the rosary every night and prayed together before bed. Mass was not an option. Mom and Dad did not see faith as just another choice, but impressed upon us its necessity and meaning. We were to regularly engage in the corporal works of mercy. Confession was to be as regular as could be. Mom and dad were good shepherds who regulated the types of music, TV, movies and later video games that came into the house. Extracurricular activities took a back seat Church events and family evening meals. Neither of my parents were theologians; dad was an engineer and mom a stay at home mother with 6 kids. They made it a priority so we did.

Anonymous said...

Your blog post makes a huge sweeping hasty generalization. You cannot say that youth ministry has failed. There are many excellent youth ministries out there. I think this is too negative.

Anonymous said...

In some of the comments, the saints are mentioned, including St John Bosco. As I'm involved in youth ministry, he happens to be one of my favourite saints. He realised early on in his ministry to young boys that he had to find a way of attracting them before he could begin to catechise and take them to church. John Bosco learned to juggle, this was the original "ice-breaker" of youth ministry. After this he could give them real food - catechism, Mass and Eucharistic Adoration. There always has to be a balance because the teen years are unlike any other period of a person's life.

Bartley's said...

We have been watching this movement for awhile now, and that is the reason we keep our girls with us during Mass. And Catholics need to stop blaming everything on protestants! What a lame excuse. Quit complaining about "over generalizations etc" There's a problem, teens are exiting the church after they graduate, now let's fix the problem instead of getting all defensive about how your youth group is so great.

Kids need to feel they belong and are needed. This documentary/movement shows that teens find they have no place in the church after they are past the youth group age. I went to an Episcopal Church that had a youth group, BUT I was also in the choir at age 14, surrounded by adults every thursday. We didn't have "youth sundays" and "youth choirs" I was integrated with adults. I was in bible studies, with adults. It wasn't deemed to hard for me, or over my head. So after I graduated college, I fit right in to the church parish.

Ric Ballard said...

You need to heed the words of the Blessed John Paul the Great and stop generalizing youth ministry:
"Christ must be presented to all people with confidence. We shall address adults, families, young people, children, without ever hiding the most radical demands of the Gospel message, but taking into account each person's needs in regard to their sensitivity and language, after the example of Paul who declared: "I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some" (1 Cor 9:22). In making these recommendations, I am thinking especially of the pastoral care of young people. Precisely in regard to young people, as I said earlier, the Jubilee has given us an encouraging testimony of their generous availability. We must learn to interpret that heartening response, by investing that enthusiasm like a new talent (cf. Mt 25:15) which the Lord has put into our hands so that we can make it yield a rich return". Novo Millennio Ineunte

Dymphna said...

I've always found the leaders of the youth groups to be well, creepy. I thought hip Brother Joe, and space cadet Sr. Sunshine were jokes when I was 16 and I stopped going to Mass as soon as I turned 18. I didn't go back until I was a married woman.

jayeverett said...

We have a youth minister who openly claims that the only way to get the youths to attend mass is with "rock" style music, which is loud and non-litergical. Otherwise they they would fall asleep because mass was so boring. Many, if not all, parents do not and have not given their "teens" any religious training at all because they do not know their Catholic Religion. We live in a society of non dicipline for children. It's the parents fault and the Church's fault as well......

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this article! It's time someone said it. As a parent of a teen, I find it's best to teach them as adults on Catholic history, martyrs and catechism in a straightforward, no bull approach. You get their attention and respect. If they leave the church as adults, they realize what they're giving up and may convert back later. I acknowlege the time and sacrifice YMs give, and I thank them. However, most either don't realize or refuse to accept that the soft approach is failing. The worst YMs and DREs in my parish are openly pro-choice and encourage kids to quit the church and try out other faiths (yes, it happened.) There's good news though. Faith among Catholic youths is flourishing, even thriving, in places where traditional doctrine is boldly proclaimed and taught. For example: Catholic blogs like RCTV employing youth interns; in TLM (Latin mass) parishes; at MI retreats; in Catholic charter high schools like Lyceum in OH; in orthodox Catholic universities like Ave Maria & Christendom. These young people will be the remnant that keeps the fire of faith going after we pass away.

Titus said...

I don't think that Mr. Archibald or anyone else would suggest that parishes and dioceses ought not to have activities or classes for children and students. But let's be honest: the phrase "youth ministry" invariably describes the prevalent form of inanity to which Mr. Archibald alludes. It is clearly wrong to say that there is no place in the Church for any activity centered on the young; it is equally wrong to say that what we have been doing under the auspices of "youth ministry" is the way to go about it.

Anonymous said...

Glad you can make such a sweeping generalization of all youth ministers and their programs. Here in the KCK diocese we youth ministers have amazing programs of outreach and discipleship. Don't be so harsh against those working tirelessly for His Church and its youth.

I live in Kansas city Kansas. I would say you are blind.

BuckeyeSandy said...

I personally feel at times cheated and even lied to about "Catholic Teaching" and what is really means to be "Catholic." I am the product of a failed program of Catechesis, confirmed while in the 8th grade, and pretty much "fed" on the NO Mass, and way watered down theology. I thank G-d for my grandparents, even with their fallibility tried to instill and inoculate me in the Catholic faith.

They were not scholars, and I am not sure if they all possessed a high school diploma. They were Confirmed as children, but had great faith that they LIVED. They taught the Gospel, and only sometimes used words. They, my grandfathers and grandmothers had a rich prayer life, and were involved in their parish communities.

If it were not for them, I don’t know if I’d be Christian, let alone a practicing Catholic

Ann Roth said...

Would anyone claiming they have a great youth program care to share more details? Is there a website with details, curricula, whatever?

JoshD said...

Ann Roth, what would you like to know specifically?

Lynda said...

Fr Bill says perfectly what is needed for young people to grow into adults of faith. The duty of parents in respect of their children's faith is both grave and essential.

ORA PRO NOBIS said...

Greetings,

I have responded to your article in my own blog.

http://catholicgadfly.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/has-youth-ministry-failed.html

I have thought about this for a long long time and I have suggested a solution that you may interested in.

Many thanks

Carol O. said...

The Catholic church was dreary for youth and always has been, broken only by a brief stint of CYO. It's no longer dreary (here in the U.S.), and that's the work of the Holy Spirit answering prayers (JP II's and the Church's) for our youth. I grew up in Vatican I. How I thank God for the Second Vatican Council and all the warmth that was needed.

I'll tell you truly --if I were considering converting to Catholicism right now, some of what I've read online from those who consider themselves the Church's greatest defenders -- the Traditional-istic creating an us vs them thing -- would give me grave pause.

Anonymous said...

A great deal of people on this site are complaining about the youth minestry 'dumbing down' the catechesis. I'm a teacher and even I struggle to understand what the point of bible readings and homilies are a great deal of the time. How are kids going to engage in church if it is too hard for them to learn the messages of god? It's like giving them a copy of Einsteins article on the theory of relativity and saying you will understand this and enjoy it. Give me a break. Youth minestry is there to help our kids and if you have an issue with it, guess what, it isn't compulsory!

Julie T. said...

As a Youth Minister, I am very careful to ensure that correct, thorough, and even sublime doctrine is taught at all times. I read papal documents, study the catechism, and bring all of my lesson plans before the Blessed Sacrament.

In addition, I make sure to get to know each and every one of our kids. I take them to coffee, show up at basketball games, chaperone school field trips, and invite their boy/girl friends to events. I play ultimate frisbee. But most of all, I ensure that the name of Jesus Christ is spoken at each and every event that I attend.

My parish began with a group of 10-15 lukewarm teens with nothing else to do, and through God's grace, we have grown to a ministry of nearly 300 students weekly in 2 years. Students from our parish are holding leadership positions at Newman centers, are considering vocations, are becoming Knights of Columbus as soon as they are old enough, and most of all, are passionate for Jesus.

And yes, I'm a 20-something. Yes, I'm a "Gen JP2" minister. And no, we don't use Lifeteen materials.

We have to meet students where they are in today's anti-Catholic culture, help them to see the value and beauty of the Faith, introduce them to the person of Jesus, and help them to form a community.

If Youth Ministry isn't working, what are you suggesting we do in order to reach these kids instead?

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

In the original post and the ensuing 60 comments I've read, one word is missing:

Gospel

Teach the Gospel. First, teach it to the parents so they know what it is. Then encourage them to teach it to their children.

I dare say that most Catholics do not know what the Gospel is. I speak from personal experience. The Church teaches it but does so in a cliched fashion, without explaining it. Yes, people can recite cliches but that's far different than knowing what the Gospel actually means. The Church also buries the Gospel under a pile of esoteric theology and questionable popular piety.

No youth ministry, regardless of congregation or denomination, can compare with the parental influence. Yes, I know that families are falling apart and that "traditional family values" are seen as passe. So what?

Perhaps if the Church became less infatuated with "The New Evangelization" and concentrated on simple communication of basic truths, the problem would start to be resolved.

Then again, most bishops don't want their people knowing truth. The bishops revere power and prestige above all. Anything -- and I mean anything -- that interferes -- even (and especially) fidelity -- is disregarded or subordinated to the episcopate's fleshly concerns.

James said...

As a student who discerned a vocation to youth ministry serving young people, these comments, including the entry itself, are amusing, entertaining, but most of all convicting. Many of the points are valid, stating many truths of many youth ministries in the past and call me to learn more.

However, I feel, like a few other posters, that the title should be "bad youth ministry has failed." I have experienced a multitude of parishes, serving from the most wealthy, to those were most students in the area high schools are on free and reduced lunches. Each are different and no two are alike.

I was confronted with the Gospel, Scripture, with Papal teaching, and I, initially, denied them. Call it childish selfishness, but I wasn't ready to accept such intense teachings that moved beyond concern of myself, but in time I would. Blessed with parents that taught me openmindedness, I eventually understood these to be true, as my youth minister, a passionate Southern Baptist convert, was responsible for challenging me to understand them, through the grace of Christ, accept them, after much searching. However, my peers struggled to accept them, for many reasons, includling parenting.

Parents are the first educators. Yes. But what happens when the parents are removed from the situation? What happens when Mom and Dad are gone working jobs day and night, and only grandma can raise them when the parents are gone? A disconnect forms quickly.

Youth Ministry has so many extremes. The affluent, healthy 3000+ family parishes in suburbia stand far from ailing, broken kneeler, inner-city parishes with less than 500. They are different, but at the same time, both have young people that hunger and desire for Truth.

It is easy to declare that YM has become out of touch, sensational, flashy and even diluted, but the moment while on a retreat that a teen (who by the grace of God and intercession of our Blessed Mother even came!) shares with you his or her deepest hurt, of cutting, depression, pregnancies, sexual abuse and so much else, and desiring for healing through truth, you immediately forget any type of criticism of failure and bring them to the Divine Healer. Miracles come from the most unexpected places. Youth respond to authenticity. Are we being authentic with our lives?

Anonymous said...

I did not notice the importance of teaching virtues to combat the vices and the Rosary for Our Blessed Mother's assistance in this discussion.
See what youth are exposed to in parochial schools and CCD programs and then ask yourself why there is not a crusade to save our youth from churchmen who intend to destroy from within:
http://www.motherswatch.net/content/view/12/6/ - Part 1
http://www.motherswatch.net/content/view/15/6/ - Part 2

Suz said...

As someone in the KCK Archdiocese, I limit my teen's involvement in the parish youth ministry because it is watered down, shallow, and not "real food" at all. She went to the Confirmation retreat at our parish and was hit with gross humor, weak skits, and very little catechesis or preparation for the sacrament. And I've heard MANY complaints about the Jr. High and Lifeteen programs at our parish, as well as the "small group" high school ministry, where the teens are essentially advising each other. Tell me, how much advice did you receive as a teen from other teens that was solid, faithful, and helpful? The adult moderators of these groups aren't always helpful as leaders, sometimes involved in lifestyles contrary to Church teachings themselves.

Anonymous said...

Ok...was a youth minister for 6 years. It's not the Church's fault! It's BAD PARENTING! The kids who NEED youth ministry are the ones who come from families where the parents rely on everyone else to teach their kids the faith. They looked at me and wondered why their kids couldn't list the 7 Sacraments. Not that I didn't teach them. And not that I didn't take them before the Blessed Sacrament and do everything to lead them by the hand to Jesus. But if the parents didn't teach them love of Christ for the first 14 years, how is a youth minister supposed to do it in one or two years?????

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

But what happens when the parents are removed from the situation? What happens when Mom and Dad are gone working jobs day and night, and only grandma can raise them when the parents are gone? A disconnect forms quickly.

James, you're absolutely right. In that case, the pastors and priests themselves should be the second line of offense, as it were, in teaching the Gospel fully.

Unfortunately, most priests are as ignorant about the Gospel as most Catholics. Those who understand it and its implications fully are more likely to be thorns in the sides of bishops, which doesn't do much for their job security.

Anonymous said...

Teach them good Catholic doctrine like partying are the club then waking up for mass?

Christi said...

Ok, most of us agree that we 50 year olds had poor catechesis growing up and I, for one, did not do a good job catechizing my own children. But I have grown in my faith, thanks to a great pastor these past 7 years, and now teach Confirmation class to 9th graders in a small rural parish. 9 out of 12 of them went to Catholic grade school and do not know the 10 Commandments or the mysteries of the Rosary. One was late for confirmation Mass rehearsal due to ball practice. Etc, etc, etc. I encouraged parents and sponsors to attend. That fell on deaf ears.
I have 7 months, meeting weekly, to teach kids what the Sacrament of Confirmation is all about, what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about.

PLEASE!! Like the movie stated, these "fatherless" kids are now at my table and I am the one feeding them (Job 31:17) We all know the problems. I NEED SOLUTIONS!!

Thank you, Ora Pro Nobis, and those that shared links. I pray that parents find the faith to teach their own children, but for now, this is where I am at. PLEASE SHARE what is working in your parish ministries.

BTW, a good start for Confirmation catechists is the book, "Called to Knighthood" by Thomas Sullivan.

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