I was at the FOCA convention in Columbus, OH this past weekend. At their assembly, Dimitrios Rentel gave a presentation of the Youth Survey he has been conducting with our parishes. So far over 1600 people have responded. He also spent the summer visiting some of our camps and attending other youth-oriented activities. He spoke with many of our youth during this time.
One of the main themes he spoke on was how so many of the kids and survey respondents emphasized how much the kids loved going to camp. The number one motivation was that camp was a place that kids could be loved with people they love to be with. The bonding that goes with making friends was so important to campers. There was great appreciation for the counselors and staff at the camps he visited. There is a connection made there that makes the kids want to go back.
The downside of his comments was that when it comes to kids in parish life, there is not this same sense of connectedness. He described that a number of kids he interviewed could not remember the name of their parish priest. I too encountered this when several kids I spoke with at camp could not remember the name of their parish. I know I have overly simplified this. It is not as if all our kids don’t know their parish name or the name of their priest. But I was struck by the fact that there is a connection kids make at camp that may not be made among some kids in parish life. How common or prevalent this is is hard to tell.
The possible reasons for this are complicated and multifaceted. I am going to spend a couple of weeks speaking on these reasons. One important reason is that when at camp, kids are in a communal environment where all the temptations of daily living presents are not there. Kids are put in an environment that in a good way fosters closeness and making friends among each other. To foster this environment in parish life can be hard given the distances people live from their parish and the daily busyness of family lives. Parishes simply cannot be camp. But how can we work to help our children experience a greater sense of connectedness with their parish (assuming the above is at least partially true)?
One thing that comes to mind is doing things that help kids to take ownership of a ministry or service. They can be empowered to serve. Dimitrios told the FOCA assembly that service is a big value of our kids. They want to help. They want to serve. How, even in a small way, can a parish empower kids? What can they do in the church to claim as their service and help them to connect to the parish?
The Blessing of the Lord be upon you,
The unworthy +Paul
Greetings from Cincinnati! Recently I wrote you an email (personal request by Dima from Youth & Young Adult Ministry) outlining a few things we are doing at Christ the Savior in Cincinnati. One of our main directions is moving our Youth toward a Family Ministry model. We’re also kicking off a new Family Ministry (birth-2nd grade) in October. If we start this type of ministry while the kids and parents are young, it should move in the direction of building a closer community. The Family Ministry will follow a model similar to our Jr. High & High School ministry.
The inspiration for this direction comes from our Youth Group experience this past year. Parents naturally gravitated toward being present for our Youth Group activities (a combination of Bible Discussions, Outreach/Inreach, & Social Events). This makes sense considering our view on children during Liturgy. Most importantly, teens don’t really mind parents hanging about! We live in an age where teens are often separated from parents, but what our ministry stresses is the importance of Family Life. This helps prepares them for Life after Youth Group (a real problem!) and teaches them to be able hold conversation with other adults and their peers. Side note: I remember a time as I matured when I used to love listening in on adult conversations, contribute to it, and be respected for what I had to say.
At the end of season (May 2019) we surveyed the kids on which things they liked to do the most at our End of Year BBQ at a hosting home. The teens said they liked the BBQ meeting the most. It was the casual setting, all of the teens and parents together enjoying a meal and conversation. The meetings are always pan-orthodox (meaning, we ask parents/kids we *personally know* from other parishes if they’d like to join us) and also inclusive (open to parents/teens that are not orthodox).
The second highly favored activity the kids voted on was more Outreach/Inreach projects. Last year our ministry organized three projects for the year. Feeding the homeless had the greatest participation of both youth and parents. How great is that?! Parents and Youth serving together – leading by example and getting better acquainted while serving.
This year our Outreach/Inreach will be available to all of our participating parents to organize throughout the year. The goal for this model is that parents will talk with their teen about where they feel passionate in serving and organize for other families in the ministry to participate in.
Social events ended up being last on our list, but it still functions the same as our Outreach/Inreach Model. Parents are encouraged to talk to their teen on what they would like to do as a group and organize it for other families.
Monthly gatherings at a parent’s home over a meal (including our parish priest) and Outreach/Inreach projects all work toward building relationships, making connections. If we take the time to honor (and offer) these opportunities, we can grow closer together as a community.
I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts on Youth in the Midwest, a subject very close to my heart.
Thanks for your note and I did receive your email from a few months ago, I plan on following up with you. Thanks for your patience. +Paul