Kairos: Volume 20, Issue 06
Among the many fruits that World Youth Day has brought the Church are an undeniable renewal of energy and interest in the faith among youth. WYD has set the bar high for creating faith-filled experiences that attract today’s average young person.
The challenge now facing many youth leaders in parishes, organisations and communities around Melbourne is how to take advantage of the buzz and energy ignited by WYD. How can they translate this buzz into a sustainable youth ministry in parishes?
The recent Foundations in Youth Ministry training course offered by the Archdiocesan Office for Youth not only offered youth leaders practical knowledge in starting and sustaining a youth group, but, more importantly, aimed to empower them as young leaders in the Church, playing an integral role in drawing their peers to Christ.
Held over the four weeks of March, the course drew more than 200 participants, with talks by Bishop Tim Costelloe, Bishop Chris Prowse, Fr Chris Ryan MGL, youth minister John Riddle, members of the AOY team and testimonies by parish leaders from St Simon’s, Rowville, and St Peter Chanel’s, Deer Park.
Bishop Tim began the course by explaining that youth ministry formed a fundamental part of the Church’s overall mission to evangelise. “Ministry is allowing Christ to work in and through you to set people free to live life to the full. We are all called – through our baptism – to continue Christ’s mission and help young people see all that the Gospels can offer them.”
The following week, Bishop Chris Prowse challenged each youth leader to bear witness to Christ, quoting Pope Paul VI: “‘People listen to witnesses more than teachers. And if they do listen to teachers, it is because they are first witnesses’ (Pope Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi). Your job as youth ministers is to propose Christ to your peers, not to impose Christ. Join us (bishops) on the mission to evangelise.”
Fr Chris Ryan offered participants a look at the various leadership styles, and how “a young Catholic leader is not interested in ‘hero leadership’, but rather being a servant leader, just like Christ was to his disciples”.
The course also offered participants a look at the practical elements of youth ministry. Drawing from his many years of experience as a youth minister, John Riddle (Paddy’s Catholic Youth Services) informed the group of the various parts of a parish and the important place that the youth group held there.
The participants were also challenged to think about how they could promote their youth group, about the importance of having a mission vision and about having a healthy balance between all aspects of youth ministry.
Various programs were also presented for youth leaders to implement in their parishes, also advice on how to plan events, networking, and the constant need to provide proper formation and mentoring to their peers.
Many youth leaders found the course informative and inspirational.
“Listening to the Bishops speak with passion for youth was what I enjoyed most. They were direct and straight to the point but very inspiring,” said a leader from Chelsea.
Another from Deer Park said he felt more empowered by the content presented. “I learned how to better myself as a person and a leader, and to be a good example to the youth of my parish. It was good to learn about the foundations of youth ministry and why we do what we do.”
For others, the course was a humbling experience. One participant said: “I realised how youth in other parishes work very hard to start their youth ministry. I (now) appreciate more what our group already has.
“What I enjoyed the most was group discussions afterwards. It gave my fellow leaders and me the chance to discuss what we had heard and review what we’ve been doing in our parish. The course offered a lot of suggestions, and has got us thinking more about what we can do.”
AOY director Teresa Wilson said the office planned to offer more workshops on specific youth ministry topics later in the year. “It is obvious that a large part of our ministry to young people is empowering them as leaders in their own youth groups. Our office is planning a workshop day where leaders can come and choose which topics they would like to listen to most – from mentoring and spiritual formation, writing a mission vision for the group, program planning, to budgeting and event planning.
“We are also hosting a networking session for all youth coordinators and leaders from around Melbourne on Wednesday 6 May. This will be a good opportunity for the leaders to connect and continue to learn from each other’s experiences in youth ministry.” To read the notes from the Foundations in Youth Ministry training course or for more information on the youth leaders networking session, visit www.aoy.org.au or call the AOY office on 9412 8400.