Last weekend, the team from Next Level Ministry was able to attend the National Conference on Catholic Youth Ministry (NCCYM). Over 3,000 people gathered to discuss how we as ministers and as a Church could better connect Christ to teens and families. Here are my 5 quick takes from the conference.

Evangelization > Catechesis

Bob Rice led a workshop diving into Renewing the Vision and some of the challenges we face 20 years after its publication. Renewing the Vision places both Catechesis and Evangelization as components of Youth Ministry. While this is true, it seems to implicitly places equal emphasis on both. The General Directory of Catechesis and the National Directory of Catechesis both place Catechesis as a movement within Evangelization. Thus, Dr. Rice suggested that in a renewed writing of Renewing the Vision, placing Evangelization as an overarching theme of youth ministry and not merely a component would be wise. The relationship was clearly described when Dr. Rice said, “All Catechists are evangelists, but not all evangelists are catechists.”

[tweetthis]“All Catechists are evangelists, but not all evangelists are catechists.” – @therealbobrice[/tweetthis]

5 Adults per Teen

Dr. Kara Powell, author of Sticky Faith, spoke of the reality that the average age of American Catholics has gone from 45 years old to 49 years old in the past 8 years. We need a younger church and she suggests that one way is to flip the script. Typically an off-site event would seek out an adult to teen ratio of 1 adult to every 5 teens. If every parish had 5 adults invested in each teen, things would be dramatically different. As a ministry leader, this seems impossible, but she explained that most of our structures could exist as they are. It would simply mean that we do a better job at engaging teens in all aspects of the faith community.

Here is how a parish could have 5 adults on the team of 1 teen.

1. Their small group leader.
2. The head usher that helps them serve during the liturgy.
3. Their Confirmation Sponsor.
4. The Coach that worked with them for the summer Catholic sport league.
5. The retired parishioner who sits in the same pew for the Mass they attend.

A cultural shift would occur as the entire parish would recognize that the function of Youth Ministry is not a compartmentalized aspect of the offerings of their parish, but rather a charism and responsibility of every parishioner. Imagine what your parish would look like if this took place.

There is Strength in Vulnerability

Dr. Roy Petifils, in a session examining outreach to LGBTQ teens, encouraged leaders to prudently share their struggles as growing Catholics. He reminded us that “Vulnerability is the price of admission for relationship with teens.” This takes both courage and digression so that it is showcased in an appropriate way, but we must not showcase a whitewashed tomb. Faith is messy, and that is part of its beauty.

[tweetthis]Faith is messy, and that is part of its beauty. #catholic #catholicchurch #youthministry[/tweetthis]

Our Best Days are Ahead of Us

Bishop Frank Caggiano gave us a message of hope. In the midst of what seems to be a shrinking and ageing Church, we must not forget that we are a people of hope. Our God is powerful and the world hungers for God in new ways. He boldly stated that “The Church is not ending. The Church has her best days in front of her.” Let’s seek to engage the new frontiers where God’s love is desperately needed.

Back to Basics

Chris Stefanic shared that “Outside the context of the Kerygma (the basic Gospel message) the doctrines of the Church make no sense.” This was a call to put God’s love and mercy in the spotlight of all of our work. Simply put, this is the work of Evangelization. Examine your parish’s formation programs in light of this quote. Sometimes I think that many know all about the character Jesus through quality catechesis, but they have never encountered the person.

[tweetthis remove_hidden_hashtags=”true”]Put God’s love & mercy in the spotlight of your work. This is the work of Evangelization.[/tweetthis]

The Conference was inspirational. There are so many who desire that young people come to know the Lord. If you are reading this it is clear to me that you are one of them. Take a quick moment to say a prayer for your brothers and sisters who seek to be the hands and feet of Christ to you. Thanks for all you do.