Parish Newsletter

A Service of the Parish Evaluation Project

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

 

October, 2009

A Working Model For Youth Ministry Catholic parishes put ministering to teenagers on the top of their priority lists, but success is hard to realize, at least to the extent found at St. Aloysius Parish in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (www.aloysius.org).  Youth director Steven Brooksher and fellow ministers have created a model that not only attracts large numbers of junior and senior high school students, but a significant number of parents and adults as well.   The secret to their success are the many coordinating groups that include both teenagers and adults   Choosing Teen Leaders A key ingredient of the ministry is the Youth Leadership Team (YLT) that is made up of 33 teens from the 10th, 11th and 12th grades.  Being chosen as a member of the YLT involves a five step process.  First the teenagers must apply to be on the team for either a one, two or three year term depending on what grade they are in.  Second  they write a paper on such topics as, “My experience of God,” “What unique gifts do I have to contribute,” “Why I feel called to be part of the YLT.”  These papers are reviewed by an adult team that meets on a monthly basis.  Third comes  the personal interviews conducted by the youth director and a group of adults to determine whether the applicant has the abilities and inclinations to be a good leader.  Fourth is the discernment process that includes not only adults but also seniors on the YLT who will soon be graduating from high school.  Finally, those who are chosen for the leadership team are assigned to either the Servant Team that handles the senior high level, or the SALT group – St. Aloysius Leadership Team – that works with the junior high.  The Servant Team is mostly juniors and seniors, the SALT has more sophomores and juniors.  Once this choice is made there follows an extensive training period so the teen leaders are equipped for their tasks.  Some will be assigned to the Liturgy Committee that works on the Sunday evening Mass, some will join the Special Events Committee that plans socials, others will be on the Service Committee that arranges mission projects and trips.  The rest work on planning teams that organize the Sunday gatherings for the youth – junior high on Sunday mornings and senior high on Sunday evenings.   Sunday Gatherings Ten Sunday gatherings for the senior high students happen each semester and six for the junior high.  The planning teams, made up of two adults and three teen leaders, handle two gatherings per semester.   A total of 350 senior high teenagers participate in at least one gathering throughout the year, with an average attendance of 150 to 175 per Sunday evening.  Each planning team works out a theme, using ideas from LifeTeen materials and other resources.  The planning teams are assisted by adults who help set up the environment and prepare the food.  The typical Sunday night schedule includes ice breakers and socializing at the beginning, then an interactive talk or presentation, followed by small group discussions facilitated by members of the Servant Team, and ends with food and music.  As the evening winds down the adults and teen leaders gather to assess what worked and what could be done better next time.  The Sunday morning gathering for the junior high averages 80 to 90 seventh and eighth graders.  It has a different focus that includes more games, shorter talks and pizza at the end.  What makes both the junior and senior high youth ministry successful is that it belongs to the teens.  The leadership comes from them, with support from the adults.  The teenagers are committed to this structure because it is such a positive experience for them.  Not only are they having fun together, they are doing good for others besides.  It is a worthwhile outlet for their enthusiasm and creativity.  The youth director does not rush in to rescue projects and events if they fail.  He expects much and the youth deliver.  They know they are respected and trusted.