The three interdependent goals for ministry with youth focus our attention on different emphases for promoting an active discipleship in young people:
Goal 1: Youth Ministry works to foster the total personal and spiritual growth of each young person. This goal emphasizes becoming. Our understanding of the unique life tasks and social-cultural context of adolescents provides direction for fostering their growth in discipleship and Catholic identity. We promote growth by addressing the unique developmental and social needs of young and older adolescents, by promoting the internal assets of young people through personal guidance and specialized programming, and by strengthening the external structure that provides support and encouragement for this growth. We help youth develop a deeper and more personal relationship with Jesus Christ; experience a sense of personal well-being, security and peace; grow spiritually through study, reflection, prayer, and discussion with others; and develop a deeper understanding of the Scripture and Catholic Christian tradition and their applicability to life in today’s complex society.
Goal 2: Youth Ministry seeks to draw young people to responsible participation in the life, mission, and work of the faith community. This goal emphasizes belonging. Active engagement of youth in the Christian community’s life and mission provides an important context for growth and overcomes the danger of marginalizing youth in the Church, segregating them from centers of power, responsibility and commitment in community life. Community provides a context for the healthy development of Catholic Christian values and identity, a community of engagement for youth, and opportunities to develop positive relationships between adolescents and adult Catholic Christian role models. This goal challenges us to provide the meaningful participation youth require, to support family life, and to integrate young people into the life of the faith community.
Goal 3: Youth Ministry empowers young people to become disciples of Jesus Christ who witness to their faith by living and working for justice, peace, and human dignity. This goal emphasizes transforming and serving. Helping young people realize that their faith in Jesus Christ calls them to serve others and work toward a world that is built on the values of the Reign of God is an essential task for youth ministry.
We do this by helping young people integrate faith and life, develop life-affirming Gospel values, develop skills for serving others and advocating for social change, and become personally involved in action. We are called to take on an activist or experiential focus so that young people can learn how to be a disciple by being a disciple. We need to provide concrete ways by which the demands of discipleship can be personally experienced. A youth ministry that promotes discipleship will be a ministry in which adolescents’ resources are tried and tested, in which their present capacities and skills are stretched to the limits, and in which the excitement and daring of being a Christian is experienced personally. Young people need to have a true opportunity for testing out and exploring what discipleship in the church and world might ultimately involve.
Our challenge is to help youth use their considerable energy and efforts in positive ways. There is nothing that can compare with the increase in sensitivity to others, sense of personal value, and compassion that adolescents develop when adults provide concrete structures to channel their energy. Combined with this involvement is reflection which brings them to new insights and a more positive view of themselves, their world, and their future.