One of our high school seniors, who received the Hands of Christ award this year, credits her involvement with our choir as one of the most important group of friends in her life. She loves the interaction of all the ages in this ministry and knows she always has a place that her talents and gifts are welcomed and valued. This is a place where she is nourished.
Our director of youth ministry in the Diocese of Rochester, Sue Versluys, notes in a newsletter that “the youth of today are more sophisticated, busier and more intuitive that those of years ago. Today when young people have a significant experience of God, they want to express it in very definite ways.” I find this to be so true.
Youth Ministry in the 21st Century
the early days of youth ministry “folk group” teen masses were one of
the ways to get the teens involved in the Mass. Other than altar
server, which at this time was only for boys, our teens were not seen
as participants ready to share in the ministries during Mass. They were considered the “future church”. In some parishes they still believe that. Those of us that have the privilege of working with our young know that that is no longer true. They are the church of “today”!
In our parish we know the value of our young. They are invested members of our church community. We see them in many roles within the Mass: Ministers of Communion; choir; contemporary music group; hand bell choir; ushers; lectors; and altar servers (which thankfully now includes our girls).
Outside of the Mass we see our young at many of the activities of our church community. Our commitment to our scouts encourages many of our young and adults to be active in their faith community through this wonderful program. Our CYO program is a ministry that has been active at Holy Cross for many years. Many of the coaches and leaders were themselves CYO participants when they were children. The constant emphasis on sportsmanship and faith keep so many involved in the parish life. We see in our program the older teens coming back to help the younger children as coaches or assistant coaches.
We would be lost without the help of our young people in our religious education program. They are teachers, assistants and office aides. Many of them come back to help out after they have completed their 8th grade education. We even have some of our younger Jr Hi tweens that come in on Sunday to help assist the teachers with the younger grades.
Our weekly teen ministry program draws a great group that is very active in all these aspects and more. They are enriched with their experiences from the many Diocesan and parish programs they attend. When we attend an NCYC or a parish retreat, they are given many different ways to strengthen their faith. This in turn blesses all of us. They have the opportunities at many of these events to experience many new and exciting liturgies. We are wise to ask for and welcome their involvement in all aspects of liturgy and music.
We all want to feel needed and valued. Our young people have this same need. Keeping this community of believers involved is a task to which we are all called. They seek a community where their needs are met and where they feel they belong. Let’s be sure that we continue to foster experiences in all aspects of our church community that meet these needs. We all benefit from their youth and energy.
Our youth here at Holy Cross have a parish that IS invested in their faith growth and know that they are part of a community that welcomes everyone’s giftedness no matter what their age. That’s Holy Cross Parish!