Believing that they belong benefits all
If all the youth ministers, past and present, sat down together to make a short list of the struggles related to their preparation of Confirmation students, it would be a safe bet that “they leave after they’re confirmed” would be in the top three. How do we change the “graduation” mentality that often exists regarding Confirmation?
While there are factors over which we have no control, there is one question we can ask that will affect change:
Is it possible that our youth don’t know where they fit in the life of our parishes?
It is a unique parish that isn’t adult-centric when it comes to enlisting ministry volunteers. What do our youth see whenever a ministry is promoted? Usually, it’s an adult standing at a microphone inviting parishioners to participate. The subtle message, although certainly unintended, is that this is an adult thing — led by adults and carried out by adults.
So, let’s help our youth see this differently — and show the ministries in our parishes how to help us invite our youth.
What you can do:
1. Have different ministries visit your classes or group meetings throughout the year to explain what they do. These ministries should come prepared with specific ways the youth can contribute to their particular mission. If a ministry has regular youth volunteers already, so much the better. Have the youth do the presenting. When the presentation is over, make sure the youth have the proper contact information for future involvement either by asking them to list it in their phones, or offer hard copies of the information.
2. For a different spin, hold a ministry fair specifically catered toward the youth of the parish. Ask each ministry to create a booth display and provide current volunteers to answer questions. Again, be prepared with specific ways that the youth can participate. “Come to our next event” will not work without giving their attendance a specific purpose. Hold this fair during class times or group meetings as opposed to something separate. (A captive audience is easier to keep!)
Whether you choose the first or second suggestion or are inspired to launch into a different approach, be sure to start long before the sacramental year. The sooner the youth believe they belong, the more likely they will be to stay once they’re confirmed.
Becky Groth is a writer for ODB Films.
This article was originally published in Catechist magazine, October 2019