I had a “successful” youth ministry, I had everything that I believed I needed in my parish ministry to build a huge and successful ministry. And I looked at the long term results of what the youth ministry had produced over several years – discovering that only a small fraction of the teens that came through my “successful” ministry were still practicing their faith as life-long disciples. The book is introduced by posing the question, “What is the difference maker between a teenager who becomes a life-long disciple of Jesus Christ and a teenager who walks away from the faith?”
If you look at big Catholic events like World Youth Day or big national Catholic Youth Conferences, it can seem like there is a large youth movement happening in our Church today. But the statistics don’t support this idea – in fact, every study done on youth in the Catholic Church today reveal that young people are leaving the Church at an alarming rate. The Church is in the midst of a New Evangelization, but we cannot hope for the New Evangelization to be successful if we are losing our youth. The first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one and correctly identifying the different factors and layers of the problem.
In order to understand why there is a crisis in Catholic Youth Ministry today, we must first understand what youth ministry is or what it is supposed to be. Youth Ministry in a missionary response – a response to the development of Youth Culture in the late twentieth century. It is fundamentally missionary, which means, in order to be successful, youth ministry must be relational. Good youth ministry is about identifying and addressing the basic pastoral needs of our youth today.
Pope Francis states that the structures that the Church has put into place are not meeting the basic needs of teens. If a person’s basic needs are not met, they never move to the point of self-actualization. The reason why teens don’t become life long disciples is because the structures in our youth ministries are not meeting a teen’s basic needs. In The Art of Forming Young Disciples, I identify the five basic needs of teens and why those needs have to be met in order for a teen to become a life long disciple.
Interested in learning more? Check out my book – The Art of Forming Young Disciples: Why Youth Ministries Aren’t Working and What to Do About It. The book is also available through Amazon.