STARTING A YOUNG ADULT MINISTRY

Starting a young adult ministry where one has not existed is a difficult but worthwhile task. A difficulty when starting a young adult ministry is communicating that it is not a club or a group but a ministry. After talking with the parish priest, contact the Diocesan Office for Youth & Young Adults for guidance. They may be able to refer you to others who successfully have started young adult groups within the diocese.

MINISTRY VS. ORGANIZATION
This is a ministry of the Church, not an organization or club. It is simply a ministry for the faithful of the Church who share the same stages of life and common interests. Furthermore, this is a spiritual ministry based upon the theological tenets of the Catholic Church.

PARTICIPANTS VS. MEMBERS
Participation solely depends on being open to understanding the Catholic faith. A young adult who participates is not classified as a member or non-member. If he/she is a member of the Faith, he/she belongs! Therefore, these young adults should be called participants rather than members. Moreover, if a non-Catholic wishes to participate in the young adult programs, do not be afraid to offer ministry to them.

GETTING STARTED
With the guidance of the parish priest(s) and your parish’s Pastoral Council and/or Parish Life Commission, organize a small committee of interested young adults. This committee should consist of a cross-section of different young adults in the community. The parish priest(s) should be invited to hold an advisory role on the committee. This group should be diverse in its make-up, but united in its mission. They should meet regularly to consider the needs of the parish, determine goals, and plan an initial activity.

NEEDS ASSESSMENT
It is important to take an inventory of your community and the young adults in it. Consider the following questions:

- How many young adults could this group (or groups) potentially serve and facilitate?
- What other activities are these young adults already involved in that might conflict with these activities?
- What do the young adults like doing?
- Where do they like going?
- What do the young adults want from this ministry?
- How often should this ministry meet?
- What resources does the parish have to assist this ministry?

GOALS AND PLAN
After completing the assessment of your parish community, develop some preliminary goals of the young adult ministry. Consider the following questions using information from your needs assessment.

- What purpose will this ministry serve?
- How will we meet this purpose? (activities, meetings)
- What resources are available to support the purpose of this ministry?
- When is the best time to hold activities?
- What do we want to do for our initial activity?
- What will be the different roles and responsibilities of those involved?
- How will we communicate and plan activities?
- How will we track new members?
- How can we collaborate with other ministries in our parish(es)?
- How can we collaborate with other nearby young adult ministries?

INITIAL ACTIVITY
The initial activity should be a fellowship activity that is indicated by the needs assessment as something the young adults are interested in. The purpose of this activity is to get people interacting. The activity should be cost free, and having food is always a good idea. At the end of the activity, take ten minutes to review the plans for young adult ministry and gather input from the young adults in attendance. Additionally, have a date selected for the next gathering and hand out its itinerary there. Be sure to have everyone sign in and record his or her e-mail address.

PUBLICITY
This organizing committee should send an introductory letter to all of the potential young adults, to let them know about the formation of the young adult ministry. There should also be an invitation to the first activity. Although sending out invitations assures some communication of that information, it is impersonal. Whenever possible, the invitation should be followed with a phone call or personal e-mail. Different young adults in the community should share in the communication so that the burden does not fall on one person. The activity should also be listed in the church’s monthly and weekly bulletins. As the group grows, have different young adults alternate when calling about meetings. It is not necessary to call everyone all the time, but it is important to call new participants or those who do not attend as frequently. E-mail is another great way to send out meeting notices and quick reminders the day before. By communicating what is going on in the group and having the young adults reach out to one another, the group will grow over time.

INTEGRATION INTO THE PARISH COMMUNITY
It is important to remember that young adult ministry is not limited to young adult activities; when a young adult serves as a lector or in the choir, that’s young adult ministry! Leaders should consider ways to integrate young adults into the liturgical and sacramental life of the parish, and should seek opportunities to serve on other leadership bodies of the parish (Pastoral Council, etc.).

YEARLY MAINTENANCE
Every year, the group (or groups) will experience some fluctuation in size as young adults enter different stages of their life. Therefore, special efforts should be made to keep the ministry strong and healthy. When it is evident that a certain individual is not participating in activities, a special effort should be made to reach out to that young adult and bring them back to the ministry. Ways to do this are:

- Have a peer contact them by e-mail, phone, or personal visit
- Send a "We Miss You" letter

It is important to ensure that the young adult ministry is meeting the needs of the young adults involved. Occasionally, and at least once per year, those involved should evaluate the program to see if it is accomplishing its goals.

Adapted from Young Adult Ministry Guidelines, Archdiocesan Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Garrison, NY 10524, with unique material from Kevin Driscoll, Diocese of Gary.

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RECOMMENDED READING

Sons and Daughters of the Light: A Pastoral Plan for Ministry with Young Adults (USCCB, 1997). Available for free online or buy it here

Connecting Young Adults to Catholic Parishes: Best Practices in Catholic Young Adult Ministry, by USCCB Publishing (2010). Print or ebook purchase here

The Basic Guide to Young Adult Ministry, by John C. Cusick & Katherine F. Devries (Orbis, 2001).


A MODEL FOR YOUNG ADULT MINISTRY

• In this model, the ministry’s overall program calendar includes a mix of social, spiritual, and service events.

• Some programs might overlap. For example, Theology On Tap is usually both spiritual and social, but if you asked participants for a canned good donation, it might be all three.

 

2 MODELS FOR YOUNG ADULT MINISTRY LEADERSHIP

• In this model of leadership the entire team “charts a course,” then the work is divided up according to the talents of its members.

• In this model of leadership one coordinator, or a small central committee might determine the events, or “chart a course,” then delegate to one or more persons to lead an event according to their area of specialty.