Although the Catholic Church has provided guidance to its followers for nearly 2,000 years, only recently has it made efforts to work directly with youth. Youth ministry is emerging as a viable career path for those interested in merging their faith with their passion for service. Jobs for directors of religious activities and education (including youth ministers) are projected to increase 4 percent by 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Catholic Church is no exception. The growing popularity of youth ministry in the Catholic Church is the result of specific goals and reforms brought about by the Church’s desire to further engage young people in the Catholic faith.
A Brief History of Catholic Youth Ministry
Prior to 1976, the Catholic Church had no distinct protocol in the United States for providing spiritual guidance specifically to children and teens. Youth ministry was officially identified as a distinct endeavor in 1976 with the publication of A Vision of Youth Ministry, a document published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). A Vision of Youth Ministry recognized for the first time the importance of administering the Church’s services directly to adolescents. It outlined the Church’s goals, values, and methods of implementation for this new effort. The USCCB states that the document “was the catalyst for a dramatic increase in new and innovative pastoral practice with adolescents.”
In 1997, USCCB published Renewing the Vision — A Framework for Catholic Youth Ministry, an update to the 1976 publication. It reaffirmed the Church’s intentions of working with youth and expanded the framework on that practice. The document presented updated guidelines and goals, as well as outlined the components of the Church’s work with young people. These components included advocacy, catechesis, community life, evangelization, justice and service, leadership development, pastoral care, and prayer and worship. Renewing the Vision continues to be the guiding document for contemporary Catholic youth ministry today.
Qualifications and Responsibilities of Catholic Youth Ministers
Catholic youth minsters require qualifications and proficiencies in numerous areas. These include:
- Possessing a Bachelor of Arts in Theology or Pastoral Ministry
- Possessing a substantial working knowledge of the principles of comprehensive ministry as described in Renewing the Vision
- Having a thorough understanding of the goals, components and principles of youth ministry as described in the document
- A solid comprehension of sacramental theology, Catholic morality and adolescent catechesis
- Full familiarization with their particular diocese’s Decree on Child Protection
A unique feature of Renewing the Vision was its encouragement of religious leaders to abandon a singular prescriptive way of providing spiritual guidance to youth. As a result, the general responsibilities of youth ministers now vary tremendously.
Generally, Catholic youth ministers are responsible for serving parishioners from sixth to 12th grade. They develop and coordinate regular activities while facilitating catechesis and confirmation. Other responsibilities may include:
- Creating and facilitating Bible study classes
- Coordinating social gatherings and social outreach
- Facilitating parenting programs
- Arranging for church youth to participate in larger programs of the Catholic Church, such as World Youth Day
- Balancing budgets and performing administrative duties
- Keeping the parish and faith communities informed of youth events
- Continual religious learning
- Being aware of local organizations that interface with youth
A notable part of youth ministry is the development of relationships and collaboration with other church staff. These may include directors of faith formation and family ministry, social justice leaders and the Youth Ministry Commission, among others. Youth ministers also serve as liaisons with the diocesan office of youth ministry and its programs.
Ministry Education at BUonline
The field of youth ministry continues to gain traction as a career path within the Catholic Church. Brescia University’s online Bachelor of Arts in Theology program can support students seeking to deepen their spiritual service. Brescia’s flexible course scheduling and fully online program allow students to earn their degree conveniently, helping them accelerate their careers in assisting young people of faith.