I started working full-time in parish youth ministry in 2003. I had no experience of youth ministry growing up except an occasional diocesan event, and I had no formal Catholic formation except for classroom catechesis through the 10th grade (my parish didn’t offer anything after Confirmation). However, when I was 16 years old, I met someone involved in youth ministry, and something I experienced during my interaction with him moved me enough to know that youth ministry is what I was called to do with my life.

I begin with this to emphasize that since I had no experience (even as a youth) in youth ministry, my first instinct when I entered into it was to get online and find out what everyone else did. After striving to “do what everyone else did” and arguably being successful at it, I still found myself desiring more. My response was to put together a list of things I desired but wasn’t finding in my parish or in really any youth ministry model I read about. Discipleship Focused Youth Ministry is a response to the search for those things.

I lay this list out in my new book, so I thought it would just be easiest to share that snippet of the book here:

A ministry that was healthy and balanced for all involved

I found youth ministry to be more and more difficult once I got married and started having children. I desired a youth ministry model that allowed for a more balanced lifestyle for myself and my family, as well as all of the other volunteers and youth involved. I didn’t want to have to “do” and be in charge of everything, but I wanted to inspire and lead others. I truly believed that being a youth minister with a growing family was something that was possible, but not using the model and methods I had known before.

A ministry that was scalable and reproducible

Every time I sensed growth in my youth group, I noticed great tension in how we were going to continue doing what we were doing. When we had a lot of fun and games, we would lose the youth that desired to go deeper (or just didn’t like the games). When we would strive to go deeper, we would lose those who were not there yet. I desired a ministry model that met youth where they were at and that didn’t require a dramatic alteration because of a shift in the number of those involved. However that was done, it needed to be reproducible, which likely meant it would need to be very simple in nature as well. Whatever “process” or “approach” worked, I wanted to be able to duplicate it in order to make it accessible to as many youth as possible.

A ministry that was parish-focused

When working with a youth group model, it seemed very disconnected from the family life of the youth and even separate from the parish community. Like everyone else, I would strive to integrate and bring these components into the youth ministry, but my desire was not to have to force things together. Rather, I wanted youth ministry to flow from and out towards the life of the family and the parish community, as well as the Catholic schools.

A ministry that was customized based on the interest and needs of the youth

For many parishes, when a youth desires to be involved, they are asked two questions 1) what grade are you in? and 2) what gender are you? I desired a model that built on the needs of those involved instead of simply putting them with others because they were in the same grade. I desired that youth would be connected with others who would encourage them and hold them accountable in the ways in which they were being called to grow.

A ministry that targeted the youth through adults.

It took me awhile, but I finally discovered that my role was not to be the youth minister, but to train and form adults in the parish to be youth ministers. When that happened, I knew I desired a youth ministry model that was built on the understanding that it is not up to the youth minister to do everything, but to inspire the average Catholic in the parish to discover their charisms and use their gifts to bring others to know and love Christ.

These are some of the goals that I had set about five years into youth ministry. I knew that these were the things that I desired, but what I was doing in youth ministry was not creating these results. This is how Discipleship Focused Youth Ministry was born. It began by praying through tensions I was experiencing, but to which I truly believed God had answers.

If you are interested in reading the rest of the book, you can buy it here!

For the past five years, I have been able to help many parishes begin to make these shifts. I am extremely excited now to offer an entire 10 lesson online training course covering everything I’ve learned and currently provide to the parishes I work with. The course is currently open for enrollment, but it closes on December 6th. After December 6th, I’ll start walking with everyone who registers for the course and help them begin (or continue!) the shift towards Discipleship Focused Youth Ministry in their parishes.

If you are interested in the course, you can check it out here.  As a special gift for making it this far through this post, I’m offering a 10% discount on the course.  Simply enter the coupon code DREAMS and it will take off the 10% for you during checkout.

If you are not able to join the course, please do pray for me and for those involved in it. I pray that through the gift of technology, we might grow together to cultivate deeper discipleship in our own lives and in those whom we serve.