A safe, happy place for young people
to grow in relationship with each other, the faith community and Christ
Starting a Youth Group
Questions to ask
There are many ways to work with young people and starting a youth group is just one of them. If, after prayer and discussion, you think this is the way forward for your partnership / parish then here are a few things to think about:
What is your hope for the young people who come? Spending some time reflecting on this will give a focus as to how the group is established.
You may wish to offer this opportunity to Year 6 or you may be thinking of gathering young people post Confirmation. The age of the young people and the geography of the local area may help to determine if the group is parish based, working across several parishes or partnership-wide.
They may not be the same thing. Young people don’t always know what they could be missing out on, yet equally listening to their needs is essential. Listening starts with building relationships and simply being there for the young people. Young people need the presence of caring adults if they are to experience belonging to our faith community.
What are your priorities as a parish and partnership when you think about the young people you wish to reach out to? Working through the reasons why you start a particular group will take time and consideration. Ensuring young people know what they are signing up for is definitely worth being sure of.
Young people need to experience a sense of belonging and the youth group provides a safe space to build relationships and have fun. It is also an opportunity to grow in faith and experience different ways of praying. Finally, it is a place to be invited and inspired to serve and put faith into action. Over a year the youth group programme can incorporate all these activities but, each time the group meets, take some time to remember all three.
Some youth groups have a specialised focus on Social Action such as Mini Vinnies, Youth SVP, YCW, CAFOD Young Leaders and Justice and Peace Groups. These groups naturally include prayer and social time in their programmes. See Opportunities for Youth
Do we have enough adults who are willing and have the time available to commit to supporting the youth group?
Set realistic, doable targets when discerning how often the group will meet.
It is important that the adult helpers and volunteers have a good understanding of their involvement and the importance of meeting together regularly to pray, plan and discuss their own development as a group of helpers as well as the development of their youth group.
Who are the adults who will lead / help? See the check list below for Safeguarding and Health and Safety requirements. Contact YMT if adult leaders or helpers would like some training.
Starting a youth group is exciting, nerve wracking potentially and full of hope and excitement. It is a great thing you are doing! Be encouraged.
‘We started our youth group to help young people feel comfortable in a church setting. We put on lots of activities and welcomed them warmly. That was really important to us.’
As well as getting everything ready beforehand, there are some things to think about to ensure things work well.
Take some time out with other volunteers. Commit at least one hour to pray, reflect and discuss your starting point. Then plan of how you will move forward. Perhaps you could record your discussions.
Youth Groups - Tips for Successful Running
- Meet as an adult group at least once per term
- Pray for the group and the helpers
- Plan one term at a time, with the ‘long-term’ in sight too, but the ‘short term’ makes it manageable.
- Ask what the young people want, but have a plan in your head too. Young people need guidance and help. Often they do not know what is possible. Giving opportunities and building relationships with young people leads you to a place where you can ask this question.
- Encourage all adults to be there early – minimum of two and correct ratios
- Be vigilant throughout the evening, being present in all situations and responding as needed to ensure everyone’s safety and enjoyment.
- Take time after clear up to have a short de-brief with volunteers. This gives everyone a chance to check in, ensure all is well and think about what needs to be done or adjusted next time.
The 1997 General Directory for Catechesis describes six stages in the process of Evangelisation.
Writing about youth catechesis, Maura Hagarty has viewed the same process from the perspective of a young person coming into a relationship with Christ and participating fully in the life of the Church.
She proposes six stages but sometimes, with the best of intentions, we give less consideration to stages 1,2 and 3.
Young people are part of our community and so we seek to nurture their sense of belonging recognising that, without them, we are incomplete. Together with young people, the whole Church is called to witness and serve so that God’s kingdom is built in our world. Such a youth ministry needs to be intergenerational, family friendly and community wide.
What might a parish look like when this happens?
Thomas East in ‘Effective Practices for Dynamic Youth Ministry’ (2004) suggests that when youth ministry is thriving, the whole parish community thrives. He writes:
‘A parish is the place where you live your lives in community as disciples. Despite the weaknesses or challenges in your community, making the effort to forge a strong relationship between youth and the parish is worth your best efforts, prayers, and leadership.’
“We took our young people to different experiences over a number of years. Some of our young people couldn’t always come, but they knew the opportunity was there. One of them thanked us for the fact that we kept asking without any pressure. That made the difference.”
Kath, Parishioner working with young people
Here's an idea...
- Why not consider starting a youth group by attending an organised event. This way the ‘meeting’ is ready made for you. This can be a valuable experience which you can build upon at other points in the year. Being generous with invitations is key to encouraging young people to participate.
- Incorporating ‘events’ into your programme:
Depending on the age range of the group, organise the youth group programme to include the dates for The Source (Year 9 and above) or The Event (Years 6 to 8). Include parish or partnership events. The Youth Group is part of the whole community and it is important to invite and enable young people to take their place in it as well as to have special ‘youth group’ time. An example of a community event could be a summer fayre, a parish picnic, a Christmas party or a Partnership pilgrimage.
Youth Group Checklist
Purpose of the group
- Parish bulletin notices
- Notices / posters to churches
- Notices / posters to schools
Risk Assessments completed
DBS checks completed
Parental consent forms for participants
A sign-in register at each event
Ensuring Diocesan Guidelines are followed is essential when working with young people. Time taken to get this right cannot be omitted and the training undertaken will be invaluable later. Take advice to put the steps in place.