Parish Youth Ministry Activities and Your Child
By Maggie Geene
The biggest single influence on your teen will come from his/her peer group. You can have some control over this now by encouraging your child to become involved with a group of friends that have the same values.
One way to assure this type of environment for your teenager, is to encourage involvement in the Youth Ministry offerings at your parish. In a recent CARA (at Georgetown University) Study of Youth Ministry programs around the country, it was found that 85% of youth who attend feel as though their faith questions are answered in youth ministry programs. It also found that young people who attend for a number of years are more likely to have strong faith.
Youth Ministry activities, while not always directly religious in nature, take place in a safe environment and are infused with Catholic values. While attending youth ministry activities your child will learn to be accepting of everyone as members of the Body of Christ, hear positive messages regarding chastity and morality, and openly discuss topics of interest to youth in light of Catholic faith). Most parishes have specially trained youth ministry staff members, and dedicated volunteers who are trying to help young people learn moral decision making skills as well as nurture their love for the church.
Of course, the most important component in your child's faith life is that you have a faith filled home. Let your child see that your faith is important to you. If you pray, read the bible, read other literature, talk about your faith, and talk about why you make decisions based upon your moral values, faith will be important to your children.
Most youth programming starts with middle school (around grade 6 or 7) at this age there really isn't much social activity for teens, so they see church activities as a way to get out with their friends. This often gets them in the habit of attending. By the time they reach high school they want to attend.
Talk to your teen's best friend's parents. There is power in numbers. If you both work on your teen and say that the other teen will be there, then they are both more likely to go. Encourage your teen to bring a friend (even someone who is not a member of your parish, Catholic or non-Catholic) with them.
Use attendance at youth activities at church as 'bargaining tools' to allow your teen to do other things. For example you will allow your teen to attend a football game with his/her friends, if he/she attends youth ministry activities at the church. Once your teen attends on a regular basis they might just find that they are enjoying themselves.
If transportation is a problem, suggest or offer to set up car pool lists for the parish. Offer to share rides with other parishioners who live in your area.
Get involved in your parish youth ministry program. There are many things that you can do as a parent to help the youth ministry program steer your child along the right path:
* volunteer time in the Youth Ministry office
* be part of the phone tree
* offer to drive a car pool
* offer to be on the refreshments committee
* help plan prayer services
* help plan service opportunities
* volunteer to teach a class or guest lecture on a topic of faith in which you have great interest
* volunteer your home for a youth bible study group
* pray for the youth ministry staff and volunteers
What you do now, can affect how you children perceive the importance of their faith lives in making right decisions as they grow into adulthood. Everything you do now to strengthen these decision making skills, and faith life habits will prepare them for the times when you cannot be with them.
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