Principles of Youth Ministry
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) currently bases its work with youth on two significant documents: Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation, Christus Vivit (2019), and the U.S. Bishops' pastoral framework, Renewing the Vision (1996). In addition, the Directory for Catechesis (2020), developed by the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, offers great insight into the Church's accompaniment and engagement with young people.
Christus Vivit, because its target demographic included those age 16 through those in their 30s, has serious implications for the Church's ministry with youth/adolescents. In this document, Pope Francis reminds us:
"The worlds of today's 'youth' are so many that in some countries one tends to speak of 'young people' in the plural. The age group considered by the Synod (16-29 years) does not represent a homogenous category, but is composed of distinct groups, each with its own life experience." (CV 68)
The Directory for Catechesis specifically notes that:
It is important that catechesis be carried out as part of pastoral care for young people and with a strongly education and vocation connotation, in the context of the Christian community and other adolescent life environment. (DFC 249)
When the bishops of the United States developed their framework for Catholic youth ministry, Renewing the Vision, they offered three goals, seven themes, and eight components to pastoral leaders and local communities to consider when accompanying adolescents in their midst. A full reading of this framework will provide great illumination to the work - and that document can be found here - but in short, here is the structure that the bishops offer for anyone called to witness the faith to young people:
Three Goals for Ministry with Adolescents:
1. To empower young people to live as disciples of Jesus Christ in our world today.
2. To draw young people to responsible participation in the life, mission, and work of the Catholic faith community.
3. To foster the total personal and spiritual growth of each young person.
Seven Themes of a Comprehensive Vision:
1. Developmentally Appropriate
2. Family Friendly
5. Community-Wide Collaboration
7. Flexible and Adaptable Programming
Eight Components of a Comprehensive Ministry:
3. Community Life
5. Justice and Service
6. Leadership Development
7. Pastoral Care
8. Prayer and Worship
These and other pieces of wisdom from the Church's teaching form the principles of Catholic youth ministry. Even as young people continually develop and grow through different generations and life experiences, these principles will still stand and will continue to add to the Church's ongoing conversations and teachings around youth and adolescents.