Renewing the Vision

Renewing the Vision: A Framework for Catholic Youth Ministry builds on the fine tradition begun by the 1976 document, A Vision of Youth Ministry. To respond to the new challenges and opportunities of our day the Catholic bishops of the United States offer this document as a blueprint for the continued development of effective ministry with young and older adolescents. 

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Goals for Ministry with Adolescents

"No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends"
- Jn 15:13

Youth ministry should begin to teach adolescents what a life of discipleship looks like.  As baptized members of the Church, youth are called to serve others and to serve Christ, bringing about the Kingdom of God in unique ways.  It is the youth minister, pastor, or parent's job to empower adolescents to live Christian lives of discipleship.  Youth are empowered when they are welcomed into a Church that speaks to their hearts with the "joy of the Gospel and the strength of the Eucharist" (St. John Paul II, 1995 World Day of Prayer for Vocations).  When youth frequently engage the Gospel, challenge their spiritual lives, and are shown the adventure of discipleship through the Church they can begin to commit themselves totally to Jesus Christ in concrete ways. 

There are four notable communities that help youth grow in faith.  They are the Family Community, the Parish Community, the Catholic School Community, and the Youth-Serving Organizational Community.  When youth are drawn to these communities, they better understand what it means to live in a faith community.

Family Community

The family is the "first community and the most basic way in which the Lord gathers us, forms us, and acts in the world" (Follow the Way of Love, p.8). The family is responsible for the spiritual, moral, and overall development of adolescents by faith sharing in the home. This requires parents to love and support their children, but it also challenges adolescents to "enhance family live with their love and faith" and to bring new understandings and skills into the home that will enrich family life (Renewing the Vision). Every family member plays a role in building a community where love can dwell.

Parish Community

It is important for youth to engage the Parish community because parishes "are the place where God's people meet Jesus in word and sacrament" in a concrete way (Renewing the Vision). Youth-friendly parishes do three things to foster adolescent spiritual growth.  First, parishes should allow youth to serve the parish along with adults.  When adolescents feel welcomed into the parish community as full-fledged members, they are more likely to identify as a community member. Second, parishes must allow youthful energy and vision in parish activities. Young people have a great deal to offer parish ministry, and when they can  express their faith through meaningful roles, they develop a spirit of commitment to the parish community. Finally, if parishes truly desire to become "youth-friendly", it is crucial to value adolescents. This means listening to them and responding to their needs, as well as providing them with facilities and money to enable their growth as disciples.  If the parish wants youth to commit to parish life, the parish must commit to the development of the youth.

"In partnership with parents and parishes, Catholic schools prepare young people to become full and active members of the Catholic Church."
-Renewing the Vision
Catholic School Community

The Catholic School is a living faith community where adolescents can deepen their understanding of the Catholic faith both inside and outside of the classroom.  Campus ministry should demonstrate effective ministerial strategies to youth including effective religious education, service projects, retreats, and other activities. Catholic education and campus ministry must strengthen and empower youth to use their gifts and talents in the wider Church community.

Youth-Serving Organizational Community

It is important for youth to go beyond their family, parish, and school communities to serve the greater Church community.  Catholic service leaders have a duty to reach out to young people in order to form them as young disciples who can bear witness to the gospel message. Service organizations are communities where youth can learn about joyful giving while being spiritually challenged to love others as Christ does.

"The Church is concerned for the whole person, addressing the young people's spiritual needs in the context of his or her whole life" (Renewing the Vision).  Youth ministry in the Church should promote holistic growth and development; that is, growth and development of the entire person.  Ministers and leaders must listen to the specific developmental, social, and religious needs and nurture them accordingly.

Part One: The Growth and Development of the Church's Ministry with Adolescents
Part Two:  Goals for Ministry with Adolescents
  • Goal 1: To empower young people to live as disciples of Jesus Christ in our world today.
  • Goal 2: To draw young people to responsible participation in the life, mission, and work of the Catholic faith community.
  • Goal 3: To foster the total personal and spiritual growth of each young person.
Part Three: Themes and Components for a Comprehensive Ministry with Adolescents
Part Four: A Guiding Image for Ministry with Adolescents


For the Spanish translation, "Renovemos la Visión," click "En Español" on the tool bar above.


The Ministry of Advocacy

The Ministry of Advoca

Couple are distressed while paying bills. Open your mouth in behalf of the [mute], and for the rights of the destitute; Open your mouth, decree what is just, defend the needy and the poor (Prv 31:8–9).

We seek to shape a society—and a world—with a clear priority for families and children [adolescents] in need and to contribute to the development of policies that help families protect their children's lives and overcome the moral, social, and economic forces that threaten their future. . . . As believers and citizens, we need—each of us—to use our values, voices, and votes to hold our public officials accountable and to shape a society that puts our children first (Putting Children and Families First, pp. 1, 7).

The ministry of advocacy engages the Church to examine its priorities and practices to determine how well young people are integrated into the life, mission, and work of the Catholic community. It places adolescents and families first by analyzing every policy and program—domestic, parish-based, diocesan, and international—for its impact on adolescents and families. Poor, vulnerable, and at-risk adolescents have first claim on our common efforts. The ministry of advocacy struggles against economic and social forces that threaten adolescents and family life, such as poverty, unemployment, lack of access to affordable health care, lack of decent housing, and discrimination. The ministry of advocacy supports policies and programs that support and empower adolescents and their families and works to overcome poverty, provide decent jobs, and promote equal opportunity. In all advocacy efforts we must remember to focus on adolescents and families with the greatest need. This is the "option for the poor" in action (Putting Children and Families First).

As a Church, we need to provide strong moral leadership; to stand up for adolescents, especially those who are voiceless and powerless in society. We call upon all ministry leaders and faith communities to use the resources of our faith community, the resources and talents of all our people, and the opportunities of this democracy to shape a society more respectful of the life, dignity, and rights of adolescents and their families.

The ministry of advocacy includes

  • affirming and protecting the sanctity of human life as a gift from God and building societal respect for those who most need protection and support—the unborn, the poor, the disadvantaged, the sick, and the elderly;
  • standing with and speaking on behalf of young people and their families on public issues that affect their lives, such as support for education, quality housing, employment opportunities, access to health care, safe neighborhoods, and availability of meaningful community activities and services (We can help lift up the moral and human dimensions of public issues, calling the faith community to informed participation in the political process. We need to find ways to influence the political arena without being partisan: joining legislative networks, community organizations, and other advocacy groups. In election years, we can sponsor educational programs and forums to involve and inform others. Adolescents cannot be heard in the clamor of political and community debate and thus need strong champions for their interests.);
  • empowering young people by giving them a voice and calling them to responsibility and accountability around the issues that affect them and their future (This involves education, leadership training, skills building, and organization to mobilize young people for action.);
  • developing partnerships and initiatives with leaders and concerned citizens from all sectors of the community to develop a shared vision and practical strategies for building a healthy community. These partnerships also create opportunities for community-wide initiatives to address critical issues affecting adolescents and their families.

The ministry of advocacy encourages the Church to examine its practice of fully integrating adolescents into the life of the Church. How are the voices of young people honored and heard in the Church? How are the gifts, talents, and energy of young people respected and utilized within our faith communities? It is imperative that the Church models what it advocates for society.


The Ministry of Catechesis

The Ministry of Catechesis

Young girl reads the bible. Quite early on, the name catechesis was given to the totality of the Church's efforts to make disciples, to help people believe that Jesus is the Son of God so that believing they might have life in his name, and to educate and instruct them in this life, thus building up the Body of Christ (Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 4). The ministry of catechesis helps adolescents develop a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and the Christian community, and increase their knowledge of the core content of the Catholic faith. The ministry of Catechesis also helps young people enrich and expand their understanding of the Scriptures and the sacred tradition and their application to life today, and live more faithfully as disciples of Jesus Christ in their daily lives, especially through a life of prayer, justice, and loving service. Genuine faith is a total response of the whole person—mind, heart, and will. The ministry of catechesis fosters growth in Catholic faith in all three dimensions—trusting (heart), knowing and believing (mind), and doing (will). The goal should be to have all Catholic youth involved in some program of catechesis.

The ministry of catechesis with adolescents has several distinct features that give direction to catechetical programming. Specifically, catechesis with adolescents

  • recognizes that faith development is lifelong and therefore provides developmentally appropriate content and processes around key themes of the Catholic faith that are responsive to the age-appropriate needs, interests, and concerns of young and older adolescents;
  • teaches the core content of the Catholic faith as presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church—the profession of faith, celebration of the Christian mystery, life in Christ, and Christian prayer—in order to provide a solid foundation for continued growth in faith;
  • integrates knowledge of the Catholic faith with the development of practical skills for living the Catholic faith in today's world;
  • utilizes the life experience of adolescents, fostering a shared dialogue between the life of the adolescent—with its joys, struggles, questions, concerns, and hopes—and the wisdom of the Catholic faith;
  • engages adolescents in the learning process by incorporating a variety of learning methods and activities through which adolescents can explore and learn important religious concepts of the Scriptures and Catholic faith. A variety of learning approaches keeps interest alive among adolescents and responds to their different learning styles;
  • involves group participation in an environment that is characterized by warmth, trust, acceptance, and care, so that young people can hear and respond to God's call (This fosters the freedom to search and question, to express one's own point of view, and to respond in faith to that call.);
  • provides for real-life application of learning by helping adolescents apply their learning to living more faithfully as Catholic adolescents—considering the next steps that they will take and the obstacles that they will face;
  • promotes family faith development through parish and school programs by providing parent education programs and resources, by incorporating a family perspective in catechetical programming, and by providing parent-adolescent and intergenerational catechetical programming;
  • recognizes and celebrates multicultural diversity by including stories, songs, dances, feasts, values, rituals, saints, and heroes from the rich heritage of various cultures;
  • incorporates a variety of program approaches including parish and school programs; small-group programs; home-based programs, activities, and resources; one-on-one and mentoring programs; and independent or self-directed programs or activities;
  • explicitly invites young people to explore the possibility of a personal call to ministry and the beauty of the total gift of self for the sake of the kingdom.

The ministry of catechesis most effectively promotes the faith development of young and older adolescents when the curriculum is focused on important faith themes drawn from the teachings of the Church and on the developmental needs and life experiences of adolescents. The following faith themes have demonstrated their significance within the context of lifelong faith development and learning. Their selection is designed to "shed the light of the Christian message on the realities which have great impact on the adolescent" (GCD 84). This framework, organized around the four pillars of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is offered as the basis of developing a catechetical curriculum for younger and older adolescents. Additional faith themes may need to be included to address local needs. 10

Faith Themes for Young Adolescents

The Profession of Faith

  • Catholic Beliefs—understanding the Creed and the core beliefs of the Catholic faith.
  • Holy Trinity—introduction to God's unique self-revelation as three in one and some implications for living Christian faith and spiritual life.
  • Jesus Christ—exploring the meaning of the Incarnation, the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection, and the call to discipleship.
  • Church—understanding the origins of the Church in Jesus Christ and understanding and experiencing the history of the Church and its mission.

The Sacraments of Faith

  • Sacraments—understanding the role of the sacraments in the Christian life and experiencing the Church's celebration of the sacraments.
  • The Church—understanding the reason for and beauty of the Church; identifying the necessity of the Church for our salvation.
  • Church Year—understanding the meaning of the liturgical seasons of the Church year and the scriptural teachings presented through the Lectionary.

The Life of Faith

  • Life in the Spirit—understanding how the Spirit dwells in our midst in a new way since Pentecost and understanding that God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
  • The Dignity of the Human Person—recognizing the divine image present in every human person.
  • Morality and Living a Virtuous Life—incorporating Catholic moral principles and virtues into one's life and moral decision making.
  • Personal Growth—discerning the Spirit at work in their lives and incorporating the Catholic vision of life into personal identity.
  • Relationships—developing and maintaining relationships based on Catholic values and the meaning of Christian community.
  • Sexuality—understanding the Church's teaching on sexual morality, understanding the Church's positive view of sexuality as a gift from God, and understanding the importance of valuing chastity and sexual restraint.
  • Social Justice and Service—understanding the importance of respecting the rights and responsibilities of the human person, appreciating our call to be stewards of creation, and discovering and living Jesus' call to a life of loving service.
  • Grace as Gift—recognizing God's indwelling spirit in our lives and responding to this gift, which justifies and sanctifies us through God's law. 
  • Lifestyles and Vocation—discerning how to live the Christian vocation in the world, in the workplace, and in marriage, single life, ministerial priesthood, permanent diaconate, or consecrated life.

Prayer in the Life of Faith

  • Christian Prayer—understanding and experiencing the many forms of prayer in the Church—especially prayer through the church year—and the importance of the "Our Father" in Christian prayer.

Faith Themes for Older Adolescents

The Profession of Faith

  • Jesus Christ—discovering the meaning of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and what this means for living in Christ's spirit today.
  • The Mystery of the Trinity—understanding and experiencing the triune God.
  • Revelation—understanding the revelation of sacred scripture and sacred tradition.
  • Old Testament—developing the knowledge and tools to read the Old Testament and to understand its meaning and challenge for us today.
  • The Gospels—developing the knowledge and tools to read the Gospels and understand their meaning and challenge for us today.
  • Paul and His Letters—developing the knowledge and tools to read Paul's letters and to understand their meaning and challenge for us today.
  • Faith and Identity—exploring Catholic beliefs and what it means to live as a Catholic today.

The Sacraments of Faith

  • Sacraments of Initiation, Healing, and at the Service of Communion—understanding the sacraments and how they are both personal and ecclesial, evoking a response from each of us.
  • Worship—developing an understanding and skills for participating in the sacramental life of the Church, especially the eucharist.

The Life of Faith

  • Catholic Morality—applying Catholic moral teachings to contemporary life situations as one encounters the many complexities in our world.
  • Conscience, Virtue, and Sin—understanding and uncovering the desire to turn toward God and to do good and to act in accordance with God's grace, understanding the meaning and impact of sin, and learning to make decisions in accordance with one's rightly formed conscience.
  • Justice and Peace—understanding that the Catholic faith calls people to work for justice, to pursue peace, and to defend human dignity, and developing skills to act for justice, peace, and human dignity.
  • Lifestyles and Vocation—discerning how to live the Christian vocation in the world, in the workplace, and in marriage, single life, ministerial priesthood, permanent diaconate, or consecrated life.

Prayer in the Life of Faith

  • Christian Prayer—understanding and experiencing the variety of Christian prayer traditions and discovering and responding to the Spirit's personal invitation to develop a personal prayer life.


The Ministry of Community Life


The Ministry of Community LifeA priest holds the Eucharist. . . . You are a "chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own . . ."      (1 Pt 2:9)

The Church is the Body of Christ. Through the Spirit and his action in the sacraments, above all the Eucharist, Christ, who once was dead and is now risen, establishes the community of believers as his own Body. In the unity of this Body there is a diversity of members and functions. All members are linked to one another, especially to those who are suffering, to the poor and persecuted (Catechism of the Catholic Church nos. 805-806).

The ministry of community life builds an environment of love, support, appreciation for diversity, and judicious acceptance that models Catholic principles; develops meaningful relationships; and nurtures Catholic faith. The content of our message will be heard only when it is lived in our relationships and community life. To teach compassion, generosity, tolerance, peace, forgiveness, acceptance, and love as gospel values and to identify ourselves as Christians require us to live these values in our interactions with young people and in our community life. God's reign was proclaimed through the relationships Jesus initiated, and it continues to be heralded every time we witness our belief in him through the relationships in our community. The community life of the first Christians was a sign to everyone that Christ was in their midst (see Acts 2:42–47). The ministry of community life is not only what we do (activity), but who we are (identity) and how we interact (relationships).

Community life is nurtured when the atmosphere is welcoming, comfortable, safe, and predictable—one in which all adolescents know that their presence is welcomed, their energy is appreciated, and their contributions are valued. Community life is enhanced when leaders promote and model an attitude that is authentic, positive, accepting, and understanding—assuring all young people that they are valued and cared for as gifted individuals. Community life is encouraged when our actions are inviting, supportive, and gospel-based. Community life is created when activities build trust and encourage relationships, and are age-appropriate.

The ministry of community life with adolescents has several distinct features that give direction to community life programming. Specifically, community building with adolescents

  • creates an environment characterized by gospel values that nurtures meaningful relationships among young people and between adolescents and adults;
  • develops the friendship-making and friendship-maintaining skills of young people grounded in Christian values;
  • enriches family relationships through programs, activities, and resources to improve skills such as family communication, decision making, and faith sharing;
  • provides opportunities for multicultural community building that promote respect for young people's racial and ethnic cultures and develop skills for communication and understanding;
  • engages adolescents in the life, activities, and ministries of the parish in meaningful and age-appropriate ways;
  • provides avenues for adolescents to participate as members of the faith community and opportunities for the faith community to acknowledge, celebrate, and value its adolescent members;
  • guides adolescents in developing
    • a healthy perspective of the joys and pains of relationships
    • skills that promote positive and healthy interaction
    • an attitude of welcoming and acceptance
    • an understanding of Jesus' call to "love your neighbor as yourself"
    • an appreciation for both the uniqueness of individuals and the support of a community united through faith
    • an awareness of the importance of their role as members of the community.

The Ministry of Evangelization

The Ministry of Evange

Young mother reads a book with her toddler. . . . [E]vangelizing means bringing the Good News of Jesus into every human situation and seeking to convert individuals and society by the divine power of the Gospel itself. Its essence is the proclamation of salvation in Jesus Christ and the response of a person in faith, both being the work of the Spirit of God (Go and Make Disciples, p. 2). The ministry of evangelization shares the good news of the reign of God and invites young people to hear about the Word Made Flesh. Drawing from Jesus' example, evangelization involves the community's pronouncement and living witness that the reign of God has become realized in and through Jesus. The starting point for the ministry of evangelization "is our recognition of the presence of God already in young people, their experiences, their families, and their culture. . . . Through the Incarnation of God in Jesus, Christians are convinced that God is present within and through all of creation, and, in a special way, within humanity. Evangelization, therefore, enables young people to uncover and name the experience of a God already active and present in their lives. This provides an openness to the gift of the Good News of Jesus Christ" (Challenge of Catholic Youth Evangelization 7-8).

Evangelization is the energizing core of all ministry with adolescents. All of the relationships, ministry components, and programs of comprehensive ministry with adolescents must proclaim the Good News. They must invite young people into a deeper relationship with the Lord Jesus and empower them to live as his disciples.

The ministry of evangelization incorporates several essential elements: witness, outreach, proclamation, invitation, conversion, and discipleship.11 Evangelization with adolescents

  • proclaims Jesus Christ and the Good News so that young people will come to see in Jesus and his message a response to their hungers and a way to live. Remember: "There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the Kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, are not proclaimed" (Evangelii Nuntiandi, no. 22);
  • witnesses to our faith in Jesus Christ in all aspects of our lives—offering ourselves and our community of faith as living models of the Christian faith in practice (Young people need to see that we are authentic and that our faith in Jesus guides our lives.);
  • reaches out to young people by meeting them in their various life situations, building relationships, providing healing care and concern, offering a genuine response to their hungers and needs, and inviting them into a relationship with Jesus and the Christian community;
  • invites young people personally into the life and mission of the Catholic community so that they may experience the support, nurture, and care necessary to live as Christians;
  • calls young people to grow in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, to make his message their own, and to join us in the continuing process of conversion to which the Gospel calls us;
    challenges young people to follow Jesus in a life of discipleship—shaping their lives in the vision, values, and teachings of Jesus and living his mission in their daily lives through witness and service;
  • calls young people to be evangelizers of other young people, their families, and the community.The Ministry of Justice and Service

The Ministry of Justice and Servi

Ministry of Justice and Service

Two young ladies hand out pamphlets. Our faith calls us to work for justice; to serve those in need; to pursue peace; and to defend the life, dignity, and rights of all our sisters and brothers. This is the call of Jesus, the urging of his spirit, the challenge of the prophets, and the living tradition of our Church.

Our efforts to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, comfort the sorrowing, console the bereaved, welcome the stranger, and serve the poor and vulnerable must be accompanied by concrete efforts to address the causes of human suffering and injustice. We believe advocacy and action to carry out our principles and constructive dialogue about how best to do this both strengthen our Church and enrich our society. We are called to transform our hearts and our social structures, to renew the face of the earth (see A Century of Social Teaching).

The ministry of justice and service nurtures in young people a social consciousness and a commitment to a life of justice and service rooted in their faith in Jesus Christ, in the Scriptures, and in Catholic social teaching; empowers young people to work for justice by concrete efforts to address the causes of human suffering; and infuses the concepts of justice, peace, and human dignity into all ministry efforts.

The Church increasingly views itself as a people set aside for the sake of others—a community that stands in solidarity with the poor, that reaches out in service to those in need, and that struggles to create a world where each person is treated with dignity and respect. We are called as a Church to respond to people's present needs or crises, such as homelessness or hunger. We are also called to help change the policies, structures, and systems that perpetuate injustice through legislative advocacy, community organizing, and work with social change organizations. Direct service needs to be coupled with action for justice so that adolescents experience the benefits of working directly with those in need and learn to change the system that keeps people in need. Justice and service are central to who we are as God's people and to how we live our faith at home, in our communities, and in the world.

The central message is simple: our faith is profoundly social. We cannot be called truly "Catholic" unless we hear and heed the Church's call to serve those in need and work for justice and peace. We cannot call ourselves followers of Jesus unless we take up his mission of bringing "good news to the poor, liberty to captives, and new sight to the blind" (cf. Lk 4:18) (Communities of Salt and Light, p. 3).

The ministry of justice and service with adolescents has several distinct features that give direction to programming and action. Specifically, justice and service with adolescents

  • engages young people in discovering the call to justice and service in the Scriptures, in the life of Jesus, and in Catholic social teaching;
  • involves adolescents, their families, and parish communities in actions of direct service to those in need and in efforts to address the causes of injustice and inequity;
  • develops the assets, skills, and faith of young people by promoting gospel values in their lifestyles and choices; by increasing positive self-esteem, self-confidence, and moral reasoning abilities; by building leadership and social skills; by helping them discover their personal gifts and abilities; by helping them learn that they can make a difference in the world and receive recognition by the community for their contributions;
  • incorporates doing the right thing with attention to why and how we do what we do (Four elements guide adolescents in moving from awareness to action on issues of justice. Involvement helps adolescents connect with justice issues personally and experientially. Exploration helps adolescents understand the causes, connections, and consequences of justice issues—expanding their knowledge and moving them toward action with a stronger background and motivation to work for real change when faced with injustice. Reflection helps adolescents utilize the Scriptures, Catholic social teachings, and the lived faith of the church community to discern a faith response to justice issues. Action helps adolescents respond to injustice through direct service or actions of social change—locally or globally, short term or long term.12);
  • involves a supportive community that builds a sense of togetherness, nurtures a life of justice and service, works together to serve and act for justice, and provides support and affirmation;
  • nurtures a lifelong commitment to service and justice involvement (This includes providing opportunities, support, and follow-up to help the young people reflect on their experience. People who learn to serve when they are young are more likely to be service oriented throughout their lives.).

The Ministry of Leadership Development

The Ministry of Leadership DevelopmentTeens smile during the March for Life in Arlington, Virginia. There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings by the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit (1 Cor 12:4–7). The ministry of Leadership Development calls forth, affirms, and empowers the diverse gifts, talents, and abilities of adults and young people in our faith communities for comprehensive ministry with adolescents.

Leadership roles in adolescent ministry are key. Leaders must be trained and encouraged. This approach involves a wide diversity of adult and youth leaders in a variety of roles. Many will be involved in direct ministry with adolescents; others will provide support services and yet others will link the ministry effort to the resources of the broader community.

The ministry of leadership development has several important elements that provide direction. Specifically, leadership development

  • utilizes adult and adolescent leaders in a variety of leadership roles necessary for comprehensive ministry (These roles include, but are not limited to, ministry coordinators in parishes and schools, school teachers, ministry program leaders and planning teams, overall ministry coordinating team, and support staff.):
    • The Ministry Coordinator, must always be qualified and well trained, as well as have an excellent reputation. He or she facilitates the people, programming, and resources of the parish or school community in a comprehensive ministry effort. The coordinator is primarily responsible for facilitating planning, administering programs, developing a leadership system for adult and youth leaders (recruitment, training, and support), and serving as an advocate and link for young people to the faith community and wider community.
    • A Coordinating Team, made up of adults and young people, may be formed to work with the ministry coordinator in organizing a comprehensive ministry with adolescents by planning the overall ministry, developing a leadership system, identifying the resources of the faith community, and connecting the ministry with the other ministries and programs of the faith community.
    • Program Leaders—adults and adolescents—conduct specific programs and activities within a comprehensive ministry. Program leaders often work with a program planning team who develops, promotes, implements, and evaluates the program.
    • Support Staff provide assistance that helps individual programs and the overall ministry function effectively.
  • develops a leadership system that invites, trains, supports, and nourishes adult and adolescent leaders and provides for the coordination of leaders throughout a comprehensive ministry;
  • develops and nurtures adult leaders of lively faith and maturity with solid theological understandings, relational and ministry skills, and organizational ability appropriate to their particular role in ministry with adolescents;
  • empowers all young people for leadership and ministry with their peers—in schools, parishes, and civic communities—by affirming their gifts, equipping them with skills for leadership and ministry, and by placing them in leadership roles or giving them leadership opportunities where they can make a contribution.

We strongly encourage all ministry leaders and communities to call forth the gifts of all young people and empower them for ministry to their peers and leadership in our faith communities. We need their gifts, energy, and vitality. We echo the words of the Holy Father at World Youth Day in Denver:

Young pilgrims, Christ needs you to enlighten the world and to show it the "path to life" (Ps 16). . . . Place your intelligence, your talents, your enthusiasm, your compassion, and your fortitude at the service of life. . . . The Church needs your energies, your enthusiasm, your youthful ideals, in order to make the Gospel of life penetrate the fabric of society, transforming people's hearts and the structures of society in order to create a civilization of true justice and love (August 15, 1993).

The Ministry of Pastoral Care

The Ministry of Pastoral CareThe ministry of pastoral care is a compassionate presence in imitation of Jesus' care of people, especially those who were hurting and in need. The ministry of Pastoral Care involves promoting positive adolescent and family development through a variety of positive (preventive) strategies; caring for adolescents and families in crisis through support, counseling, and referral to appropriate community agencies; providing guidance as young people face life decisions and make moral choices; and challenging systems that are obstacles to positive development (advocacy). Pastoral care is most fundamentally a relationship—a ministry of compassionate presence. This was Jesus' caring stance toward all people, especially those who were hurting or in need. Pastoral care enables healing and growth to take place within individuals and their relationships. It nurtures growth toward wholeness, and it provides guidance in decision making and challenges obstacles to positive development.

The ministry of pastoral care with adolescents has several distinct features that provide direction to comprehensive ministry efforts. Specifically, pastoral care

  • develops the life skills of adolescents, such as relationship building, assertivenesss, nonviolent conflict resolution, decision making, and planning;
  • guides young people in making important life decisions, such as career and college choices, and discerning their particular Christian vocation;
  • fosters the spiritual development of young people and the healthy integration of their sexuality and spirituality;
  • creates networks of care and support for young people and their families;
  • provides programs and resources for parent education and skills for effective parenting that incorporate understandings of adolescent development and family life cycle tasks;
  • strengthens family life by assisting families to improve family skills, such as communication, decision making, problem solving, and reconciliation;
  • provides and connects adolescents and families to support services, referral resources, and self-help groups to promote healing during times of loss, sudden change, unexpected crises, problems, and family or personal transitions;
  • provides support and enrichment for adolescents and parents experiencing divorce, separation, or family problems; and connects them to appropriate counseling resources;
  • collaborates with the wider community in providing direct aid to youth-at-risk in the form of programs, services, and counseling.

Special attention should be given to young people who engage in high-risk behaviors that endanger their own health and well-being. These young people often have multiple problems that can severely limit their futures—fragmented family life, poor school performance, antisocial behavior, eating disorders, sexual activity, sexual confusion as they struggle with identity, and alcohol or drug use, to name several. The Church is called to work with the wider community to address the needs of these young people. Ministry to these young people may be the most important way they will ever come to know and feel the love of God—through people who love them and care for them just at the point when they themselves feel least worthy and lovable.


The Ministry of Prayer and Worship

"Great is the mystery of faith!" The Church professes this mystery in the Apostles' Creed (Part One) and celebrates it in the sacramental liturgy (Part Two), so that the life of the faithful may be conformed to Christ in the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father (Part Three). This mystery, then, requires that the faithful believe in it, that they celebrate it, and that they live from it in a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. This relationship is prayer (Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 2558). The ministry of prayer and worship celebrates and deepens young people's relationship with Jesus Christ through the bestowal of grace, communal prayer and liturgical experiences; it awakens their awareness of the spirit at work in their lives; it incorporates young people more fully into the sacramental life of the Church, especially eucharist; it nurtures the personal prayer life of young people; and it fosters family rituals and prayer.

The ministry of prayer and worship with adolescents has several distinct dimensions that provide direction to comprehensive ministry efforts.13  Specifically, the ministry of prayer and worship

  • promotes the authentic participation of youth in liturgy (Parishes and schools can acknowledge adolescent faith issues at all liturgies in ways appropriate to the rites, provide opportunities for young people to be trained as liturgical ministers, schedule periodic youth event liturgies  that are prepared with young people's input and assistance, and invite young people to help prepare the community liturgies.);
  • attends to the diversity of cultures and ages in the assembly (All liturgy takes place within a cultural milieu and context. Respect for cultures and inclusion of native art, music, and expressions are visible components of vibrant worship. The rites need to reflect cultural diversity  through the use of symbols, traditions, musical styles, and native language. Parishes and schools can provide opportunities for liturgical celebrations in which young people of different ethnic groups express their faith in their own language, symbols, and tradition. Parishes and schools can also provide experiences of other cultural worship styles and multicultural liturgies that bring people from all ethnic backgrounds together to celebrate. Adolescents reflect a distinct age group and "culture" within our society. Their language expressions, musical styles, and ways of life are often quite different from those of older generations. Those who prepare the liturgy need to find appropriate ways to incorporate the world of young people into worship, remembering that the "pastoral effectiveness of a celebration will be heightened if the texts of the readings, prayers, and songs correspond as closely as possible to the needs, religious dispositions, and aptitude of the participants" (GIRM no. 313). Parishes and schools can explore new music and song texts being composed for liturgy, and invite youth to act as cultural resources—letting the individuals or group know about current trends and expressions that may be reflected in the prayers, songs or rituals.);
  • provides opportunities for creative prayer with adolescents in peer, family, and intergenerational settings (Ministry with adolescents fosters and promotes the development of a personal prayer life in young people and celebrates the ritual moments of their daily lives in prayer. The symbols and rituals of liturgy become more meaningful for young people when they draw from their experiences of private prayer. Likewise, private prayer is revitalized by meaningful experiences of the liturgy. Ministry with adolescents also promotes opportunities for communal prayer. The liturgy of the hours, liturgies of reconciliation and healing, ethnic rituals and celebrations, and other ritual devotions allow for creativity and adaptation to the life issues and cultural expressions of young people. Communal prayer provides opportunities for young people of different ethnic cultures to express their faith in their own language, symbols, and traditions and for young people to experience multicultural prayer that brings people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds together to celebrate. Parishes and schools can schedule seasonal prayer experiences for and by youth for the parish community, involve young people in the preparation of prayer experiences for their peers, provide prayer resources, include personal prayer time within programs, and provide prayer mentors for young people. Parishes and schools can provide prayer and ritual resources for home settings that address the unique needs of families with adolescents, the calendar and church year celebrations and rituals, and family rituals, rites of passages and milestones.);
  • promotes effective preaching of the word (Parishes and schools can invite young people to reflect on the seasonal readings and to offer suggestions to the homilist for connections to young peoples' lives, provide regular opportunities for adolescents to study the Scriptures, encourage those who preach to use current examples and storytelling techniques, and investigate the developments within culture for their impact on the "vernacular.");
  • allows music and song to express the vitality of young people (The music of the young brings freshness and variety to our current musical genres and can perform the same infusion of energy and vitality to sacred music. Music is a significant part of personal expression for young people and that desire carries over to their participation in liturgy. Parishes and schools can invite adolescents to participate in the choirs and musical assemblies, explore contemporary accompaniments and focus on the song and pace of the music, expand the local repertoire of hymns and songs to include songs that young people would select, and encourage singing by the whole assembly so that adolescents feel more comfortable in adding their voices.);
  • prepares the symbols and ritual actions with particular care for their visual dimensions (Today's young people have been educated through multimedia. Their visual sense is one of their primary ways of learning and responding to the environment. Parishes and schools can invite adolescents to assess the visual dynamics of the rituals and symbols prepared for liturgy, provide visual aids to encourage young people's participation, and explore the appropriate use of multimedia at liturgy.);
  • develops the interpersonal and communal dimensions of the liturgy. (Parishes and schools can focus on the hospitality provided at liturgy, encourage young people to attend liturgy with their friends, build a sense of community among young people prior to liturgy, minister in a personal way, and affirm the presence of young people whenever possible.);
  • provides adolescents with effective and intentional catechesis for liturgy, worship, and sacraments (Young people are catechized by their participation in the liturgy; therefore, care must be taken to ensure that their experiences lead them to greater faith. Adolescents need catechesis for liturgy and the sacraments, but are also catechized by their experiences of liturgy. Through immersion in the symbols, stories, and rituals of the communal prayer life, adolescents gain not only a knowledge but an appreciation of the power of the sacraments. A specific objective of intentional catechesis for liturgy is to assist adolescents in exploring how liturgical symbols and rituals celebrate their experiences of God and life events. Parishes and schools can provide opportunities for intergenerational and family-centered catechesis for liturgy and can offer experiential, liturgical catechesis for young people.);
  • apprentices adolescents in liturgical ministries (Ministry with adolescents can advocate for youth involvement in liturgical ministries and connect young people with established liturgical ministers for training and experience of actually performing liturgical ministry.).

Part Four: A Guiding Image for Ministry with Adolescents

Part Four: A Guiding Image for Ministry with Adolescentssister-with-candle-montageHe summoned the Twelve and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal [the sick]. He said to them, "Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic." . . . Then they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the good news and curing diseases everywhere (Lk 9:1–3, 6).

How does Jesus send you? He promises neither sword, nor money, nor any of the things which the means of social communications make attractive to people today. He gives you instead grace and truth. He sends you out with the powerful message of his paschal mystery, with the truth of the cross and resurrection. That is all he gives you, and that is all you need (Pope John Paul II, World Youth Day 1996).

A Vision of Youth Ministry captured the dynamics of ministry with adolescents through the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus (see Lk 24:13–35). This story became a guiding image for ministry with its emphasis on the relationship between young disciples and their Lord, a relationship characterized by presence, listening, faith sharing, and celebration. The Emmaus story will continue to guide the Church's ministry with adolescents, but a new image is emerging—the image of young people with a mission. Just as Jesus sent out the Twelve (Lk 9) and the seventy-two (Lk 10) to carry out his mission, today he sends out young people to proclaim the Good News and to build a world that is more just, more peaceful and more respectful of human life and creation.

The Holy Father captured the urgency of young people's mission at World Youth Day 1993 in Denver.

Young pilgrims, Christ needs you to enlighten the world and to show it the "path to life" (Ps 16:11). The challenge is to make the Church's yes to life concrete and effective. The struggle will be long, and it needs each one of you. Place your intelligence, your talents, your enthusiasm, your compassion, and your fortitude at the service of life.

At this stage of history, the liberating message of the Gospel of life has been put into your hands. And the mission of proclaiming it to the ends of the earth is now passing to your generation. . . . The Church needs your energies, your enthusiasm, your youthful ideals, in order to make the Gospel of life penetrate the fabric of society, transforming people's hearts and the structures of society in order to create a civilization of true justice and love. Now more than ever, in a world that is often without light and without the courage of noble ideals, people need the fresh, vital spirituality of the Gospel.

. . . The world at the approach of a new millennium . . . is like a field ready for the harvest. Christ needs laborers ready to work in his vineyards. May you, the Catholic young people of the world, not fail him. In your hands, carry the cross of Christ. On your lips, the words of life. In your hearts, the saving grace of the Lord (August 15, 1993).

The Church and world need the faith, gifts, energy, and fresh ideas of young people. The entire Church, and in a special way ministry with adolescents, must empower young people for their mission in the world. We must ensure that young people are well equipped for their special mission in the world. All of our efforts to promote an active Christian discipleship and growth in Catholic identity must lead toward mission. This is our special responsibility to the young generation. We pray with the whole Church that we can meet the challenge of Gaudium et Spes; ". . . the future of humanity lies in the hands of those who are strong enough to provide coming generations with reasons for living and hoping" (no. 31).



  1. New Directions in Youth Ministry: A New Study of Catholic Youth Ministry Program Participants (Final Report, July 1996) conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) is available in full report or executive summary from the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, 3700-A Oakview Terrace NE, Washington, DC 20017-2591. The following is a summary of the findings identified in the text.

    Ways to Grow
    When asked the areas in which youth ministry had most helped them to grow, young people named the following nine ways at the top of their list ("very much" responses):
    • Understanding my Catholic faith better (52%)
    • Making serious life choices (52%)
    • Choosing right from wrong (50%)
    • Having a safe and caring place to go (50%)
    • Deepening my relationship with Jesus (49%)
    • Experiencing what it means to be Catholic (48%)
    • Discussing problems facing youth today (48%)
    • Getting more involved in parish life (48%)
    • Developing pride in who I am (48%)

    Commitment to the Catholic Church
    Almost all are "proud to be Catholic" (94%) and "admire the pope" (89%). Virtually all report that they "feel welcome at church" (90%). Females are more likely to support these statements than males.

    Sunday Mass Attendance
    Youth ministry program participants report more frequent attendance at worship than their friends, their parents, or other adults significant in their lives. There is a strong connection between participation in youth ministry programs and Mass attendance.
    • Fifty-eight percent attend Mass weekly and another 14 percent attend more than  weekly, for a total of 72 percent who attend once a week or more.
    • Another 12 percent report attendance on the order of once or twice a month.

    Continued Growth
    Youth ministry makes a deeper impression on participants the longer they participate. Perhaps the strongest way to measure the effectiveness of youth ministry is to contrast the ninth graders with the twelfth graders. For the thirty-five ways youth ministry could have helped, thirty-two were given much higher average scores by those in twelfth grade. Below are the eight areas with average scores that increased by twenty points or more when ninth graders are compared to twelfth graders.
    • Developing my leadership skills (32 points)
    • Developing my relationship skills (27 points)
    • Discussing problems facing youth today (23 points)
    • Preparing me to share my faith (22 points)
    • Doing service projects to help other people (22 points)
    • Feeling like I belong to a community (22 points)
    • Providing ministry to my peers (22 points)
    • Helping the Church better serve youth (20 points)
  2. The Search Institute has identified several factors contributing to the breakdown:
    • Many adults no longer consider it their responsibility to play a role in the lives of youth outside their family.
    • Parents are less available for their children because of demands outside the home and cultural norms that undervalue parenting.
    • Adults and institutions have become uncomfortable articulating values or enforcing appropriate boundaries for behavior.
    • Society has become more and more age-segregated, providing fewer opportunities for meaningful intergenerational relationships.
    • Socializing systems (families, schools, congregations, etc.) have become more isolated, competitive, and suspicious of each other.
    • The mass media have become influential shapers of young people's attitudes, norms, and values.
    • As problems—and solutions—have become more complex, more of the responsibility for young people has been turned over to professionals.
  3. The forty developmental assets, identified through national research by the Search Institute, are powerful shapers of young people's behavior. Assets help to inoculate youth from high-risk behaviors (e.g., use of alcohol and drugs, antisocial behavior, sexual activity). As assets increase, the incidence of high-risk behaviors decreases. Developmental assets also promote positive outcomes. As assets increase, so do school success, the affirmation of diversity, educational aspirations, and prosocial behavior. Young people with a greater number of assets are more likely to grow up caring, competent, healthy, and responsible. This important relationship between developmental assets and choices made has been documented for all types of youth, regardless of age, gender, geographic region, town size, or race/ethnicity.

    These forty developmental assets have been identified through research by the Search Institute (USA) as forming a foundation for healthy development in children and adolescents. The following information is excerpted from Search Institute research (© 1996 Search Institute).

    External Assets

    Family Support—family life provides high levels of love and support.
    Positive Family Communication—young person and her or his parent(s) communicate positively, and young person is willing to seek parental advice and counsel.
    Other Adult Relationships—young person receives support from three or more nonparent adults.
    Caring Neighborhood—young person experiences caring neighbors.
    Caring School Climate—school provides a caring, encouraging environment.
    Parent Involvement in Schooling—parent(s) are actively involved in helping young person succeed in school.

    Community Values Youth—young person perceives that adults in the community value youth.
    Youth as Resources—young people are given useful roles in the community.
    Community Service—young person serves in the community one hour or more per week.
    Safety—young person feels safe at home, at school, and in the neighborhood.

    Boundaries and Expectations
    Family Boundaries—family has clear rules and consequences, and monitors the young person's whereabouts.
    School Boundaries—school provides clear rules and consequences.
    Neighborhood Boundaries—neighbors take responsibility for monitoring young people's behavior.
    Adult Role Models—parent(s) and other adults model positive, responsible behavior.
    Positive Peer Influence—young person's best friends model responsible behavior.
    High Expectations—both parent(s) and teachers encourage the young person to do well.

    Time Use
    Creative Activities—young person spends three or more hours per week in lessons or practice in music, theater, or other arts.
    Youth Programs—young person spends three or more hours per week in sports, clubs, or organizations at school and/or in community organizations.
    Religious Community—young person spends one or more hours per week in activities in a religious institution.
    Time at Home—young person is out with friends "with nothing special to do" two or fewer nights per week.

    Internal Assets

    Educational Commitment
    Achievement Motivation—young person is motivated to do well in school.
    School Performance—young person has a B average or better.
    Homework—young person reports doing at least one hour of homework every school day.
    Bonding to School—young person cares about her or his school.
    Reading for Pleasure—young person reads for pleasure three or more hours per week.

    Positive Values
    Caring—young person places high value on helping other people.
    Equality and Social Justice—young person places high value on promoting equality and reducing hunger and poverty.
    Integrity—young person acts on convictions and stands up for her or his beliefs.
    Honesty—young person "tells the truth even when its not easy."
    Responsibility—young person accepts and takes personal responsibility.
    Restraint—young person believes it is important not to be sexually active or to use alcohol or other drugs.

    Social Competencies
    Planning and Decision Making—young person knows how to plan ahead and make choices.
    Interpersonal Competence—young person has empathy, sensitivity, and friendship skills.
    Cultural Competence—young person has knowledge or and comfort with people of different cultural/racial/ethnic backgrounds.
    Resistance Skills—young person can resist negative peer pressure and dangerous situations.
    Peaceful Conflict Resolution—young person seeks to resolve conflict nonviolently.

    Positive Identity
    Personal Power—young person feels he or she has control over "things that happen to me."
    Self-Esteem—young person reports having a high self-esteem.
    Sense of Purpose—young person reports that "my life has a purpose."
    Positive View of Personal Future—young person is optimistic about her or his personal future.
  4. Although these goals are numbered, they are considered to be equally important.
  5. For example, scouting organizations, youth retreat movements, and organizations specifically serving at-risk youth.
  6. These assets were developed from research by the Search Institute in Minneapolis and from Challenge of Adolescent Catechesis (NFCYM, 1986). These assets are intended as a guide, not as an evaluative tool.
  7. Sr. Thea Bowman, FSPA, adapted the phrase "It Takes a Whole Church" from the Ghanian proverb "It takes a village to raise a child."
  8. There is a variety of schemas for identifying the ministries of the Church. This document continues with the framework articulated in A Vision of Youth Ministry. While the names of the ministries may vary, the eight proposed in this paper reflect what the Church considers the basic pastoral work in a parish community as expressed  in The Code of Canon Law (cf. Canons 528- 529):
    • ensuring that the word of God is proclaimed in its entirety to those living in the parish
    • instruction in the truths of faith, especially by means of the homily and by catechetical formation
    • works that promote the spirit of the Gospel, including its relevance to social justice
    • Catholic education of children and youth
    • bringing the gospel message to those who have given up religious practice or who do not profess the true faith (outreach to inactive Catholics)
    • promotion of eucharist as the center of the parish assembly
    • celebration of the sacraments, especially eucharist and penance (including programs of sacramental life and preparation)
    • nourishment of the prayer life of parishioners, especially within families
    • active participation of parishioners in the liturgy
    • methods of acquaintance with parishioners, the welcoming of newcomers, home visiting, efforts at building community
    • care for the sick and especially the dying
    • concern and care for the poor, the suffering, the lonely, those who are exiled from their homeland, and those burdened with special difficulties
    • foster the growth of Christian life in the family
    • recognize and promote the specific role that the lay members of the parish have in the mission of the Church
    • foster in parishioners concern and works that promote the community of the parish and that help them feel themselves to be members of the diocese and the universal Church.
  9. The order of the components is alphabetical. No prioritizing of the eight components is intended by this order.
  10. This list contains some of the faith themes found in The Challenge of  Adolescent Catechesis: Maturing in Faith (Washington, D.C.: National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, 1986).
  11. These elements are drawn from The Challenge of Catholic Youth Evangelization: Called to Be Witnesses and Storytellers (Washington, D.C.: National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, 1993).
  12. This four-stage process is know as the Pastoral Circle and developed from the work of Peter Henriot and Joseph Holland.
  13. The principles for worship and liturgy include many of the ideas found in the final draft of From Age to Age: The Challenge of Worship with Adolescents (Washington, D.C.: National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, 1997).

In September 1976, the United States Catholic Conference's Department of Education issued A Vision of Youth Ministry with young people by blending the best of past efforts with emerging ideas from leaders across the country.  Two decades later, the Church's ministry with adolescents is confronted by new challenges and opportunities.  Renewing the Vision: A Framework for Catholic Youth Ministry is a blueprint for the continued development of effective ministry with young and older adolescents.  After wide consultation with dioceses, national organizations, and youth ministers throughout the country, the Committee on the Laity submitted the final draft to the plenary assembly of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.  The document was approved on June 20, 1997 and is hereby authorized for publication by the undersigned.

Monsignor Dennis M. Schnurr, General Secretary, NCCB/USCC

First printing, August 1997
Fourth printing: October 2000

Excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church for the United States of America copyright ©  1994, United States Catholic Conference, Inc. - Libreria Editrice Vaticana are used with permission.

Scriptural excerpts from The New American Bible used with permission of the copyright holder, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, copyright © 1970, 1986, 1991.  All rights reserved.

Excerpts from The Documents of Vatican II, Walter M. Abbott, SJ, General Editor, copyright ©  1966, America Press.  Used with permission.  All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1997, United States Catholic Conference, Inc., Washington, D.C.  All rights reserved.  No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

To order Renewing the Vision: A Framework for Catholic Youth Ministry in its official published format, contact the USCCB Office of Publishing and Promotion Services, 800-235-8722 (in Washington metropolitan area or from outside the United States, 202-722-8716).  Publication No. 5-004, 64 pp., $5.75 per copy; quantity discounts are available.  Shipping and handling applies.