A few thoughts gathered for the Office of Religious Education in-service tomorrow "Reaching Out In Mercy to Those with Special Needs")
1. Meeting with one-on-one with parents/guardians, both, if possible.
Questions to ask:
1. What are your child’s interests?
2. Are there any sensory needs or dislikes that we should know about?
3. Is there anything that your child finds upsetting or uncomfortable?
4. Is an aide required? (Sibling, parent, or professional care-giver?) Will the aide, if an adult, be willing to complete the Diocesan Child Protection Policy steps to be present with youth?
Assure them you are honored to be part of the team with them and appreciate their patience as you and team members learn some of the things necessary. Together, create a file that outlines any specific needs the student has, including medical issues, behavioral issues, or psychological issues.
2. Meeting one-on-one with the teen (and parents or aide) so s/he can get to know and feel comfortable with you.
Ask: What are your interests?
Ask: What are your concerns, if any?
Try to find a specific way the teen can be of service at your Church (i.e. if s/he is good at singing, pair him/her with your VBS music group to help; if s/he has great computer skills, then ask him/her to work with a team to create a PowerPoint prayer service for a youth event, etc.)
3. Check your facilities to see if any alterations need to be made to better accommodate the youth with different abilities (may also want the parents to check with you as they will have additional insights and suggestions.) Consider access to rooms in use, restroom facilities, doorways, outdoor activity terrain, etc.
4. Ask if any of your youth ministry team members have experience or expertise in working with youth with disabilities? You may be surprised at the wealth of expertise available at your parish when you consider:
Would they be willing to either work directly with the teen or train someone else how to assist the teen?
5. Prepare your team members/catechist/volunteers – see what resources they may need to be able to comfortably integrate the youth.
Good news: Because of the main-streaming trend in school systems, most of our teens will already be fine with members of differing abilities… So that will help! You may find teens very willing to volunteer to be a buddy with the new teen to assist at an event.
Keep lines of communication open with the teen, his/her parents, and your team members.
What additional suggestions would you have to add?
In 2014, Our Sunday Visitor (OSV) surveyed a number
of youth ministers in the USA and asked them to
define effective parish youth ministry.
It is important to take time every year or so
to reflect on this question, as the answers change
a little with each generation. Consider that every 5 years
you have a whole new batch of teens with which to serve.
How might YOU answer that question?
OSV then created this list from the responses:
Effective Ministry with Youth is Personal
◗ It calls teens to a personal relationship with Christ, helping them understand the Catholic Faith, first and foremost, as an intimate relationship with Christ and his Church, more than a mere list of rules.
◗ It seeks to meet teens’ hunger for intimacy by building meaningful relationships within the youth group and parish.
◗ It creates small, faith-sharing groups, where teens can learn to let themselves be known and where adults can more readily listen to the teens’ struggles and questions, witness to Christ through their actions and help teens identify their gifts and charisms.
◗ It doesn’t presume the struggles of iGeneration teens in general are the struggles of one group of teens in particular. It listens, then responds.
◗ It reaches out to teens as individuals, issuing personal invitations to participate in events and not just relying on Facebook invites.
◗ It recognizes that it takes time to build relationships and earn trust, so it seeks to maintain continuity by retaining effective youth ministers and volunteers.
Effective Ministry with Youth is Sacramental
◗ It helps teens engage more fully and fruitfully in the Church’s liturgy.
◗ It provides regular opportunities throughout the year for confession.
◗ It brings teens to a face-to-face encounter with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, providing them with ample time for silent prayer and reflection in Eucharistic adoration.
◗ It seeks to include parish priests in as many events and activities as possible.
◗ It seeks to help the whole family, not just individual teens, encounter Christ more fully in the Church’s sacramental and liturgical life.
Effective Ministry with Youth is Formative
◗ It forms teens in the teachings of the Faith, helping them grow in their knowledge of Church doctrine through effective catechesis.
◗ It forms teens in Christian prayer, teaching them what prayer is, how to pray, and providing them with opportunities to pray both as part of a community and on their own.
◗ It forms teens in Christian living, helping them see how the teachings of the faith are applied to the circumstances of everyday life.
◗ It forms teens relationally, teaching them how to build friendships, listen to others, make sacrifices and communicate who they are in face-to-face interactions.
◗ It forms teens culturally, helping them better understand how to use technology and discern messages in the media.
Effective Ministry with Youth is Challenging
◗ It doesn’t treat teens as the parish work force, including them in parish events simply to do the set-up and clean-up work.
◗ It doesn’t treat retreats or youth group events as items on the pre-confirmation checklist.
◗ It addresses the hard questions and hard issues teens face.
◗ It doesn’t water down the Church’s teaching or soft-peddle the Christian faith.
◗ It issues specific challenges relevant to teens’ lives, calling on them to stop watching pornography, avoid gossip, not cheat in school, be kind to those who others abuse, date chastely, dress modestly, give to the poor, support their parish and help their parents.
◗ It never wastes time. It strives to make every activity, even games and ice-breakers, purpose-filled.
◗ It encourages them to serve the less fortunate in person, going on mission trips, organizing activities that bring them in contact with the local poor and taking them on visits to hospitals and nursing homes.
(See full article in which this information was included:
_ https://www.osv.com/OSVNewsweekly/Story/TabId/2672/ArtMID/13567/ArticleID/14409/Plugging-teens-into-the-faith-A-how-to-guide.aspx )
It seemed like a pretty good list to help us all reflect on our youth ministry offerings.
Do you agree?
Anything you would chance in this list?
Anything you would add to this list?
How are the opportunities for teens in your parish related to these elements?
Cindee Case, MPS
Director of the Diocese of Youngstown Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.