Getting back into the school year is always exciting for me. While I enjoy the summer months very much, I look forward to the routine that comes with the school year. Since moving to a more Discipleship Focused Youth Ministry approach, summer has always been sort of a wildcard. Some groups continue to meet regularly during those months; others hardly meet at all. Some youth have experiences that have helped them grow in their faith; others may have taken a few steps backward in their spiritual disciplines and are looking forward to renewing their efforts with the support and accountability of their group.
With all of the variables that come with an approach as messy as Discipleship Focused Youth Ministry it, can be difficult for a parish coordinator to know how to respond. I thought it would be helpful to share just a few things I have seen a parish coordinator do well that can help support and encourage the discipleship in the parish as the new year begins.
Lay the Foundation for the Year
Start first by talking with your pastor about his hopes for the year. Work towards setting one or two major goals for the year and focusing your parish programming and offerings around those goals. Give your group leaders the top things that they should know and include in the planning for their teens (annual conference, parish bazaar, mission trips, etc.) and ,be ready to communicate the goals your parish has and how these things will be helpful to them in encouraging their groups in those goals.
Host a Back to School Party
Invite all of your discipleship group leaders and those they lead to a gathering hosted by the parish. Keep it simple. Play some games, do a simple welcome, talk briefly about some things to look forward to this year, and pray together. I have seen this type of event used as the official restart time for many groups, especially those groups that have been meeting less or not at all throughout the summer.
Reconnect With Your Leaders
Just as leaders may have found it difficult to have consistency with their groups, it’s likely a parish coordinator will have had similar difficulty with their leaders. I strongly recommend having a meeting each fall to bring your discipleship leaders together, recap the vision and mission of discipleship in the parish, and lay out the expectations and hopes for the coming semester or year. This meeting should inspire your leaders to look forward to going deeper in their own faith and give them what they need to dive into discipleship with the youth with whom they work.
Have a Plan for Your Own Discipleship
The two most important things you can do in your parish to foster a culture of discipleship are 1) be a disciple yourself and 2) model discipleship in how you lead those in your parish. Be sure you are going into this year with a plan for how you hope to grow. You can find a mentor, spiritual director, or even a strong mastermind group to join. Commit to reading one book a month and have that list of books planned out for the year.
Modeling discipleship in how you lead others is extremely important. Discern which leaders you are called to invest in over the coming year and who you might seek out that is not yet committed to discipleship. Make discipleship a priority for your own ministry and do not be afraid to cut other things out of your plans for the year if you think they will prevent you from the discipleship ministry you can offer your leaders.
These are just a few ideas. I’m sure you have more. If so, please check out our Facebook Discussion Group and share!