Five Month Plan For Youth Ministry Start-Up

Before you begin check-marking your list …..

Please note, that this “checklist” is general, and may need to be adapted for your parish. The OCY staff is here to help with any questions, clarifications or support you may need help at any stage of your plan. Throughout the checklist, you’ll note some lines finish with ** - this signifies that this is an area that the OCY can directly support you in.

Some important reminders:

  1. No program is an instant recipe for success – ever! The Holy Spirit working through the appropriately called people is the key ingredient.
  2. You will note that some areas are bolded. Despite best laid plans, some areas of planning inevitably fall behind. Don’t let the bolded ones fall behind, it will cause more stress on your team
  3. Most successful high school ministries try to work in conjunction with or around a weekend Mass schedule to assist in keeping the ministry Eucharistic-centred. Many “EDGE” or grade 6-8 ministry models tend to be on Friday nights or another time away from the Sunday liturgy.
  4. Be VERY mindful of trying not to condense your youth ministry plan into something less than five months. Experience around the Archdiocese shows that the stress, increased margin of error, and difficulty of sustaining the ministry (despite its successful launch) all increase with the shortened period of preparation. This is particularly heightened if the ministry launch is working without the experience of a full-time committed youth minister at the helm.

A note about Launch windows

Over the last few years, there have been some attempts to launch a new youth ministry either in the Spring (ie. April) or in the winter around early December. Experience shows time and again that these are not “wise” times to work around a launch for a number of reasons, and almost always fall flat. Adjust your launch to work late September/early October, no later than mid-November, or somewhere from January to April.

5-months out to ministry launch

  • Pray for the youth ministry, and the process leading up to its launch! Make it part of intercessions of your morning prayer and for God to direct the process! Ask the congregation, or a parish prayer group to spiritually adopt the ministry development over the coming months
  • Contact the OCY to arrange a meeting as to what sort of support, resources, programs, networking and experience they can offer to assist in getting the parish youth ministry up and running
  • Arrange a discussion time with the parish finance council to explain the needs and expectations (financially) of having a youth ministry working within the parish financial framework
  • If there is a Pastoral Council, share the intention and vision of having a strong and important youth ministry within the parish. Share this also with any other groups or councils that could be supportive about this new – or re-established – ministry
  • Investigate what sort of Catholic programs, activities or resources would be ideal for your parish youth ministry vision. With over 105 parishes in the Toronto Archdiocese running Youth Ministry, its fairly easy to find out what other parishes are doing also
  • Prepare a realistic and accurate ministry description for a parish youth minister! The newest and updated templates are available at the OCY**
  • Begin discerning how you want to try and find an available youth minister & start looking (what is key is if you are looking for a full-time, part-time, or volunteer )**
  • Find out what times/spaces are available at the parish for the youth ministry to run and utilize – NOTE: consider the following:
    • It is becoming a healthy practice for high-school-based youth ministry programs/gatherings to happen after a Mass, either after Saturday vigil Mass, the last Sunday morning Mass or after Sunday evening Mass. This enables a strong connection for the youth to attend Mass as a “natural” lead in to the youth ministry activity. So consider, would you be willing to have a Mass become more “heavy” with a youth focus and consideration? If so, will the culture of the environment of that Mass seem inviting and receptive to youth (ie, hospitality, music ministry, open to youth involvement) prepare to be patient with typically non-practicing Catholic teens or even non-Catholic teens attending, etc?
  • Visit parishes that have an active and strong parish youth ministry (preferably while the activity is going on). Get a sense as to what seems to be working well (and not working well) and what of those successes could be transferred to your parish – ideally bring 1 – 2 parishoners with you that may be invested in the youth ministry at your parish**
  • Investigate when youth ministry trainings or volunteer formation gatherings are happening (or could happen) in or around the Archdiocese – try to keep those dates open to attend **
  • Get an equipment pulse – does your parish have a decent sound system, video-projector or big screen tv that could be used for the youth ministry gatherings? If not, have someone from the parish price out some of these options
  • Youth Minister workspace – is there space in or near the parish office for the youth minister to work from that provides internet access, phone access, a computer and a space to keep resources?

4-months out to ministry launch

  • If you are planning to hire a youth minister, it is critically important that this be completed within this 4 month out stage! If you can’t find the right person, push back the YM launch date! It is crucial that whomever you bring on has the time needed to develop the youth ministry plan
  • Finalize your decision in conjunction with your YM with respect to what sort of program the parish wants to use
  • Prepare a list of parishoners that you believe would be good leaders and/or assistants in the parish youth ministry
  • Call, email or visit those people (face to face is best) and let them know what you are planning on doing with the youth ministry and why you would want them on the team – encourage them to pray, discern and discuss with family (preferable and ideal option of recruitment) Be sure to be clear & honest about what sort of time commitment you are looking from them
  • Consistently assess who you are asking to be involved! Typically a more diverse team the better – married people, young singles, male, female, etc
  • Set a date within the end of the 4 month countdown or early part of the 3 month countdown to have a team gathering and information meeting about the details of the youth ministry – if helpful consider having someone from OCY come to assist** (note if possible, start meeting with a light meal, having the team sitting and eating together is a great way to get relationships rolling – a team people providing task fulfillment is NOT a step towards a dynamic & discipleship-based youth ministry)
  • Be sure to step up the praying within the parish for this youth ministry!

3-months out to ministry launch

  • Continue to pray for guidance in the ministry, the youth minister, the ministry team, the youth that will be attending
  • Get team commitments as to what and how they are able/willing to serve within the ministry
  • Provide finalized and detailed role sheets so they know the roles being expected of them and approximately how much time is being asked of them in this capacity – NOTE: It is VERY important to produce this and honour them with an accurate sense of how much of their time will be asked of them monthly.
  • Arrange for team members to visit a parish or two who is running a similar-modelled program that will be run at your parish (ensure they contact that parish and ask for permission to attend it first!)
  • Set a date, time and place for the team to go through training – do this through an existing training date set by the OCY in the Archdiocese, or have someone come and do a more condensed training at the parish **
  • Set dates in advance for any gathering that is needed to plan the kick-off night and subsequent ministry night activities, teachings, events, etc
  • Schedule a youth ministry team retreat date for about 6 months in the future – they will likely have earned it AND need it by that point!
  • Ensure that the youth minister has a sense of what sort of budget they have to work with in planning either monthly, quarterly, annually, etc**
  • Have the parish screening committee contact the youth ministry team helpers to make appointments – or have them attend the information session or training session to explain what is required of them
  • Contact and meet any and all school principals, chaplains and/or religious education department heads to let them know about the youth ministry launch and find out how they can assist in its promotion at the school(s)
  • Be sure the subscription or resources your intending to use for the youth ministry are ordered and are working when they arrive (always test drive any dvds or computer files)
  • If the ministry is focused on grade 6-8, will there be a registration fee of some sort? If so, how much should/would it be? Would there be a discount for families?

2-months out to ministry launch

  • Pray intentionally for particular areas of the youth ministry planning! Whether its resources, new team members, the families, the youth, - name the areas that need prayer support and ask others to join you in those intentions
  • Promote the ministry launch in school news bulletins – bulletin boards, social media outlets, any community centres such as local arenas, or rec plexes!
  • Have the youth minister visiting the schools – even having business card-sized invite cards to pass around about the youth ministry launch – some sort of ‘gimic’ giveaway is great idea!
  • Have the youth minister establish a facebook page or have a page on the parish website that can share “tidbits” of information about the youth ministry launch (geared to adults & parents) – who is permitted to come, what is being hoped for the youth who attend, create links to youtube or vimeo videos that are appropriate and show the Catholic faith in a fun, dynamic and relevant manner for youth!
  • Set a date and host a parent information night – often this can be overlooked but for parents who WANT their kids to attend (but expect resistance) this helps equip them with a better understanding as to how they can encourage or “sell” the new ministry to their kids as well as discern how they may be able to support (ie. Team, registration, promotion, snacks, etc)
  • At the parent meeting – and generally after Mass – have a sign up list for email, phone or facebook in which the youth minister can send updates and information to the families who want to be informed about the youth ministry as time counts down
  • If the ministry is geared towards youth grade 6-8 prepare registration forms that can be made available online or for pick up at the parish somehow, & have them sent home with all the students in grade 6 – 8 at the local Catholic elementary school(s)
  • Review conduct expectations with respect to the team and the youth in their relationships
  • Have the youth minister and team make a special appeal to youth who are preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation (if they are in the youth ministry target age group) at a meeting and invite them personally to attend
  • If the youth ministry is geared towards high school students, have an invitation card signed by the pastor and/or youth minister sent by mail to every candidate who was Confirmed two years ago inviting them to attend

1-month out to ministry launch

  • Ensure that the youth ministry team have the team retreat on the schedule – have the youth minister arrange a place, facilitator, music minister and everything else for the retreat to happen for their team
  • Meet with the youth ministry team again and go over the details of the upcoming youth ministry gatherings and start planning further ahead the roles of each team member
  • Continue to visit, promote and advertise the ministry launch. Change up the information, don’t keep it the same in the coming weeks! Keep it interesting and enticing!
  • Make sure the parish staff – particularly the parish secretary – knows exactly what you want communicated about the youth ministry launch – give them small and concise information that they can convey to anyone who calls or stops in to ask! They are usually the front lines of the parish – be sure to use that in helping promote the ministry confidently and clearly! Be sure they have information “blurbs” that they can hand out to inquiring families

3-weeks to launch

  • Pray intentionally for the youth ministry and those who are serving through it
  • Provide flyers at the parish and available electronically that will have the dates, themes, contact information and perhaps a general overview of the ministry environment that will be explored through the parish youth ministry – distribute these to wherever you can that can create awareness

2-weeks to launch

  • Pray intentionally for the youth ministry – highlight in the prayers of the faithful
  • Have last youth ministry team meeting to reiterate plans, and go over the importance of effective relational ministry practices and small group facilitation** ensure sufficient time for the team to pray with each other and spiritually set themselves for the ministry launch
  • Have the youth ministry team gather all items needed for the launch well in advance so there are no last minute misses or miscommunications – the youth minister should be the point person in gathering everything up with a master checklist!
  • Send out emails, facebook messages – make phone calls - to members, or call people who were on the contact list to remind them of the youth ministry launch! Be excited!!
  • Continue to be in the schools wherever possible and make face to face invitations!
  • Ensure if food is planned for the kick off that those responsible know how and when it factors into the plan – also have allergy alternatives that are nut-free in particular
  • If parents have signed up on contact list, or even teens, have the youth ministry team divide up the list, and call the families offering a personal invitation to the teen or tween to attend and offer to be praying for their intentions.

1-week to launch

  • Pray VERY intentionally – if things start to become stressful, now is when you will likely feel it – give the ministry – again – completely over to the Lord and reiterate His Lordship over all of it
  • Be sure youth ministry launch invitation is made clearly at all the weekend Masses – try to be creative in the wording, maybe even use humour – but if so, do it well!
  • Youth Minister sends out a final list of what everyone is to be doing at the launch, what time to be there (NOTE: Be sure to book time to gather together as a team BEFORE the launch that will be devoted to time in prayer with each other)
  • Be sure there are youth ministry team members at the end of each Mass who will be available to meet the youth being invited or at least available to meet parishoners and parents of teams and give out the flyers with youth ministry information
  • Have the pastor do a “plug” or encouragement at the end of the Masses personally and invite people to meet the youth ministry team members who are available after Mass – mention them by name!

week of launch

  • Pray, promote and any final preparations that need finishing up – should be small!
  • Be sure the youth ministry team knows the plan for scheduled meeting or practices following the Launch

launch time

  • Have strong hospitality! Have team meet and greet ALL the youth attending, get them knowing names
  • Ensure team have name tags on – ideally have some for the youth attending also!
  • Set up the room as needed for the launch to be successful
  • Meet with the team at least 30 minutes before launch to pray together as a team!
  • Be sure the music ministers has everything they need
  • Be sure that the food (if any) is ready
  • At end, try to load pictures as soon as possible on website or facebook group
  • Close the launch night in solid, quality prayer time – no fast wrap-ups without solid prayer time
  • Be sure to have any pictures or feedback posted on the facebook group or webpage, including information to help youth know what to expect next! Have a plan to keep them engaged!

About the Author, John MacMullen is the Associate Director of Youth Ministry at the OCY and can be reached at 416-599-7676