How to Hit A Home Run in Youth Ministry

“How do we take teens deeper in faith?” That was a question that drove the third session of a half-day workshop I facilitated this week for Middle School Youth Ministers in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. There was a concern to develop a Christ-centered ministry as we have the obligation to take teens deeper in faith. By using the Depth Diamond, you will learn how to hit a home run in your youth ministry!

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Spiritual Depth Diamond

Depth Diamond

In preparation for the session I recalled a spiritual teen assessment based on a baseball field from my days working in youth ministry. I couldn’t remember the specifics so I created the Depth Diamond. The idea is to ask teens to identify where they are on the field in their spiritual lives. Once they know where they are, they can then decide to move along the field (with God’s help) from base to base with the goal of getting back to home plate. (Please note: I realize God speaks to individuals through their own circumstances and that God does not fit into a box, nor does every person’s encounters with God. However, there is a common pattern from awareness to discipleship and that is what the Depth Diamond attempts to capture!)

Awareness

It all begins with awareness. If students are attending youth ministry, they are likely aware of having a faith life. Teens know there is a faith, that we say, can be lived. This lived faith should be integrated into their personal lives. They likely see the importance that faith plays in the lives of their parents and of the leaders in the Church. They can see the examples we set as leaders in ministry, and are hearing about Jesus, and the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Desire

Next, awareness leads to desire. Moving from “at bat,” teens will progress over time from awareness to desiring a faith life. This happens through evangelization, the consistent authentic witness leaders provide by developing and nurturing relationships with the youth. A balance of relational ministry sprinkled with catechesis, community, and a dash of the Holy Spirit will help take them to first base.

Decision

Moving from first to second base is a process yet takes a leap of faith on the part of the youth. They may not even realize they’re doing it until they’re there! To make the decision to live as a Catholic Christian is a huge moment in anyone’s life, but for a youth can be especially daunting due to the heightened social presence during that time of life. However, to make the decision will set in motion a change in life that will need to be supported by development in the fundamentals of Christian life.

Development

An unsupported decision for Christ can leave one lingering in his or her faith life for years, so proper infrastructure should be in place within your ministry. Development enriches what you have already been doing through evangelization and catechesis, but widens and deepens the playing field. In other words, as the National Directory for Catechesis says we plug students in to “a comprehensive program of pastoral ministry for youth that includes catechesis, community life, evangelization, justice and service, leadership development, pastoral care, and prayer and worship” (201). We are solidly on third headed for home!

Discipleship

Now that teens teens have gotten past third base and connected into a compressive youth ministry program, where are they headed?  At this point the goal is to “empower young people to live as disciples of Jesus Christ in our world today; to draw young people to responsible participation in the life, mission, and work of the Catholic faith community; and to foster the total personal and spiritual growth of each young person” (NDC, 201). In other words, the young person lives a life of Christian example and is willing to risk social status by speaking out to lift up the message and values of Jesus’ Good News. It is a lifestyle and witness to live in imitation of Jesus.

Once you have established your ministry and have teens coming, could it be this easy to hit a home run in youth ministry by allowing the youth to find their place on the Depth Diamond and become aware of where they are headed?

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