How to Keep Our Youth Active After Confirmation?
Try the Coffee Shop Approach
JANUARY 30, 2007 (www.epriest.com) - This comes from the Church of St. Michael, Prior Lake, Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota. With this program, 80% of Confirmation students come back and assume an active role in parish life.
"The coffee house and the youth group are very important parts of my life, and have shaped me into a well-rounded responsible teenager. Most kids my age can not honestly say that they look forward to church every weekend, but I am an exception to that statement. I look forward to going to church on Wednesdays and helping the confirmation kids, and I look forward to church on Sunday and our weekly meeting afterwards. The youth group is a home away from home for me.I appreciate all the hard work that goes into making the coffee house and our youth group such a huge success, and I thank God that I have somewhere to go pray to God, and have fun doing it."
~ Brittney Olson
The need it meets
We needed a way to keep youth involved in the parish after their Confirmation, making church involvement their priority. We desired to create a friendly and cool meeting place for confirmed students to learn and share their Catholic faith.
Where it came from
Gina Tupy, Teen Faith Formation Director at St. Michael’s Catholic Church, Prior Lake, Minnesota, noticed the youth room had been closed due to lack of use and envisioned a much needed gathering place for teens, one not attached to the secular world.
How it works
"Holy Grounds" coffee house is located in the basement of the church office building and has its own entrance. Teens are encouraged to use the facility for all their gatherings.
Confirmation students are invited to be on the Coffee House Board, wear t-shirts that identify them to other youth, and hang up their photos in the coffee house. They are placed in various leadership positions, encouraging faithfulness to many Church activities.
~ Being Catholic becomes something the youth are proud of.
~ Youth keep involved in the parish and increase in their knowledge of the universal Church.
~ Confirmed students have an avenue to continue their faith formation along with opportunities to develop and exercise leadership skills: Over 40 students -- 80% of the Confirmation class -- returned in 2006-07 after their 2006 confirmation.
~ A core team of teens developed, working directly with the Faith Formation department to create apostolic programs specifically for parish youth.
The Holy Grounds Coffee House is a vibrant forum for ongoing faith-formation because it is something that the kids themselves run. It's only for them, and they come up with the ideas for activities. The Teen Faith Formation Director oversees it, but the kids, through the Coffee House Board, take ownership of it.
Creating this atmosphere involved the following elements:
~ Get their cell phone number: continual contact, text messaging, birthday cards, etc. (Gina says that email is outdated with the youth; don't leave a message for them if you want to reach them!)
~ A place on the church grounds for the youth to "call their own."
~ An active Faith Formation Director who has:
1. a sincere love for youth and sees value in their ideas;
2. is aware of the needs of the pastor and the church, and who has various outreaches in the community;
3. is comfortable exploring and creating ideas (with youth leaders), which maintain the teens’ attention.
4. Give youth various leadership responsibilities, allowing them the opportunity to see ways God may be calling them to serve the Church.
~ Interview Confirmation students, asking where they would like to serve the Church after Confirmation; the coffee house is one option.
~ Work closely with the Religious Education department.
~ Follow-up with the youth, advising them of opportunities for involvement in the Church and community. (This is done weekly during the first part of Religious Education classes).
~ Love the teens where they are. Lead them to a deeper formation and love of their Catholic Faith.
How to implement it
~ Establish a core group of youth who are influential with their peers
~ Create a youth Board of Directors (put their photos up) and meet every other week. The other weeks have Bible study. Gina recommends T3 Teen Bible Study by Jeff Cavins (available from www.ascensionpress.com).
~ Find out what the youth want to do.
~ Procure a meeting place on the church grounds
~ Procure funds through donations and fund raising to decorate and provide fun activities for the youth (i.e. pool table, video games) - the fund raising activities themselves can be formative and create unity and mystique
~ Let the talent of the youth shine (allow them to paint, decorate, perform...)
Submitted by Gina Tupy on January 1, 2007. Fr. Thomas Sieg is pastor of Church of St. Michael.