Raising Teens in the Faith: It Takes a Village

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theresa 143_peI’m about to begin my seventh year in high school youth ministry, and after six years knee-deep in this incredibly beautiful, rewarding, and yes, challenging ministry, I’ve been asking myself a big question: how are we doing?  It’s a dangerous question to ask because it requires humility, adjustment and trust.  One of the areas where I see the biggest potential for improvement in youth ministry – not just in my own parish, but across the US – is ministry to parents.  If we are to be about the work of good ministry to teens, then we also must be about the work of good ministry to parents.

We are reminded often that parents are the primary catechists of their children.  But they are also the primary youth ministers to their children, forming them as disciples of Jesus Christ.  So good ministry to teens isn’t just about teaching the faith, or providing opportunities for prayer and retreats, or building community.  It is also about serving parents, supporting them in their vocation and helping them bring their teens to Jesus.

In the National Study of Youth and Religion (Christian Smith and Lisa Pearce, 2001-2013) teens indicated that parents and adults are the primary influencers of spiritual formation, their religious beliefs and practices.  That was the first finding of the large study.  The second?  That youth ministry programming is important.

Yes, what we do at the parish for high school teens is important.  But  it is secondary to the practice of the faith at home.  Youth ministers across the country are recognizing this natural hierarchy and asking the next big question:  Since parents are the single greatest influence on the faith of a teen, then how can we help?

This is the question that has been on my mind and heart as I look ahead and ready our program for another year.  I’m the mom of a six month old.  One day – what seems now like an eternity away – I will be the parent of a teen.  But for now, I rely on the perspective and input from parents like many of you.  So, I’d like to ask for your input, Catholic moms:

How do you want your parish to support you in your vocation of raising your teen in the faith?

Copyright 2014 Megan Swaim

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About Author

Megan Swaim lives in South Bend, IN, with her husband, Josh, and daughters, Lucy and Mary. Together they are navigating the beautiful (and crazy) adventure of marriage, parenting, and ministering to the young Church. Megan is a high school youth minister and was one of the administrators of the My Year of Faith blog and app for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. You can read more from Megan at www.myyearoffaith.com.

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