The following can be found in full at: https://leaders.formed.org/guide/sacramental-prep-and-parish-ministries/youth-ministry/
Empower Your Youth Ministry with YDISCIPLE and Make FORMED Disciples
“I can honestly say that after 11 years of ministry, YDisciple has revolutionized our ministry to young people. We have done almost everything to the book as YDisciple suggests and our numbers have exploded. We have double the number of teens regularly engaged in Discipleship Groups than ever showed up to youth group last year—including the teens who showed up to youth group only once. And this says nothing to the number and diversity of adults and parents in the parish who are now engaged in youth ministry. Beyond numbers, we are already seeing incredible fruit in parish engagement and commitment to prayer and the Sacraments.”
—Youth Minister, Minnesota
WHAT IS YDisciple?
YDisciple exists to empower parishes, parents, and individuals to do small group discipleship with teenagers
What’s available in a YDisciple Study on FORMED?
- Videos to make teaching the Faith simple for leaders and engaging for teens
- Leader Guides to help mentors facilitate fruitful discussion
- Parent Sheets to keep parents informed and engaged
- Teen Sheets to reinforce key concepts
How People are Using YDisciple in Youth Ministry:
- Offering small groups in addition to an existing youth group for teens who want to go deeper
- Building a small group ministry in place of a large group
- Creating a discipleship approach to confirmation prep, in lieu of a classroom model
- Forming short-term small groups to follow up after big events such as conferences, retreats, camps, mission trips, etc.
A small group discipleship-based youth ministry is not a religious education program, per se, nor is it a youth group in the traditional sense. Rather, it is faithful, adult mentors building relationships with teenagers and apprenticing them in the Christian Life. YDisciple is not an end in itself but a tool to make small group discipleship simpler for you.
Core Beliefs of YDisciple
- Empower parents to share the Faith and pray with their teenagers
- Draw teens out of youth culture and into meaningful relationships
- Be intentional in our time with teens and help them develop H.A.B.I.T.S. of a Disciple
- Develop a user-friendly tool for parents and mentors
5 Fundamental Needs:
Every Teen Has Them. Does your Ministry Meet Them?
To Be Understood
When an adult takes a genuine interest in a teenager and seeks first to understand, that adult earns the right to be heard. If adults want to hand on the Faith to teenagers, they must seek first to understand what is going on in their lives and hearts. Teenagers don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
It is often the case that teenagers will compromise the morals in which they have been raised in order to belong somewhere. If adults don’t help teenagers build healthy, life-giving relationships with one another, then they will find the need to belong elsewhere. On the other hand, if adults create an environment where teens are known, loved, and cared for, they create an ideal environment to hand on the Faith.
To Be Transparent
Sadly, teenagers today rarely have the freedom to be transparent, especially with one another. It is too dangerous to be vulnerable in a peer-dominated world focused on image and popularity. A small group where trust and transparency are established gives teenagers the security to be transparent.
To Engage in Critical Thinking
Teens are in the process of becoming their own person. They want to be treated as adults and no longer want to be told what to do or what to believe. They are critically evaluating what they have been raised to believe, and they are no longer interested in answers to questions they are not asking. Interesting topics, thought-provoking questions, lively discussion, dialogue, and freedom of expression engage teenagers in critical thinking.
To Be Mentored
Teenagers need dialogue, collaboration, and friendship with adults in order to become adults themselves. Relationships with adults help them answer the deep fundamental questions like: Am I lovable? Am I capable? What difference does my life make? Teens need be challenged to greatness through the direction, encouragement, and support of caring adults. It is a well-known educational principle that young people rise to the level of our expectations of them. With the help of loving, faith-filled adults, teenagers will be more likely to give their lives to Jesus.
A Roadmap to Meet the Needs of Teens
Partner with Parents
Study after study shows that parents are the primary influencer of teenagers faith life. There is no program that can replace them, but often ministries relegate parents to chaperones and snack-providers. YDisciple is different. We recommend partnering with parents from the beginning to help form the group, host the group (when possible), and sustain the group as it grows. YDisciple also makes sharing the content of the group with parents easy, so parents can be aware of what is discussed and small groups can serve as a springboard for faith-sharing in the home. Are you a parent? You can start a group for your teen with the tools provided on FORMED. No need to wait for an “official” program to start.
Engage other Faithful Adults
Your parish may have a youth minister or maybe even two. Your parish may have no youth minister at all or a person who wears multiple hats, youth ministry being just one. Even a full-time youth minister cannot adequately meet the needs of all the teen in his or her parish boundaries. YDisciple gives you the tools to “multiply” the youth minister. Equipping other caring adults in the parish to become, in a sense, co-youth ministers, focused on the needs and customizing the formation of the handful of teens in their group.
Encourage Ownership for Teens and their Families
At every turn of the process, we want you to think about how we can make sure these small groups are “owned” by the teens in them along with their families. Teens are more likely to be committed when they feel that the group is not “St. Mary’s small group” but “My small group.” Just a few ways this ownership can be developed are:
- Asking teens who they would like to be in a group with, instead of assigning groups
- Asking parents to invite other families personally
- Asking the teens who in the parish they want to mentor them, instead of recruiting mentors through the bulletin
- Meeting in homes or coffee shops, when permitted, instead of classrooms
- Asking teens and families what day and time works best for them, rather than scheduling for them
- Asking teens what they want to discuss, instead of following a linear curriculum
YDisciple is scalable. Whether you have a thriving youth group at your parish or you are a small parish with only a handful of teens at all, we recommend that you start just one or two small groups. If a small number of groups get off the ground well, expect organic growth. Teens will start talking. Parents will start talking. Others will want to start groups not because of a flyer, but because of word-of-mouth. Think: Mustard Seed to Movement.
An Example of Getting YDisciple Started:
- Parish Leader or Lead Parent identifies one or more hungry teens
- Parents and teens work together to identify other teens to invite into a group
- Teens are invited through their parents to be a part of a small group for just 6 weeks
- Teens and parents identify and invite a faithful adult to be the mentor
- Mentors are trained with videos and handouts provided by YDisciple
- Mentors go through necessary background checks and training required of your local diocese
- Families are invited to host their teen’s small group in their home (if permitted) or in another comfortable environment at the parish or local coffee shop
- Families register on FORMED to access YDisciple studies
- Group meets 6 weeks in a row to do the Follow Me study and an activity together
- Once the initial 6 weeks are over, teens are invited to continue with the group and challenged to become disciples
- Group continues to meet at least twice a month
“Instead of just dropping my kids off at the church, YDisciple helped me work with the parish to form a small group for both my son and my daughter. Working with my teens form a discipleship group gave me an opportunity to talk with them about faithful friends and evangelization. This is just what they needed after Confirmation. They look forward to meeting each week, asking questions, and getting answers they can trust. Discipleship gives them a solid foundation as they step into adult life in the Church.”
– Stephanie, parent
“YDisciple has been a tremendous blessing for our parish. We tried a large group model of youth ministry at our small, rural parish for several years. Over time the teens drifted away and we had difficulty finding a volunteer coordinator for the program. A big part of why we felt called to YDisciple was the wonderful format YDisciple provides. Because YDisciple provides excellent video content and discussion guides, most of our time could be focused on small group discipleship instead of preparing a talk or a teaching. The Holy Spirit is really moving here in West Point. I think it shows that small groups meet fundamental needs that teenagers do not always get met in the home, school or by modern culture. Small group discipleship provides a great environment for teens to grow in their self-esteem and faith. The exercises, videos and discussion questions in the YDisciple lessons really help the teens feel known, loved, and cared for by their mentors, peers and parents. Our teens are meeting Jesus as a person, not just a subject.”
– Andy & Cassie, Volunteer Leaders
West Point, NE
“YDisciple gives me as a parish priest the ability to offer high quality catechetical formation through lay leadership. It is an exceptional model for youth formation at the parish level. The process shows parents how to form their teens as disciples of Jesus Christ and teens are given an opportunity to enter into friendship with Christ and one another. In just a short time after launching YDisciple, we have approximately 85 teens with 16 adult mentors. We also have 5 Adult Mentors ready to take on new groups as they form.”
– Fr. Jason Buck
“When our youngest son came home for his first summer break from University at the age of 19, We felt the need to remind him about what was important. Because our parish had just given us a subscription to FORMED, we been introduced to YDisciple. I discovered that the program addressed many of the real challenges our youth struggle with everyday. We prayed he would be open to discussing some of the videos with me, but he was initially reluctant. However, after we had done a couple of sessions, we found him waiting for me to get home from work so we could continue with our sessions. Those videos and discussions had really caught his attention. The day before he returned to University, he asked if it was okay to share these sessions with his friends. I was amazed and could only thank God for his mercy. My only regret was not inviting his friends into the conversation sooner.”
– Diana & Jose, parents
Dubai, United Arab Emirates