Beginning the Conversation

Four Pillars of Formation (not confined to the classroom)

The prayer of the youth office for all the children of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas is to have a well-rounded formation in the Christian life that is Catholic, universal, and whole.  The formation of children is given to parents, particularly in the rite of Baptism, but parishes have an important supporting role.  Most formation does not take place in a classroom/youth room; most formation is done in the home, and the formation that is done at the Parish, is most powerfully experienced in the Liturgy.

The four components that seminaries use to form future priests are: the human, the spiritual, the intellectual, and the pastoral. These four pillars of priestly formation, developed by Pope John Paul II’ (I will Give You Shepherds), is a model for us in engaging the whole person. 

It is easy, in the short time we have with our youth during the week, to focus on only one of these areas when teaching, by only presenting the faith intellectually or by “just having fun.”  However, parents and catechsits need to engage young people in all four areas to help them know Jesus personally.  Young people must be encouraged to discover the wonders of Christ’s Church through exploring the deposit of faith, engaging in vibrant liturgy, questioning teachings that may confuse them, and experiencing vibrant home and parish life.    

General and National Directory for Catechesis-Pedagogy of God

Both the General and National Directory for Catechesis are endorsed texts, and both texts draw focus to the “Pedagogy of God”.  The Pedagogy of God says God reveals himself to us gradually as we are open to receiving God.  We, as Youth leaders, assist God.  God creates conversion, forms hearts and works constantly in the deepest part of each of our beings, calling us home as his children. We form persons that come from a very wide variance of openness and faith maturity. Additionally, God is a living person.   We introduce Jesus, the person, to those that we form, and encourage them to grow in depth and intimacy with Him.  We are not simply studying and talking about a man, Jesus, who lived long ago, we are introducing, nurturing, fostering and tending to a relationship with a living person, not just a body of information.  Both the General and National Directory explain these critical approaches in great depth.  Please take time to read those sections. Both the GDC and NDC are texts that should be utilized and referred to often by those in catechetical ministry, including youth ministry. 

Earning the Right to be Heard and Child Protection

Catechesis is a moment in the process of evangelization (NDC.)  Catechesis is critical to keeping the flame of faith alive, but it does not work in isolation.  Trust and relationship both with God and community lead to the opportunity to catechize.  Often obstacles to tough situations and complex questions are made far simpler and clearer when the question asker and question answerer has deep trust developed between them.  Catechesis can be received by the hearer when the Catechist has as Jim Rayburn puts it, “earned the right to be heard.”  The trust that we speak of is a sacred trust, given by God to facilitate the salvation of souls.  Virtus and other child protection policies of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas must not be compromised in building trust neither can we abuse the sacred trust that catechist/youth ministers develop with parishioners.  Students admire authority figures, and Satan loves to stretch precious, sacred relationships into selfish, grotesque and sinful relationships.  Great care must be exercised to practice what is outlined in our child protection policies when building trust in all of our expressions of ministry. 

Social media is a powerful tool that can be used for great good, but also possesses the opportunity to create horrible scandal.  Prayerful and thoughtful professional care must be exercised when creating an online presence and in electronic communication with minors.  We are readily available to consult with you on these matters.

Events and Talks- Two Key Templates
Events are a part of a vibrant ministry.  The Church offers two key templates for catechetical events and talks/presentations: The Ecclesial Method and The Gather, Proclaim, Break, and Send model.    Each prepares those being formed to ready there hearts for a kerugmatik proclamation of the word of God.  The living word of God is an essential part of Christian teaching.   Other sources may certainly be used, but primacy is to be given to Holy Scripture through which God speaks to us individually, directly and corporately. Time should be given to synthesize Scriptures and the ideas presented, considering the application of them to our lives.  Finally, each method provides a sending forth to living out and proclaiming to others the Good News.  These models are efficacious and well tested by the church for both event planning and as model for both longer and shorter talks and presentations.

Curriculum and Systematic Catechesis in Religious Education

The curriculum of our catechetical activity of young people has received a great deal of attention from the Catholic Bishops of the United States.  They have created a framework for the instruction of high school students.  All textbooks used in our Catholic high schools are to be modeled after the framework, and have been approved by the representatives of the bishops and placed on the USCCB approved list.  This process was aimed at high school theology classes, but it has implications for all catechetical leaders.  The framework is import to consider in buying texts for high school religious education/youth ministry programs, as a limited number of RE /YM text are on the list.  If your ministry/program does not use a textbook or have a systematic scope and sequence of what is being presented, great care must be exercised to meaningfully and holistically form young people in a comprehensively Catholic formation.  Subjects taken from the framework, which are based strongly out of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, should be presented to the teens.  Some successful programs are lectionary based, and we see great value in cultivating deep connection to scripture.  Lectionary based programs that systematically integrate material from the framework into the curriculum are most desirable. 

Curriculums That Inspire not Warehouse

Curriculums in non-compulsory settings like religious educaiton environments are even more complicated.  We must not only consider the authenticity and comprehensive nature of the material, but we must consider the attractive and compelling nature of the material and presentation of that material.  Jim Rayburn, the founder of YoungLife, is famous for his quote, “It is a sin to bore a kid.”  He said this in context of sharing the Gospel and forming young people.  If we bore teens, they will not participate in our ministry or attend our programs, or if we compel them to attend through force and bore them, we greatly increased the odds of that child’s interest in the Catholic faith to be extinguished.  Young people do not want mindless entertainment or academic drudgery in their church activities.  They want to explore the wisdom of God in the issues and areas that affect them most.   Each of these nights is fun, compelling, relational, rooted in prayer and intentional in providing a piece of the formation puzzle.  It is very possible for a catechist to not use a “canned” program and to produce/write youth formation experiences that integrate all of these considerations, but it will take tremendous resolve, commitment and time.      

Packaged Programs that Hit the Mark

Many “canned programs” are poorly done and a waste of money and effort.  The Bible says that we can judge a tree by its fruit; if our students leave our ministries and programs on fire for the Lord, deeply rooted in prayer and seeking sacramental encounters like Reconciliation and Eucharist we should retain that program and share it with others.  If you see a more lackluster response, we would love to help you develop ministries and programs that are more fruitful.  Please contact us to begin that process. 

Some “canned programs” are wonderfully put together and if deployed by caring, committed and formed disciples/catechist, seem to bear much fruit.  We encourage youth ministries to look at these programs because over an extended period parishes have raved about them:



Catechesis of the Good Shepard is encouraged and endorsed by the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas as highly effective approach to bring preschool and elementary age parishioners into deep prayer and deeply compelling catechetical learning environments.  Contact Pam Riordan for more information regarding Catechesis of the Good Shepard.

Other resources that have been widely celebrated are:

Theology of the Body for Teens                 

Theology of the Body for Middle School    


Catechesis In Our Time                                                       

A really great book that provides a model for developing Catholic youth culture and effective youth ministry is:
Growing Teen Disciples: Strategies for Really Effective Youth Ministry by Frank Mercadante (Jun 18, 2002)

Two great books for understanding the landscape that you minister in and effective approach are:
 Forming Intentional Disciples
Engaging a New Generation: A Vision for Reaching Catholic Teens  

FORMED® is an exciting new online gateway to the best teaching videos, audio, and ebooks to deepen your parishioners’ relationships with Christ and His Church. Available anytime and anywhere on most computers and devices. The Augustine Institute, Ignatius Press, and Lighthouse Catholic Media are proud to introduce:

Homilies and Prayers for Young People

Ministering to your parish includes so much more than event planning.
Several parish priests meet with youth ministers and other parish leaders for homily ideas and to hear about issues that could be addressed in homilies or newsletters.  Youth ministers often lead a discipleship group for their core teams.  They frequently meet with struggling teens and parents.  They also meet with ecumenical youth leaders in their area to discuss regional youth concerns and to pray for all teens.  Praying for teens and youth in our parishes is one of the most important and powerful things we can do for them.

Grand Slam Youth Ministry Ideas-Research and Voices

A home runs in baseball games can be game changers. In ministry we see adoration, teen oriented Masses, service projects, retreats, Bible studies and summer intensives, including camp, as ministry home runs.  Regionally, students have deeply resonated with these programs/activities.  Nationally, the Lilly Foundation and University of North Carolina did the largest study on youth and religion ever done in the U.S and the discovered that Catholic youth most highly valued:

•   “Youth ministers to work with us”

•    Summer Intensives i.e. camp, VBS, Totus Tues, Catholic Heart Work Camp

•    Extended Trips and retreats – in particular the bus part of the equation

•    “Provide Bible study for youth and young adults.”

•    “Combining social activities with continued deepening of religious learning.”

•    “Develop youth focused liturgies with youth involvement.”

•    “Create organized activities and centers for youth by collaborating among parishes.”

•    “Provide Catholic leadership training for youth.”

  • “Develop programs that involve youth and bridge the post-Confirmation gap!”

Teens are very spiritual and they are proud in of it, but many teens do not identify themselves as religious.  We have significant work to do to make parishes youth friendly, to speak their language and to provide formation that is engaging, challenging and inviting.

Music and Ministry-Pop and Sacred

Music has long been a significant part of youth culture.  Knowing what kids listen to will tell you a lot about them.  While some pop music can be used to teach and connect, some is very inappropriate.  Create approved play list before using music in programming. Music, especially live music, is a powerful influence on young people.  Camp Tekakwitha has tapped into this love of music very successfully. They utilize praise and worship leaders, live bands and D.J. Christian music for various outcomes, each deeply engaging young people.  We encourage cultivating parish musicians. 

Here are a few resources: 

Spirit and Song


Mikey Needleman

National Organizations in the Catechetical Field

Partnership for Adolescent Catechesis

The National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry

The National Conference for Catechetical Leadership

The National Catholic Educational Association

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Don Bosco Center for the New Evangelization

Symposium on Advancing the New Evangelization