One of the things I find most challenging in what I do is being able to explain to others how discipleship is not a program. Any programming in your parish, including discipleship groups, should be done to foster and build a culture for discipleship. If a program is not helping build discipleship or draw new youth into discipleship, take time to seriously consider why it even exists. On the other hand, programming is essential to building a discipleship-focused youth ministry in your parish. There are plenty of things you can do on a bigger scale that will bring discipleship groups together and will be an opportunity to draw others in. Here are a few parameters I have developed that will help evaluate programs as being helpful in a discipleship-focused youth ministry.

Coordinate Things That Require More Than One Small Group

It’s hard to play a softball game with a small group of 4-6 youth. Work towards offering opportunities in the parish that small groups could not do alone.

Compensate for what Your Leaders May Lack

Your leaders may have agreed to lead a group of young people in their faith, but they may not be experienced retreat leaders or engaging teachers. Consider planning a retreat that is an opportunity for your groups to attend and do the work of providing quality content that is presented well.

Take the “Work” Out of Being a Disciple Leader

Many leaders are great at mentoring and walking with the youth in their faith journey. They may be more than willing to go on a camping trip with their group, but they may not have the skills or time to figure out the details. If the parish makes opportunities like this easy for their groups, they are more likely to do them.

Bring Communities Together

Discipleship groups should be part of a greater community. Doing things that allow a group to continue being a group while also exposing them to other groups and other youth in the parish will continue to foster growth as they are opened up to other people and possibilities.

Inspire Involvement in Diocesan and National Events

Similar to the tip above, expose your youth to the Church community outside of your parish. This will give your youth the bigger picture of the Church they are part of in their discipleship groups.

Provide a Bridge to Outreach and Mission

Discipleship groups tend to be very inward-focused, but the goal is that they would be a light to the world and be sent to build up the Body of Christ (the Church). Therefore, the parish should provide opportunities that make it easier to practice outreach and share the fruits of what is happening in their group.

I should end by saying that in each case, these opportunities are ideas that should be offered, not required, for those in small groups. If the parish has programming in place and no one wants to be a part of it, then stop doing it. People will go where they are fed and formed, and the programming is helping them move forward. Be sure to have an ongoing dialogue with your discipleship group leaders about what the parish can do to help build up the small groups and inspire them to a missionary initiative.


Originally posted on  Reposted with permission.