For four years of my life, I studied how to be a good youth minister and create programs and the like that would draw young people to God and into the Faith. I had been volunteering and interning in parish and diocesan youth ministry programs since I was 17 and loved it. But after one year of paid parish youth ministry, I was burned out. I could tell that the programs I was emphasizing and the hours I was requiring of the teens of my parish were not having lasting effects.
Most American parishes try to have some sort of outreach to their youths. Parishes are involved with LifeTeen, EDGE, or at least a sacramental preparation program. Almost all dioceses in America also try to offer youth rallies or events geared towards their youth. Every diocese has at least one Catholic school.
We know that youth ministry is important in the Catholic world. The popes promulgate such things as World Youth Day. We celebrate that canonization of teenagers and elementary-aged people as saints.
But in America, youth ministry is failing. Fewer and fewer youths are attending these programs or gaining any lasting benefits.
What can be done? In The Art of Forming Young Disciples: Why Youth Ministries Aren’t Working an What to Do About It, Everett Fritz identifies why youths are leaving, what the problems in American Catholic youth ministry are, and then offers a solution.