By Emilie Ng
YOUTH ministers attending the Australian Catholic Youth Ministry Convention left eager to be more missionary focused in parishes and schools.
Sunnybank parish youth leader Steven Bird said the convention, held last week in Adelaide, offered a “refreshing reminder” that youth ministers were “the hands and feet of Christ in the community”.
“We have to keep Jesus as the main goal or we’ll just be another non-government organisation,” Mr Bird said.
“We have to be the joy of the Gospel.”
Mr Bird joined 400 other youth leaders from around the country in Adelaide for the convention, aimed at providing youth ministers with Catholic tools for engaging young people.
He said the convention revealed youth ministers “don’t emphasise enough on mission”.
Mr Bird and two other youth leaders from Sunnybank parish have since made plans to connect with Catholic charity organisations to provide ways for youth to be more missionary.
Sunnybank parish is also in the early stages of transitioning to US youth ministry model LifeTeen, a popular Eucharistic-based ministry to transform teenagers and parishes.
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Office for Youth director Malcolm Hart encouraged delegates to work harder on mission and service in an address on the final day of the convention.
Mr Hart said youth ministers needed to evangelise, catechise and provide outlets for mission or service.
He said nationally there was “definitely a cry for practical tools and strategies for engaging youth” but also a need to provide solid formation for youth ministers about best practice among young people.
Individuals in youth groups should be seen as the priority for youth ministers.
“We need to have critical reflections on youth ministry being from the group to the individual,” Mr Hart said.
“You can’t take a whole group from A to B, but you can focus on where the individual is at.”
Darra-Jindalee parish youth minister Stephanie Unger also had an “affirming” experience at the national convention.
Mrs Unger said workshops and keynotes helped her to create a “a good game plan” for the 30 young people in the parish youth group.
“Now it’s about trying to empower youth to be leaders in the group, not just being part of the group,” Mrs Unger said.
Brisbane’s Ignite Conference co-ordinator Luke Plant said the variety of youth ministry styles meant young people should always be able to find a place to live their faith.
“It was great to gather with people around the country who have a whole variety of charisms for young people,” Mr Plant said.