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How do we bring people back to the Church? Focus on teenagers

Steve Allgeyer

Growing faith: Life Teen vice-president of ministry advancement Steve Allgeyer will be coming back to Brisbane on October 8.

YOUTH minister Steve Allgeyer is convinced the Catholic Church will “come alive” if parishes put more energy into reaching teenagers.

Mr Allgeyer is the vice-president of ministry advancement at Life Teen, a United States-based youth movement that visited Brisbane last year.

With more than 25 years’ experience in youth ministry, he has seen the power of building the Church from teenagers up.

“If we focus on the teens, the rest of the Church will come alive,” Mr Allgeyer told The Catholic Leader.

“Families will come back to the Church, adults will beg for the same spiritual renewal they are seeing in the youth and together we will restore parishes and families through the power of the youth.”

The 2011 National Church Life Survey showed about 680,000 people attended weekend Mass, about 12.5 per cent of the number of Catholics in Australia.

Next month, Mr Allgeyer will return to Brisbane for a training day with Brisbane’s Youth Evangelisation Office to prove that reaching teenagers in and outside of parishes would improve Mass attendance in Australia and beyond.

“I have been in youth ministry for 25 years and the amount of teenagers that have come back to thank me has been incredible,” he said.  

“Miracles happen every day in youth ministry if we expect them like our Blessed Mother did at the wedding in Cana.”

Ahead of his trip to Brisbane, Mr Allgeyer’s advice to youth ministers was “don’t give up” on the difficult but necessary work.

“Working with teenagers is a very ‘thankless’ job in our Church, but it is working,” he said.

Youth Evangelisation Office parish support officer Jeremy Grear said Life Teen’s international resources had strengthened a number of parishes across Brisbane, including Sunnybank and Darra Jindalee.

He said the benefit of the Life Teen programs was the emphasis on building relationships with young people as opposed to administrative tasks.

“I always say the real beauty of Life Teen is it actually unties the youth minister’s hand to do the real work of youth ministry, which is relational,” Mr Grear said.

“They’re not having to worry about the planning, or what games are we going to run and who is giving the talk and how are they going to know what to say – it’s all included. 

“So that way you can actually build relationships with young people and journey with them.”

Youth Project consultant Teresa McGrath said two of the archdiocese’s most successful youth initiatives were following the Life Teen program.

“(The) comprehensive ministry and tool kit that it provides, so far we haven’t found anything that offers quite the same level of support,” Mrs McGrath said.

However, the team acknowledged there was no “one size fits all” program to suit all youth movements and groups in Brisbane.

“We try as much as possible to offer individual support,” Mr Grear said. 

“We want people from all different backgrounds and ideologies to find some place of home in the Church. 

“If everyone’s doing the one program we’re not going to reach everyone.”

The Youth Ministry Training Day with Life Teen International will be held on October 8 from 9am to 6pm at Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School Hall, Sunnybank

The training day will be followed by a free youth rally open to high schoolers and young adults.

By Emilie Ng

Catholic Church Insurance

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