Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 18, 2005
Youth ministry studies welcome
Course offers tools, techniques
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Young people from across Western Canada are planning to spend part of their summer studying ministry with the hope of improving their youth ministry skills.
At least 35 youth ministers are expected to head off to Regina in July for a week of intense studies in youth ministry.
Some of those who have taken the seminar in the past say the program made them better youth ministers because it equipped them with invaluable tools and techniques needed for comprehensive youth ministry.
The seminar is offered by the Winnipeg-based Centre for Ministry Studies and sponsored by the Western Canadian Association of Catholic Youth Ministries, a 40-member association which exists to offer support and advocacy for youth ministers.
"One of the ways in which we offer support is to offer training for youth ministers," said Denise Paquette, the coordinator of youth ministry for the St. Paul Diocese and chair of Association of Catholic Youth Ministers.
"We really believe that training for youth ministers is important. As well as encouraging youth ministers to take opportunities for training and development in their own region, we also offer this summer seminar."
The seminar, known as Summer Seminar in Youth Ministry, is an eight-course training program for those in ministry with youth in the parish, school or community settings. It leads to a certificate in youth ministry studies. Courses offered at the seminar include principles of youth ministry, practices of youth ministry, foundations of youth ministry leadership and skills for Christian leadership.
It takes three summers to complete the eight courses and get the certificate, which is quickly becoming a requirement for employment in the youth ministry field.
For the third year in a row, the seminar will be held at Regina's John Paul II Centre from July 4 to 10.
Jeanne McKay, coordinator of youth ministry at St. Albert Parish, completed the seminar in 2003 and is happy she did. "It has helped me a lot in my job," she said. "It gave me a lot of practical skills and resources."
Few people from the Edmonton Archdiocese take the seminar because the program is offered here over a period of two years.
Registration for the seminar has been between 25 and 40 people for the last three years. This year, Paquette is hoping for a minimum of 35.
"It's a very intense week," she said. "There's 14 hours of instruction for each course within that week." Participants also have to complete projects and assignments for each course over the course of the year.
Paquette took the seminar in the summers of 1997, 1998 and 1999 and got her certificate in youth ministry in 2000. She was a parish youth minister at the time and taking the seminar was part of a contract stipulation with the parish.
"I was really excited to do it and I didn't find it a burden," she said. "And I think it has helped me tremendously."
The first real benefit for Paquette is that the seminar allowed her to connect with other youth ministers and to share in the learning with others who were doing the same work she was doing. "So I found that to be a real benefit and I gained friendships that still exist for me today from that experience."
Through the courses she learned how to plan, how to work with others in team ministry and how to invite volunteers to join your ministry and how to support them in that. "What I found was the courses were very practical in walking you through a step-by-step process on how to plan, how to work with a team and how to address the needs of young people," Paquette explained. "I'm very happy I took these courses."
The program has been offered in Regina the last three years, but before that it would go to a different diocese every year. She took the program in St. Albert, Calgary and Winnipeg.
"I would like to think it is having a positive effect on youth ministry in Western Canada," Paquette said. "Youth ministers that have taken the training seem to be able to surround themselves with teams and I think that's what makes a difference in youth ministry."
Paquette, who has been with the St. Paul Diocese for five years, also thinks youth ministry is growing in Western Canada, partly because of the summer seminar.
"I think that World Youth Day brought a renewed focus on ministry to young people and ministry with young adults," she said.
"I also see that there are more and more bishops placing a concrete emphasis on youth ministry; not that this wasn't seen as important in the past but I think now we are being more intentional about focusing on youth ministry." The only thing that doesn't seem to be growing is the number of paid youth ministers, Paquette said. "I would love to see that increase because having a paid position in the parish or in a school really allows that person to focus their time and their efforts on their work hours to grow in that ministry," she said. "There are lots of volunteers that are working very hard and are really committed to young people and I think how much more they can do if they have the time and the resources to do it."
Andrew Papenbrock, associate director of youth and young adult ministry for the Edmonton Archdiocese, attended the seminar in Regina in 2003 before the archdiocese began to offer it. He was impressed.
"This is an excellent program that equips you with practical tools and techniques needed for comprehensive youth ministry," he said. "It's also a wonderful opportunity for networking and for prayer."
He said the program made him seriously reflect on who he is, what skills he could bring to youth ministry and what new skills he could learn.
Papenbrock thinks youth ministry is growing "incredibly" thanks in part to programs like the Summer Seminar in Youth Ministry.
"Here in the Edmonton Archdiocese we are growing in support and in involvement," he noted. "There is a better understanding of what youth ministry is."
"This is an excellent program that equips you with practical tools and techniques needed for comprehensive youth ministry."
- Andrew Papenbrock
McKay, the St. Albert Parish youth coordinator, agrees youth ministry is growing. "It's actually blossoming, going places," she said, noting more and more parishes in the Edmonton Archdiocese are hiring youth ministry coordinators.
"This is because there is a better understanding of the role of youth in the Church and because (people are realizing) youth adds energy and life to the parish."
Denise McKay of Sherwood Park's Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish took a summer seminar in 2003 and is currently completing the program through the Edmonton Archdiocese.
"It's an excellent program," she said. "It not only allows you to bond with other youth ministers from Western Canada, but also gives you lots of hands-on stuff such as how to set up a retreat and how to deal with practical issues. It's absolutely worthwhile."
For more information on the Summer Seminar in Youth Ministry call Denise Paquette at 780-645-3277.
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