There's an interesting article over at MoreThanDodgeball.com right now about realistic integration of Youth Ministry and the Church.
This is an area that gives rise to a lot of discussion at youth ministry conferences, on websites and elsewhere. On the one hand, many see a danger in isolating the young people of the parish in their own little clique, and on the other hand, many people have come to realise that the mainstream body of your average parish often strikes young people as nothing more than a massive turn off!
As with all the great discussions, both extremes are true. There are dangers at both ends. The task for the half-decent youth minister is to figure out how to navigate this tricky area in a way which works well.
Some people have a complete objection to groups. They see any formation which separates a group from the main body of the parish as a bad thing, both divisive and dividing. My view, though, has always been that groups strengthen the main body of the parish, just as, perhaps, a group of friends is strengthened by the fact that they're not always together and that they have separate lives away from the group.
My last parish, in Brighton, was an amazing one. It was vibrant and packed with people. There was a thriving youth group and a thriving young adult ministry too. The parish had literally a couple of dozen groups: children, mothers, young teens, older teens, confirmandi, young adults, lay benedictines, charismatics, Padre Pio devotees, mothers, the elderly, and more besides. Each group enriched a set of people and meant that something strong was brought back into the parish when they came together.
Make no mistake, there is nothing wrong with groups. There will always be different needs which can't be met as a whole parish and the young people have some of the most acute needs. Problems come though, when the youth group never integrates.
Some positive steps can be made to help the youth group to integrate. Personally, I try to have 'Youth Masses' within the normal run of parish Masses i.e. so that there are other people there too! I also try to look for opportunities for young people to carry out acts of service for the rest of the parish so that they can be seen. I also make sure that the young people are still going to Mass on weekends where there isn't a youth-thing happening.
As ever, all thoughts welcome...
[image hotlinked from Flickr user marcia.furman]