The specifics of each ministry to young adolescents will, obviously, vary from parish to parish. However,
there are four characteristics that seem to be present in most effective programs.
- Personal Relationships
Caring adult leaders, teachers/catechists, coaches, and chaperones work to build personal
relationships with the youth they serve. Through them, young adolescents know that they are loved by
God and feel at home in the Church.
- Parental Support
Parental support and ownership of the program is obtained through regular communication, parent
education sessions, and numerous opportunities for parents to volunteer. Remember, most parents get
involved in small ways such as assisting with publicity, transportation, or food preparation.
- Input of Young Adolescents
Young adolescents provide input into the planning of all programs/events and assist the adult leaders
with specific tasks during each event or gathering.
- Planning Team
An organized planning team has designed a comprehensive program which responds to the diversity
of needs of young adolescents. Ministry to and with young adolescents includes a variety of
components, using several different formats. The program is evaluated at regular intervals throughout
- Include all Components of Comprehensive Youth Ministry
Ministry with adolescents utilizes each of the Church’s ministries – advocacy, catechesis, community
life, evangelization, justice and service, leadership development, pastoral care, prayer and worship –
in an integrated approach to achieve the three goals for ministry. These components provide a
framework for the Catholic community to respond to the needs of young people and to involve young
people in sharing their unique gifts with the larger community. They provide a structure for the
Church’s ministry with adolescents, while encouraging local creativity in developing programs,
activities, and strategies for each component. The U.S. Catholic Bishops remind us, “We have
learned that no one strategy, activity, or program is adequate to the task of promoting the three goals
for ministry with adolescents and that families, parishes, and schools cannot work in isolation if the
Church is to realize its goals” (
Four Guidelines for Jewish Ministry
So here are some guidelines that will hopefully quell some of the anxiety surrounding this particular area of ministry. As with any ministry, be mindful that this is the work of God in someone’s life, and no one’s salvation depends on you, read more here. Also, please note that a Jewish person is a human being, not an “ism.” People are more complex than articles, which can be reductionist.
- Recognize semantic difficulties.
Part of the problem with this dialogue is that Christians and Jews use similar terms, but mean different things. Messiah, salvation, atonement, eternal life, Son of God—Jews know these terms, but they don’t use them the same way.
This is one of the reasons it’s important to ask questions. Much misunderstanding can result when we aren’t aware of these semantic differences.
- Start with Moses.
This is one of the primary difficulties for most Christians when talking to Jewish people about their faith, but perhaps the single most important thing to understand. You can’t just dive in to an exposition of “here’s why Jews need Jesus.” They do not recognize the authority of the New Testament, of course, but more importantly they don’t interpret Scripture that way.
Everything must be understood through the Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy, the books of Moses). The Hebrew word for their Scriptures is “Tanakh.” Tanakh is an acronym of the Hebrew words for Torah, Prophets, and Writings — what we would call the Old Testament.
This isn’t a mere table of contents. It is also a description of the order of authority in Scripture. The Torah comes first. The Prophets are always interpreted through the Torah, and the Writings are always interpreted through the Torah and the Prophets. This order can never be changed. The Prophets and the Writings expand on and illuminate Torah, but they can never overturn it.
For an observant Jew, it will be the same for anything from the New Testament. They will never accept any interpretation of Scripture that contradicts Torah. Jesus himself upheld this, not only in his statement in Matthew 5:17-18, but also when he teaches “from the Law and the Prophets” (see Luke 24:44)—
Therefore you must argue from Torah, not the Gospels. You can’t even start with Isaiah 53 or Zechariah 12:10, because those passages also must be interpreted through Torah.
This might sound terrifying. Ask questions and listen. Let your Jewish friends tell you what they believe, rather than approaching them with preconceived notions. Seek to understand rather than to be understood.
- Be aware of the history between the Church and the Jews.
The history isn’t good. It’s one of the most difficult things to write about when dealing with Jewish ministry, but it’s necessary to mention.
Many people are aware of the Inquisitions, and they know that Martin Luther made some unfortunate comments about the Jews at some point. But it is absolutely vital to understand that Christian anti-Semitism is not limited to a handful of individuals or events from hundreds of years ago. It has been total and systemic since at least the time of Constantine (early 4th century). It was codified in Church edicts and councils, and it exists today in some of our liturgy and theology, though we may not realize it.
This is not an article about anti-Semitism, so I will not make a list here of everything Christians have done to Jews throughout history. But the information is out there, as they know perfectly well, and it’s better if you aren’t caught off-guard when they bring it up.
The encouraging news is that Jewish-Christian relations are most definitely improving. But that has only been since the Holocaust and Vatican II. 70 years of improved relations are hardly enough to remove the sting of 1700 years of persecution. We are just starting to learn how to talk to each other. So be aware, and be sensitive.
- Don’t try to “convert” them.
We do not use the term “convert” in Jewish ministry. The word implies a turning away from Judaism toward Christianity, and that isn’t necessary here (turning from sin is something they already understand, and is part of Judaism as well).
We most adamantly do not teach Jewish people to stop being Jewish. Neither did Jesus or the apostles (see Matthew 5:19 and Acts 21:15-26). If anything, the opposite is true. New meaning is brought to ideas and passages of Scripture they have known their entire lives.
An interesting quirk in Jewish ministry is that most new Jewish believers become more involved in their Jewish heritage than they were before. We encourage this. It is our belief that a distinctly Jewish expression of faith in Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah) brings honor and glory to God. The idea that the Jewish Messiah came to tell them to stop being Jewish is at odds with Scripture (see Deuteronomy 17:18-20) and plain nonsense to boot.
Our Youth Ministry Coordinators are Javier and Annaleise Comacha.