I think that the formula for the perfect youth group goes something like this:
- Awesome praise and worship music
- A great Bible study
- Opportunities to learn about the faith
- Fun community service projects
- Cool friends to hang out with
And then when you have all these things in line you will have the strength to go out into the world and preach the good news!
Sounds good right? . . . But what do you do if your youth group isn't quite up to those standards?
Now, I'm not talking about if your group isn't faithful to the teachings of the Church, or if all anybody wants to do is talk about the Kardashians and watch YouTube videos on their phones (I was in one of those once). If your group's like that it may be the time to respectfully depart.
What if your group is just really small though? Not a lot of people, not a lot of plans for the meeting. What should you do then?
When I was in college our campus ministry group was about 5-7 people. We could never quite focus on something to do and we experimented with apologetics, guest speakers, Bible study, BBQs, hiking trips, retreats, and community service. All good things, but we still couldn't find a rhythm and seemed to be developing really slowly.
Here are some points to keep in mind if you're in a similar situation:
- Remember you're going for supernatural reasons and not human ones. You're going because you want an opportunity to grow spiritually, and to build a community that may not be there yet. You're not going just because it's fun and you can hang out with your friends.
- Step up and be a leader. It's easy to participate if the year's activities are planned out and all you have to do is show up. But do you have what it takes to work with the youth minister and other members to plan community service and prepare faith formation? It takes commitment and perseverance, especially if you know only a few people will be at meetings.
- Take advantage of variety. Not having a specific direction can be a positive. A well established group may stick to the same routine each year, but a newer group has an opportunity to make connections with a variety of service organizations, guest speakers and faith formation tools.
- Don't judge your group by earthly standards. In America we're all about numbers, and the bigger the better. But God doesn't work like that. Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to 'yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened' (Matthew 13:33). Just like it only takes a little yeast to raise a whole lot of dough, it only takes a small group to make a big impact on the community.
It took a while, but our group found its rhythm and now it is the largest public university group in our diocese, at about 30 people. My youth minister apologizes for being so small while I was there, but I see the current group as the fulfillment of all of our hard work and prayers. God works on his own time, and I'm happy that I was able to lay the foundation for a well-developed youth group, even if I didn't get to be part of it myself.
So don't be discouraged by a small group. Say a prayer, roll up your sleeves, call up your youth minister, and get to work!