Youth Matters at the Cathedral Parish Review

On Friday 14th October, the Cathedral had its Parish review. It revolved around different discussions taking place at different tables. Perhaps not suprisingly, most of the TnTers ended up at the “Parish Youth” discussion table. By the end of the evening we had come up with with some new and exciting youth ideas – possibly inspired by the delicious food and wine provided!

The crux of the discussion was unifying the youth of Bristol – uniting our teenagers, students and TnT members across Bristol. It was thought would this would provide more venues, greater cohesion and fusion, and provide a boost for the Catholic youth of Bristol both socially and spiritually.

Here’s a brief resume of what was discussed.

Who do we mean by “youth” of our church?

Everyone from secondary school age upwards (no upper limit, as people of varying ages join TnT events – and anyway, we’re as young as we want to be!). It was mentioned that any attempt to further integrate teenagers is lost if there is nothing for them to move onto once they get older.

What we do well

Teenagers

The confirmation group is a focus for young people from 14-16 and provides some energy for them.

There have been youth groups in the past which have been quite successful.

Twenties and Thirties

The TnT group was mentioned as being a good source of spiritual support and socialising.

Lectio Divina

Teresa’s Hot Topics sessions (brief catechism on chosen topic/issue, followed by open discussion/debate/Q&A)

All age groups

Teenagers, Students and TnT age groups have different needs and activities geared to their age – i.e. it was felt it was important that TnTs still do our pub thing, while teenagers clearly can’t do pub-orientated activities, and students may want to stick to their cheaper chaplaincy bar!


What we can improve on

Teenagers

It seems there is currently not much provision for teenagers in terms of youth group/activities to help them participate in parish life.

It was suggested that because past youth groups were led by one or two parishioners without much additional support, this meant that when these parishioners were no longer able to do this for whatever reason the youth group ground to a halt.

The success of previous youth groups was, to a large extent, dependent on the number of teenagers who attended them – when a youth group dwindles to a certain size it can be hard to motivate new members to join.

Twenties and Thirties

Although there is quite a strong twenties and thirties contingent in the Cathedral parish, in other parishes being a Catholic in your twenties or thirties can be a very isolating experience – with a lot of parishes focusing on the very old and the very young.

The TnT group is a vibrant expression of twenties and thirties Catholicism in Bristol but there are many more Bristolians in their twenties and thirties who were brought up as Catholics but now struggle to see where they can fit into their parishes.

The strength of the evangelical movement among this age group shows that this is not down to lack of spiritual awareness/interest among 20s & 30s.

All age groups

Currently we consider teens, students, and 20s & 30s as three distinct groups. Although each different age group has different needs and interests, it can also be seen as quite an artificial way of looking at things as in most other parts of life – such as family life – different age groups mix and benefit from spending time with each other.


What we could try

Teenagers

Greater integration of age groups
Try integrating teenage youth groups with students groups and the TnT group. We agreed that much could be gained from shared experiences – joint activities could involve trips to the climbing wall, cinema, days out (e.g. last weekend’s Glastonbury trip, walks in the Mendips/Brecons), crazy golf, bowling, coffee out (doesn’t always need to be the pub!) etc. In fact, much of what TnTs do already could easily include teenagers and students – and needn’t necessarily be done as part of an organised “youth group”.

Self-perpetuating leadership
Leadership/organising responsabilities should not fall to one or two, but a pool of coordinators, including representatives from the different age-groups. Group would hopefully become self-perpetuating: where one coordinator leaves Bristol, there are others to pick up, such as students who stay to work in Bristol after finishing their degree, other new TnT members etc.

Mentoring
This fusion of the different youth groups would also provide the potential for mentoring as the younger youths could be guided by the older ones.

Children’s liturgy of the word
Teenagers could be encouraged to participate in mentoring and leadership by working with younger children through Children’s liturgy of the word (if this is not already being done).

Recognising the value of every age group – inclusion, not excusion
All of this would not exclude other age-groups from participating. There were a lot of young parents who obviously had a vested interest in ensuring that there would be something for their children to be a part of as they grow up, and there was an emphasis on the value that all age-groups could bring to any kind of youth group.

Spiritual/prayer-focused activities
It was also thought that a youth group could include more spiritual/prayer-focused activities such as Teresa’s Hot Topics sessions (brief catechism on chosen topic/issue, followed by open discussion/debate/Q&A) or Lectio Divina (I wish I had discovered it before I was 25..!!), retreats etc etc.

Twenties & Thirties

Students and TnT links
Forging stronger links between the University Catholic Chaplaincy and the TnT group – such as joint events, or possibly combining Sunday meetings every now and again. It was mentioned that this has been done quite successfully in Leeds. This also makes sense as there is often little difference in age between the older students and the younger TnT members, and it allows for a continuity from student to post student for those who decide to stay in Bristol.

Increasing awareness of TnT
Publicising TnT meetings in other parishes – through leaflets/posters in other parishes, putting a link to the TNT website on parish websites or putting regular notices in parish newsletters.

All age groups

Youth Mass
Set up a regular youth mass, possibly with more youthful music including drums & guitars.

Intra-parish events
Intra-parish events to allow young Catholics to meet other young Catholics regardless of which parish they’re part of. Events such as ceilidhs are enjoyed by every age group.

Bristol Catholic Youth Committee
Regular meetings with a youth member of each of the 22 parishes in Bristol, a “Bristol Catholic Youth Committee”. We discussed that some parishes have a greater youth contingent than others, but a regular meeting could call on those other parishes to bring a represenatative to the fore. It would lead to the youthful voices from all across Bristol being represented and heard.

Where do we go from here?

These are just initial thoughts around a perhaps utopian vision which may never materialise or may need to be massively scaled down, but I really think it’s a idea worth pursuing – the feeling round the table last week was of genuine excitment and it would be a shame not to at least discuss it further and see if we can act on it. Dave Wheats, Clifton Diocese’s Youth MinistryCoordinator, has said he would be happy to come and meet some of the TNT group and maybe a few members of the Cathedral Parish Pastoral Council (and any other interested parties – be they other parishes or individuals), and see how we can take forward some of the suggestions. A possible date is sometime in the first week of December. Here’s hoping something might come out of this – I’m entrusting it all to prayer, in addition to this email!!




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