The Soul Youth Ministry at the Catholic Parish of Pittwater is aimed at young people between 15 and 22 years of age. The group has a spiritual focus and they meet on a Thursday night.
The Soul Youth Ministry is aimed at young people between year 10 and young adults (16-22). The ministry has been in operation since 2006.
Simon Hyland is the Youth Ministry and Music Director for the Catholic Parish of Pittwater and is employed full time.
The group was started in response to a youth forum that was held in the parish by the then Parish Priest Father Rex Curry. Even though the group started in 2006, many of the original members continue to attend the program. The average age of those who attend is 23. On average the group is attended by 20-30 young people each week.
The Soul group has a spiritual focus and they meet on a Thursday night. The format of the gathering is that they start with praise and worship music, then some input (usually the Sunday gospel), then they break into discussion groups. They conclude with a final prayer and then have supper.
Over the years the group has worked with a variety of input materials including, Lenten programs, youth café, book studies, youth alpha. Mostly however they use the Sunday gospel. The benefit of using the gospel is that on Sundays when the young people come to mass they have already engaged with the Gospel, it holds meaning for them in the context of their lives.
Song Written By Simon Hyland and Rebecca Williamson
Simon and Marco
At the beginning of the year they set a “loose” program for the year. Simon meets during the year with leaders to review the program. They always leave a bit of flexibility for inspiration or to move with something that the group may want to do, or is a need that has emerged.
By attending Soul, Simon hopes that we are giving the young people a gift for life, which will be with them forever. He states “They will always have the times that they spent at Soul, whatever time that it was”. Although it is good to have large numbers attending Simon said that he is not concerned about numbers; he encourages young people to find out where God is calling them.
He encourages them to develop their individual relationship with God, to pray and spend time with God. The program is worth making available to young people regardless of numbers.
The Soul Youth Ministry in recent years has expanded to include ministry to younger age groups. Soul sessions is conducted at the local high school on Friday nights for years 7, 8, 9. The focus of the group is predominantly social including sports, games and activities. They also have time for scripture as part of the session. On average about 30-40 young people of this age attend each week.
Soul Crew is for children in year 5 and 6, which is also conducted on Friday nights in the same format as Soul Sessions.
They have about 30-40 young people at each session per week. More than half the young people that attend Soul Crew and Soul Sessions are not regular mass attendees.
Soul Crew and Soul Sessions are also co-ordinated by Simon Hyland with the support of the young adults who attend Soul.
The Soul group also participates in larger events that may come up throughout the year for example retreats, camps supporting a house building trip to Cambodia (in conjunction with the Catholic High School) and events such as hosting the WYD cross and icon.
Simon says “In the ministry it’s important that everyone has a sense of leadership. People that come along to Soul are not just recipients but are encouraged to be part of the ministry. Being a “leader” in the Soul group is not a formal position. Leaders facilitate communication, take responsibility for welcoming new people, are there to “listen”, lead the group discussions.
Acceptance is a very important part of any group for young people. It’s important that everyone is welcomed and feels accepted. Simon said that he has seen growth in young people over the time that they have been coming due to this acceptance.
He reflects “It’s important that people are welcomed and accepted; young people are looking for a place to be themselves. Young people have a thirst for the meaning of life; they are looking for the answers to life’s bigger questions”.
In the group everyone has the chance to be involved and there is attention paid by group leaders to identify people’s gifts and to develop them.
Simon said that critical to the success of the group is the support and trust offered by the Parish Priest, Fr George Kolodziej. Simon also feels that the youth ministry is supported by the whole parish and this is also important to their success.
The longevity of the ministry is attributed by Simon to the following factors; firstly having a full time person employed to co-ordinate the ministry. By having the same co-ordinator for six years, the ministry has been able to build and develop over time. Secondly the intentional desire about the ministry, they are always looking to reach out. The way that the group is led, not having parents involved has meant that the young people have been more active, when they are active and involved they are more committed.
In inviting people to join the group, the best way to do this is by witness. When people see the group – do they get a sense of community?
He said “we are inspired by the witness of the disciples, we want to have a ministry that draws people to us by our example.”
Simon said that when people come to the group they are noticed, welcomed and attended to and that people are treated with respect and love. He said “we are inspired by the witness of the disciples, we want to have a ministry that draws people to us by our example, our witness.”
Ideally by young people being involved in Soul they are drawn to participate across other ministries in the parish. This was encouraged by the internship and is something that they hope will continue.
Summary of Learnings
- The group does not have a formal leadership group, everyone is responsible for ministry. There are no parents involved therefore the young people manage the group, lead by the Youth Minister
- The Soul program primarily uses as its focus the Sunday gospel. By using the Sunday Gospel young people have already had the chance to engage with the text before Sunday Mass, it already carries meaning. It is important that young people can engage with scripture in a way that is relevant to their everyday lives
- The Youth Minister is paid (and is also the Parish Music Director)
- Youth Ministry in the parish sees about 100 young people per week through their three youth programs aimed at various ages, Soul for year 10-young adult, Soul Sessions and Soul Crew.
- Youth Ministry has been able to build connections between parish and school
- Participants develop spiritually but also develop skills, confidence and friendships as part of the ministry