Franciscan University of Steubenville has had an extraordinary impact on the Catholic community and Catholic youth ministry in the United States. In order to appeal to a wider range of students, Franciscan University has recently created a minor in youth ministry that is available to students. Rather than only having the option to obtain a catechetics major with a youth ministry concentration, students can major in something besides catechetics while working toward a youth ministry minor.
Bob Rice, director of the MA in Catechetics and Evangelization program who also oversees the youth ministry minor, explained that the university decided to offer a youth ministry minor because “we found that many students that go into youth ministry do not necessarily study catechetics because of the demand of the major. We hoped that we would be able to reach those students.”
After Rice received his doctorate in theology from Liverpool Hope University, he had more time to teach youth ministry courses and work on creating the program for the minor. “The changes in the core curriculum gave students less opportunity to do things like double major or major with a concentration, so it seemed the time was right to offer the minor,” Rice said. The youth ministry minor was approved in the middle of 2017, making this the first academic year that students can work towards its completion.
The youth ministry minor will allow students to acquire knowledge in a wide variety of topics related to youth ministry. The courses required for the minor are Introduction to Catechetics, Catechetics, Catechetical Content and Curriculum, Parish and Personal Evangelization, Foundations of Catholic Youth Ministry and Youth Ministry Methods. In these classes, “students will get a bigger understanding of the history of youth ministry and the particular challenges that are out there when trying to evangelize to young people,” said Rice.
Topics that the minor will cover in these classes include history of youth ministry, trends in current youth culture, different methodologies in evangelizing young people, what it is like to work in a parish and more. However, not every topic covered will be a positive one. Topics will also include youth ministry in multicultural situations, pastoral issues in the family and other problems youth face.
“I find that a lot of our students are good relationally with people and passionate about the faith,” said Rice. “The other stuff of youth ministry hits them like a ton of bricks. These types of things are the differences between being a volunteer and a professional in the youth ministry field.” He hopes that the minor will equip students with everything they need to be successful in that field.
Rice stressed the importance of youth ministers in the world today. “Many young people are leaving the church,” said Rice. “It is the reason Pope Francis has called a synod on young people. It is a difficult ministry. The goal is helping young people become disciples of Jesus Christ by sharing the faith and accompanying them on that journey.”
The minor program aims to prepare students to be successful in the ministry. “If you really have a heart of sharing the gospel with teenagers then this would be a fantastic program to take,” said Rice.
If students are interested in the youth ministry minor, Rice would suggest beginning by taking CAT 311, Foundations in Catholic Youth Ministry, where they can receive a certificate in youth ministry from Franciscan University. Once confident, students could then dive into the courses needed to complete the minor. Rice also said that students are welcome to come speak with him about the minor if they have more questions.