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The invitation to our young parishioners to get together for a highly original Meet and Greet afternoon was the outcome of an ingenious programme plan by our new Parish Youth Coordinator, Paul Andrewartha.
He was supported by five parishioners, Martin, our youth officer, Jane, Marysia, Marion and Betty who first were briefed by Paul on the aims of the meeting - and also on the logistics of building strong Towers for a challenge to safeguard - Pringles. They were also ready to hear the candid opinions of youngsters on aspects of faith and worship, often ignored by adults.
But the forty guests first tackled a buffet lunch, which disappeared like summer snow.
The groups were then set Paul's 'Skittle' questions.
The 'skittles' were doled out in pairs (they looked like smarties, but not for eating until the questions on the screen were answered).
These included: Name something you've always wanted to do.
Is the X- factor worth watching?
What is the wierdest thing you've ever eaten??
Paul led up to the great Pringle Tower Challenge. Groups had sheets of cardboard, plastic, with cellotape and straws, the object being to make a tower that would keep a Pringle safe, even when hit by a weight.
The structures were unevenly assembled. ( Noah would have been an asset today), and Martin brought in the launch platform for Paul to test the strength of e.g. the altar servers' creation.
The heavy weight clouted the cardboard towers and only one Pringle survived.
Then a biog section: "Thy Kiwi Come": Paul told the group about his life so far - in north Island, New Zealand, and, in England, three years working with Geordie youth in Consett, near Newcastle.
It was time for the groups to open their hearts with their views on faith, church life, and questions for candid response
The supporting adults became scribes and the groups came up with views that many seniors might echo:
They heard how they could be helped through life, by the Church. Media communications and service to the parish were discussed alongside the value of the Sacraments - and their own Face book wall was launched that day.
Paul explains - "Part of the afternoon was find out what the parish teenagers are thinking about the Church and this Youth Ministry that is developing. I set them a series of group questions like: ‘Can God and fun be placed together?’ ‘What puts you off the Church?’ And ‘What do you like about the Church?’ The feedback was positive and enthusiastic and there was truly a sense that these teenagers would like to be heard and want to be more involved within the parish. There was definitely a big need for teenagers to get together more, doing activities, retreats, events (just like this ‘meet and greet’) and a keen interest for youth Masses and more faith development. This information will surely help move the Parish Youth Ministry to bigger and brighter things."
Paul has given us some of the responses - all of them are in the important data base.
1. How would you like to grow more in your faith?
Have more youth groups - More of youth group and group discussions
Someone who you could talk too about your problems in confidence
Retreats - Go to Church more
2. What do you like about the Church?
Meeting new people - To communicate with God - To receive Holy Communion
The Music - Sense of belonging - It’s a growing community
Good for children - Like taking Communion
Good place to meet people from different countries
A place to feel safe - You are accepted for who you are
Community for different ages - You get to meet friends
It’s welcoming and friendly - People are helpful and generous
3. What puts you off the Church?
That there is no music on Saturdays - Early start
Young people not having enough say
Other people taking the mick
Singing - More updated music
Long services - Boring hymns
4. Can God and Fun be placed together?
At youth group, we pray but also have fun
We can celebrate as a community
YES!! Because of things like this meeting
God is our life
God is within us; therefore if we are fun then he is too.
Because he created us in his image.
Yes!! Youth Community groups
God and Fun must be placed together to ensure its survival
Yes!! Clappy songs, youth group
Sometimes, normal masses
5. How can the Youth Ministry best serve you as a teenager?
To organise meetings to learn about the faith. - To learn about the faith in everyday life
To have more masses organised by the youth - Hide and seek
Fun - Regular get together, preferably Sunday evenings
Mixed group and a group for the older ages
Keep people motivated and wanting to come.
Meet other groups and meet in other places
Days out - Sporting activities - Discos
Charity work - Email and Facebook Contact.
More social outings
Inter church activities - i.e. Football - Competitions - Crafts - Sports
They let teenagers speak more
It is fun to be part of something
Meet mates and play - The freedom to speck and play
Teenagers liturgy - Not just young children’s liturgy
Youth mass ones a month.
Then upstairs to the first floor, the setting was a shrine, where everyone prayed.
Fr Kieron joined and thanked Paul warmly for this successful and surprising afternoon - from which surely every youngster would draw inspiration now and for the future.