On Monday, March 16, as the nation began to shift from campus-centered ministry to home-based and distance gatherings, Project Youth Ministry (PYM), an online training and support resource for parish youth ministry leaders and partner with the Diocese of Raleigh, began to answer the call of youth ministers for help in navigating this new life of social distancing.
“We were immediately inundated with questions from parish leaders who were unsure how to continue to minister to the needs of the youth,” said Andy Baker, Coordinator for Youth Ministry for the Diocese of Raleigh. “Because of our partnership with PYM, we were not alone, and we were ready with resources and support from some of the top youth ministry minds in the nation.”
The response was to create a free weekly online gathering of youth with elements of prayer, praise and worship, games, catechesis, fellowship and faith sharing. Collaborating with dioceses from around the US and Canada, the team at PYM partnered with Ablaze Ministries, Next Level Communication, Y-Disciple and eCatholic to put together an amazing online platform for youth to gather, featuring internationally known speaker Paul J. Kim and recording artist Dave Moore. Over 10,000 youth from over 1,700 parishes in the US and Canada attended the first event this past Sunday. Even Bishop Luis Zarama chimed in with prayer for the youth of Raleigh in English and Spanish.
Hundreds of youth and pastoral ministers (including some of our own diocesan staff and parish youth ministry leaders) volunteered and connected one-on-one with youth requesting prayer and seeking spiritual guidance in chat boxes throughout the event.
Terrie Baldwin, Coordinator of Adult Formation, appreciated the opportunity to communicate with the young church.
“The care and concern shared in the way of prayer requests for their friends, who are missing their normal lives and specifically ‘the graduation experience,’ for their families who are spending much more time together, and their loved ones who are sick or recently passed away was extremely heartfelt,” Baldwin said. “The questions they asked about the faith were meaningful. This experience was a blessed moment in time to witness, offer catechesis and connect through prayer with the Holy Spirit during this time of social distancing with the students.”
Sandy Yarborough, Youth Minister from Saint Stephen the First Martyr, commented, “It was a great way for our youth to keep up their spirits while engaging in activities and prayer with so many other youth. I really enjoyed the shout-outs from other youth minsters, including our own bishop.”
Meredith Drescher, DRE from All Saints in Hampstead, reflected, “Personally, I feel more connected to our youth, families and faith. Paul Kim spoke about how technology can distract us from our normal daily life experiences. I would normally agree with this statement; however, today isn't a normal day. What a blessing we have in technology!”
“We are excited to partner in youth ministry with PYM,” said Andy Baker. “We are even more excited to partner with parishes to continue youth ministry in this amended format until this crisis is over. We can’t wait for next week’s event with Katie Prejean.”
Youth can log in for free at projectym.com/watch every Sunday night at 8 p.m.
“It is so important for our young church to know we are not closed for business; we are open, and our Church, including its pastors and youth ministers, have an immediate and continuing role to play throughout this crisis,” said Baker. “Our presence to our young church through social media and other online platforms is so very important and necessary right now.”