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Three Ways that High School Campus Ministry is Transformative for Teens

Having been a longtime high school campus minister, I’ve seen the ways in which it can transform lives. Teens are some of the most inquisitive and honest students in all of our K-12 Catholic school system. Their superpower is often described as that of “spotting a phony”. Their desire for God is strong.

There’s nothing quite like seeing a 17 year old explore a religious vocation or a high senior come back from retreat with more confidence in God. These are just some of the moments that be pivotal for a teen.

Data tells us that 49% of young people experience a “sacred moment” during a retreat and another 39% at their school. (Source) I’ve been privileged to witness some of these moments firsthand. 

The key then, if schools and their campus ministries can help students to encounter God, is to fashion campus ministry for maximum impact. We’ve been working hard here in the Diocese to support high school campus ministry and bring it to the next level.

We’ve identified three ways that ministry on the high school level can be transformative:

1. Retreats and worship. Students like retreats. Most of our schools have no trouble filling a Kairos retreat or a Women’s Faith day of recollection. All of our high schools, as a result, place great emphasis on the value that retreats have. Additionally, worship plays an important role in how students learn to pray and encounter the Lord. Through Eucharistic adoration in particular, students enter into sacred relationship with God.

2. Leadership and evangelization. Our use of Evangelization Teams affords students the chance to become faith leaders among their peers. We train them to be servant leaders with an apostolic mindset, reaching as many of their friends for Christ as possible. This is a process of faith-sharing that is extremely active and often a great challenge for most teens. It’s much easier to keep your faith to yourself. Our approach broadens the practice of faith such that the entire community is invited to know the Lord personally, one student at a time. One school has raised up students to lead the Stations of the Cross while another school has equipped its students to run over 90% of its retreats. Only a Catholic school can afford students with these kinds of opportunities.

3. Accompaniment through trusted relationships. Springtide Research indicates that just a few trusted adults can make all the difference in the lives of teens. These relationships help a teen navigate the oftentimes confusing years of high school. Additionally, these trusted relationships help to combat loneliness which plagues our country. We are supercharging high school campus ministry such that a chaplain and campus minister identify and train a broader group of adults to serve the school’s students. These adults are teachers and coaches, volunteering to go on retreats and offer pastoral support when students need it most.

High school campus ministry in our schools is a point of emphasis. We have published a best practices white paper which will help to map out the future of our ministry programs. chaplains, principals and campus ministers have already started using this document to plan out their 2024-2025 year.