New video series supports youth leaders who 'accompany' teens

SMYRNA, Ga. (CNS) -- The Office of Faith Formation and Discipleship of the Archdiocese of Atlanta has launched the first video training series based on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' framework for youth ministry.

A nationwide collaboration, the series is meant to bolster volunteers in youth ministry.

The archdiocese worked on the series with the Emmy-winning Spirit Juice Studios of Chicago and national youth ministry experts from New York to Montana, with funding support from the North Georgia Catholic Foundation and Our Sunday Visitor.

Together, collaborators blended insights, personal testimonies and dialogues to craft 10 videos in English and Spanish on fundamental topics including evangelization, pastoral care, marginalized youth and diversity. Project leaders hope that the youth ministry films and accompanying comprehensive study guides will serve as a practical parish training resource nationwide.

"Called to Accompany" -- or "Llamados a Acompanar" in Spanish-- was launched Oct. 25 on the new Atlanta archdiocesan website www.atlyouth.org. The site also features upcoming youth events plus The Mark magazine for teens. Launched in fall 2016, the first issue of the magazine garnered more than 19,000 page views with 8,000 print copies made available to confirmation students.

The new training series covers four of the eight USCCB "Renewing the Vision" pillars of youth ministry and will be promoted by the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry. It complements any existing youth ministry program and the Spanish videos feature Hispanic leaders discussing culturally specific issues.

"I'm extremely excited because it's one of the most needed tools in all parishes in our archdiocese and around the nation. The reason is there is no training for volunteers in English and Spanish based on the pillars of youth ministry, not based on a program," said project architect Katherine Angulo, associate director of youth ministry for the Atlanta Archdiocese.

"Most in youth ministry are either part-time or volunteers and need to get trained to do the important job of passing the faith to the next generation," she told The Georgia Bulletin, the archdiocesan newspaper. "They are going to be trained by the best of the best to give them an understanding of what comprises youth ministry, so they will understand the purpose of their job and be less stressed."

The director of the Office of Faith Formation and Discipleship, Amy Daniels, called it a "huge collaboration" with many in her office participating. The new format will enable busy volunteers who can't always make diocesan training sessions to watch videos on their own schedule or view them and discuss with study guides at their parishes.

"It's meeting a need that we have and typically if it's meeting a need that we have, we're not the only ones," Daniels said. "The need, matched with the quality of the product, I believe will benefit all of the archdiocese and beyond as well."

The video is free and user friendly which is key for many small parishes today, Daniels noted.

But more than that, it is meant to meet a need. Angulo said she has met one too many youth ministers who received no direction, tried to serve effectively and ultimately quit.

"We take their work seriously, and we are grateful for every single minute that they donate to the church as volunteers. Because of that we are investing in them," she said.

Spirit Juice crews started filming in Chicago in August 2016. Since then, the team has produced a total of 23 videos, each up to seven minutes in length. The first video introduces the vision of youth ministry, Generation Z and volunteer qualities. Producers aimed to keep the series vibrant and engaging by infusing colorful visuals, nature settings and character images to enhance messages.

"Just hearing them talk about the subject and their engagement in their faith has really kind of been an inspiration to my own faith," said production manager Greg Krajewski, of Spirit Juice.

He said he is impressed with those who are so passionate about working with young people and helping them continue and develop their faith which he said is "really kind of an inspiration to me in why we're doing this."

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Youth ministry volunteers can learn more about the "Called to Accompany" video and study guides at www.atlyouth.org.