The secret to a thriving youth ministry

The dynamic driving force behind the revitalised Sydney Catholic youth scene, Milad Khalil, is bringing the secrets to his success to the Archdiocese of Sydney’s Parish Renewal Conference in August.

“With two decades of youth ministry comes a lot of experience and tried and tested methods—some that worked and some that failed. I can’t wait to share a number of interesting, insightful and unexpected youth ministry methods and findings, based on my 20 years of youth ministry,” said Milad.

As the leader of the Sydney Catholic Youth (SCY) team since 2022, Milad has been leading youth initiatives throughout Sydney parishes, including mentoring and training courses for youth leaders, and development of youth ministry in parishes.

Since that time, he has successfully run school-based youth ministry sessions and workshops, organised and facilitated camps, retreats, social outreach opportunities and youth conferences.

“We have a tonne of data, anecdotal evidence and testimonials from those who have been involved in our initiatives.

“So we are drawing on direct feedback from all involved and we want to share this information with as many people as we can.”

Milad will lead a workshop called Young People and Parish Life: The “Non-Negotiables.”

The importance of young people’s involvement in parish life is a philosophy that has driven his tenure as leader of SCY.

Sydney Catholic Youth leader Milad Khalil said YOUCAT, the youth catechism of the Catholic Church, was one inspiration for the new youth strategy.

But when Milad began his journey with SCY he found many parishes were not prioritising young people and investing in youth ministry.

Some he discovered held onto assumptions that young people not interested in God, faith and all the Catholic Church has to offer.

After two decades in Catholic education and serving as a leader in youth ministry and church engagement, Milad knew that, in fact, young people were ready to answer the call.

In 2023 he initiated the Sydney Catholic Youth strategic plan, the “Purpose Mission Pathway” introducing fresh and innovative ways to integrate young people into parish life.

That included the “Purpose High” program, which saw hundreds of high school students undertake faith formation through school workshops and refection days in 15 Catholic schools across Sydney.

“There is no question—a parish is not thriving if there are no young parishioners,” he said.

“Youth bring zeal, energy, ideas, opportunities, inspiration, growth, hope and a future, to name a few. We have no choice, we must prioritise youth – and I will touch on ways we can do that in my workshop.”

Milad’s initiatives culminated in the wildly successful Purpose Conference, held last year, which saw close to two thousand participants immerse themselves in a two-day celebration of Catholic faith, featuring life-changing talks by international guest speakers Jason Evert and Matt Fradd.

“When we have the opportunity to listen and learn from others and connect with people from across the country and beyond, it opens up new horizons, new possibilities and inspires us to continue to develop our ministry in ways that are bigger and better,” Milad said.

Tania Rimac, convenor of the Parish Renewal Conference agrees that a parish must be a spiritual home for all ages.

“We can’t ignore the fact that many of our children and grandchildren are missing, and then hope that someone else will change things,” she said.

“By the grace of God, we need to pray and act to invite our beloved young people to friendship with Christ and ensure they know that they have a place and belong to the church.”

Milad encourages young and old to come to the conference.

“I can’t wait to connect with you at the Parish Renewal Conference. Brace yourselves for a workshop on youth ministry that you probably didn’t expect and that I’m sure will fire you up to transform youth ministry within your communities.”

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