A parish of the Diocese of Owensboro located in Whitesville, Kentucky


From “Youth Group” to “Intentional Discipleship”

Youth Ministry efforts in our Diocese and in this parish have long been focused on helping youth to grow in their faith and connect to the ministry of the Church.  As the culture of youth is always shifting, we hope to shift our efforts alongside them in order to make a lasting impact in their lives.

In the past, “youth ministry” has been synonymous with “youth group.”  A single person (the Youth Minister) is seen as “responsible” for the spiritual well-being of the youth in the parish. But really that meant only the one’s who came to youth group on a regular basis.  The same couple of youth and the youth minister gather every week at a specific time, in a specific place and do the same thing–play a few games, teach a lesson, break into smaller groups to talk, eat, pray, leave, repeat. As times have changed, so has the understanding that this approach to a “one size fits all” youth ministry does not have a lasting impact on the lives of young people.  If we want to see youth become life-long disciples we must do more!

And that is precisely what we want to be about in our ministry efforts for youth at St Mary of the Woods. We want to meet youth where they are at–not just when they come to us. We want to provide as many opportunities for conversion and an authentic experience of Jesus Christ as possible. By doing so we can help to better orient the lives of our youth towards becoming life-long followers of Jesus.

So now the question is, How Do We Do That? It starts with a shift in our thinking.

Youth Ministry vs Youth Group:  “Group” sends the message that this is a selective crowd who gather in a specific time, at a specific place with specific people. By putting an emphasis on “Ministry”–which can happen any time there is a gathering of young people–we can begin to see it more as a creative effort where we met youth where they are at. This means youth ministry can happen at Sunday Night gatherings and on retreats, but also in after school, the lunch room, at a basketball game or even the grocery store.  Programs, events, times and places become secondary to the making sure youth feel seen and known by the leaders in our parish.

Adult Mentors vs Chaperones: If the goal is to help youth feel seen and known by the adults in the parish,  it’s no longer good enough just to make sure they come back alive from a conference, retreat or even just a Trip to Holiday World. Adults become more than just chaperones–they become mentors who can help guide the youth of this parish through life, social situations, and their faith.  Just as Jesus did, all adults in the parish are tasked with the responsibility of helping to answer the questions young people have to help them grow not just spiritually, but mentally and socially as well.

Small Group Faith Communities: While we hear stories of Jesus speaking to 5000+ people, he most regularly met to share life with His 12.  This is where he did his most effective ministry. After all, it was the 12 who went out to “make disciples of all nations,” not the 5000. Following in his footsteps we will be starting Small Group Faith Communities among the youth. These groups will be gender specific to facilitate openness in conversation.

Sunday Night Gatherings: These gatherings will be opportunities for the young people to gather and grow in their faith together.  While the rotation will not be perfect, we will rotate between the themes of Fellowship Nights, Faith Teaching, Prayer Experiences and Service Opportunities. The nights will be clearly marked in the bulletin.  We welcome youth to come no matter how often or infrequent they are able to attend.

Change often takes time and the fruits from these changes may take a while to see.  But I promise you the rewards will be worth the wait.  Together we can make a difference and an impact in the lives of young people. Let us be like the 12 who set the world ablaze with the love of Jesus and changed the course of history.  I look forward to workign with the youth and giving back to the community that helped to form me into the person I am today.  If you have questions, concerns or want to be involved–please feel free to contact me. 


Jessy Bennett, Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry 


Long Range Plan for Youth Ministry (2019-2023)

9-12th Grade/High School (Year 1-2: 2019-2021)

Emphasis: Making every effort possible to provide opportunities for evangelization and conversion. Then provide small discipleship groups for faith deepening and sharing  

Fellowship Opportunities: Summer gatherings, Water Wars, Holiday World Trips, Canoeing, Open Gyms, Game Nights, etc

Sunday Night Youth: The beginnings of planting seeds of faith and watering them. This is the beginning efforts of experiencing and learning about Jesus and what He calls us to do and be as communities of believers

Going Deeper: Gasper River Catholic Youth Camp, National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC), Owensboro Diocesan Youth Conference (ODYC), Youth 2000, Lazarus Retreat, Mission Trips, etc


7th-8th Grade (Year 2-3: 2020-2022) 

 Emphasis: Helping to reconnect the “heart and the head” experience of faith, especially in preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation and the transition to High School

 At the Parish: Meet six times a year. Four fellowship opportunities, one over-night retreat and one prayer experience

 At the School: Engage in small group discussion once every other month during religion class for check-in and questions about matters of faith

Other Opportunities: Gasper River Catholic Youth Camp and Retreat Center, Holy Fire, Youth 2000, Owensboro Diocesan Youth Conference

   5-6th Grade (Year 4: 2022-2023)

 Emphasis: Helping youth understand the “how and why” of our faith over the “what” (Example: engaging youth in prayer over teaching them to memorize prayer)

At the Parish: Meet twice a year. Games/cookout in the Fall; Retreat Opportunity in the Spring.  Focus on “Faith” and “Prayer” 

 At the School: Engage in small group discussion once every other month during religion class for check-in and questions about matters of faith 

 Other Opportunities: Gasper River Catholic Youth Camp and Retreat Center 

Sunday Night Gathering

Date Theme Place/Time
September 8 Messy Games Kick-Off @Whitesville Park
5-7 PM
September 15Games/Open Gym@ HCC 5-7 PM
September 22Downtown Scavenger Hunt@ Owensboro Riverfront
5-8 PM
September 29No Gathering Picnic Weekend
October 6No GatheringFall Break
October 13Elite Air @ Elite Air 5-7 PM
October 20Discovering Your Story @ HCC 5-7 PM
October 27Halloween Party: Cupcake Wars @ HCC 5-7 PM
November 3Saints Trivia Night @HCC 5-7 PM
November 10A Night of Thanksgiving @ HCC 5-7 PM
November 17Game Night! @ HCC 5-7 PM
November 24No Gathering @ NCYC
December 1Advent Prayer ServicePlace TBD
6:00-8:30 PM
December 8Christmas Caroling 5-7 PM