By Mary DeGoede
Challenge and Conquest programs see growth and strength in parish-based clubs.
Most youth ministers would probably agree that while their job is rewarding, it can also be overwhelming – a classic example of ‘underpaid and overworked,’ if it’s not in fact a volunteer position. Every parish seems to have that generous person who dedicates their time and talent to youth formation, but most of them could use a helping hand.
The national office has been working on tailoring the program for parish youth ministry, which has been enthusiastically received by pastors, youth ministers, and DRES around the country.Enter Challenge and Conquest.
“This program is ready-made and helps youth ministers and DREs to get teens involved as leaders,” explains Conquest National Director Todd Brechbill. “We are becoming a recognizable name and a viable option, especially for those parishes that do not have a paid youth minister or DRE and are operating with volunteers.”
80% of Challenge and Conquest groups are now sponsored by parishes as parish youth ministry, and it seems that the program is finding its niche in the new materials: the national office reports a 10% overall growth this year – the first such growth in 4 years.
“We’re looking forward to a strong year,” says Todd Brechbill. “To making sure that Challenge and Conquest continue to build and serve Mother Church and reach more kids!”The Challenge and Conquest office is excited that the program is both growing, and meeting a need in parishes. There are now about 6200 youth participating in 216 groups; they are spread across 61 dioceses in the US, 9 provinces in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the Philippines. There were also 51 Challenge and Conquest summer camps in 2012, and at least as many are expected this summer.Todd explains that much of the growth is due to an effort to go beyond Regnum Christi members, and offer the program as an option for parishes to purchase and run on their own.
The national office just finished a 2-month ‘marketing blitz,’ during which they ran an email campaign and made around 90 calls a week, trying to get the word out to pastors and youth ministers and build awareness of what Challenge and Conquest can offer to parishes. Thanks to the blitz, 15 parishes started up this spring. Challenge and Conquest also made a showing at the National Conference for Catholic Youth Ministers in November, where they were presented alongside other programs as an option for parish youth ministry.