What started as a basement prayer group now draws around one hundred weekly attendees from up to sixty miles away. ARMEE is what happens when a community doesn’t wait for ministry to come to them.
Back in 2008, California native Josh Madruga would pray on a regular basis with some of his friends in their hometown of Turlock. As they continued to pray and do youth ministry together, they realized God wanted to do something bigger.
“The prayer group was an open invitation for anyone to come and pray,” Madruga shares. The friends called the group ARMEE Ministries, an acronym for Adoration, Reconciliation, Mass, Eucharist, and Evangelization. The group has been meeting consistently for over eight years offering a speaker, Eucharistic Adoration, and the sacrament of reconciliation every night. The event now draws young adults from parishes across the Stockton diocese and has been a sustaining force in the faith of hundreds of local Catholics.
For a church looking to grow a young adult ministry or for a group of friends wanting to do more at their parish, there’s a lot to be learned from ARMEE Ministries.
1. Centered on Prayer: Every ARMEE night culminates with an hour of Eucharistic adoration and dynamic worship. The friends recognized that the heart of their community was Christ, not simply their relationships with each other. “Since the beginning we’ve been centered around prayer and centered around the Eucharist,” Madruga says. “People solely come for Jesus.”
2. Consistency: The team follows the same format every night at the same time and at the same place. People attending don’t need to guess or wonder what the event is about, nor does the team need to do any additional promotional work. ARMEE is a reliable source of stability, anchoring the week for many local young adults.
3. Witness-Driven: “We just show up,” Madruga says. “Open the doors to the church and let God do the rest!” Speakers are typically drawn from the local community. Many of the speakers have ministry experience, but the talks are less about giving the perfect theological exhortation and more about sharing an authentic witness to a life of active faith.
4. Dedicated Team: ARMEE operates out of a parish, but running the event isn’t part of anyone’s job description. The ministry is run entirely by a core team of volunteers. Madruga describes them as “passionate, extremely dedicated, and fully committed to the cause.”
5. Grassroots Effort: What began as an intimate community continues to grow. While ARMEE did promotional work at the beginning, now they simply let friends tell their friends and welcome whoever comes. “ARMEE is such a communal experience,” Madruga says. “The people who come take ownership of it. People tell their friends or their brother or sister or their coworker about ARMEE because of what they experience.”
For others looking to start something similar in their own parishes, Madruga has some encouragement.
“Don’t be afraid to try! We started out with just two people going to a little adoration chapel and praying together simply because we wanted to. If what you are doing is authentic and genuine and is truly about glorifying God, then it’s serving its purpose. If you are passionate and dedicated to your ministry, even if it only helps change one person’s life, that’s one person who encountered God through your ‘yes.’ All we can do is point people to the Lord and he does the rest.”
Josh Madruga grew up Catholic, but a deep conversion when he was 21 changed the course of his life. He has been active in youth and music ministry ever since, serving on the Life Teen Core Team at his parish and later a Team Leader with NET Ministries. He currently leads worship for ARMEE. The ARMEE worship band has played youth conferences and prayer events at dioceses across northern and central California. To learn more about this dynamic ministry, visit their community Facebook page.