What is a healthy youth ministry culture, and how can we develop it?
Prayer to Our Lady that St. John Paul II placed in his Message for the 32nd World Day of Prayer for Vocations in 1995:
O Virgin of Nazareth, the ‘yes’ spoken in youth marked your existence and it grew as did your life itself.
O Mother of Jesus, in your free and joyful ‘yes’ and in your active faith so many generations and so many educators have found inspiration and strength for welcoming the Word of God and for fulfilling his will.
O Teacher of life, teach young people to pronounce the ‘yes’ that gives meaning to existence and brings them to discover the hidden ‘name’ of God in the heart of every person.
O Queen of the Apostles, give us wise educators, who will know how to love young people and help them grow, guiding them to the encounter with Truth which makes one free and happy.
Youth ministry is not just about programs, but also about having a missionary heart and a missionary attitude.
At the heart of it, the Church’s vision for effective youth ministry is relational ministry.
Youth ministry doesn’t just involve young people, but everyone of all ages. For current the current generation, there is a common cultural problem; the separation of youth from adults. The truth is that a person will be involved in youth ministry throughout their whole life, sometimes without even noticing.
From the day we were born, our childhoods were greatly affected by the way we were raised. During adolescent years, our teachers and our friends were some of the greatest influences on us. As we grew to become independent adults, we were affected by our surroundings – by people, media, and every other belief presented by the world.
As parents, grandparents and role models, our wisdom becomes the inspiration to help young people shift from prolonged immaturity into discipleship.
“The Church today looks with greater attentiveness at the passage from the age of youth to that of adulthood. . . .
New approaches to pastoral and catechetical action must therefore be conceived that would help the Christian
community to interact with young adults, supporting them in their journey.”
Directory for Catechesis
In order to effectively minister to adolescents and young adults, it is critical that we understand some of the aspects of youth culture and how to enter into it, so that we might understand them better, and call young people into relationship with Jesus Christ.
“The . . . world of young people, dear friends, is a mission land for the Church today. Everyone knows the problems which plague the environment in which young people live: the collapse of values, doubt, consumerism, drugs, crime, eroticism, etc. But at the same time every young person has a great thirst for God, even if at times this thirst is hidden behind an attitude of indifference or even hostility.”
St John Paul II, Message for the VII World Youth Day, November 24, 1991
We, as a Church, need to be mindful of this culture as it relates to young people:
The essence of youth ministry is to bring others to the same encounter that you have been through. When we begin to walk intentionally with a young person, we must be humble enough to understand that as passionate as we may be about Catholicism, our immediate approach cannot be directly about the intricacies of doctrine or details about the faith. In relational ministry, the kerygma must be our immediate destination.
“On the lips of the catechist the first proclamation must ring out over and over: ‘Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.’ ”
Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium 164
The key to engage young people experiencing the isolation of “youth culture” is through accompaniment. Another way to accompany young people and counter isolation is through meaningful contact with adults. Meaningful contact leads to real relationship, and in real relationship we can effectively share the Gospel with young people.
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