My recent post on my own youth group experience (when I was the “youth”) has generated a pile of enthusiasm and a modest amount of panic. So I’m going to tell you a story, brand new, that you need to hear.
I’m chatting with a fellow mom this weekend, whom I’m just meeting for the first time ever, and it’s not in a professional-Catholic context so she doesn’t know what it is I do here, or really anything else about me other than that I’m another mom like her, dealing with the same difficulties as any other mom. We both love our kids, that’s what we have in common.
We’re talking about our daughters, the difficulties of junior high school, the ways that the needs of younger teens are different than the needs of older teens, all that stuff. And she says to me:
We can’t always make it to our church’s youth group, but my daughter loves it. She says it’s the one place she can show up, and be herself, and people accept her for who she is.
Re-read the quote.
Humans need to forge connections with other people who love them and care for them. Humans need to find their place in their community where they can be the person God created them to be.
This is a real live human need. You can’t live without it. Ask someone who’s trying.
There’s a pile of good work being done in youth ministry today. Some youth groups are pretty close to one-stop shops; others specialize in one or a few important aspects of Christian formation and community life, recognizing that the whole Body of Christ must work together.
Some of the best work in meeting the spiritual needs of young people today is happening outside the boundaries of anything remotely resembling a “youth group,” and some of the best work is happening within circles so youth-groupy it makes you wonder why no one’s invented a charter bus with an on-board t-shirt printer.
There are huge problems in the Church today, and very few of them are new problems. One of things I do is point them out. I point them out not so we can panic and wring our hands, but so that we can cooperate with the Grace of God in rectifying them. So that we can carry out our God-given mission of preaching the Gospel and making disciples of all nations.
If you, too, can see the problems, don’t let them blind you to the immense good that is being done by your fellow Christians, and maybe even by you.
Don’t let the bad make you hate the good.
There’s a lot of good out there.
If you know someone who’s sure, just sure, that my goal is to first imprison all the catechists, perhaps you should point them to my book? Or my retreat for catechists (and other Christians)? It’s as if I think the work that we do in faith formation is important. Vitally, eternally life-savingly important.