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The things being discussed in this video could have fascinating youth ministry implications...
Often, when something isn't that good, the reason is because nobody actually knows what good looks like. If a ship has no idea where it's meant to be heading then of course it's going to be permanently lost, and it's the same with any form of youth ministry. If we don't know what we're trying to do, then we're very unlikely to do it.
That's one problem: that we don't know what good or what success look like. An alternative, yet very connected, problem is that we think we do know what it looks like but that we're woefully wrong.
With reference to the last post in this series, I think this is why I don't like the whole 'sowing seeds' thing. Sure, seeds may well get sown and they may well grow, but all too often we allow ourselves to see 'sowing seeds' as our aim and our mark of success when in fact it is nothing more than a vague, unrealised hope. Add to that the armies of youth ministers who see success as an event going well or as having some positive conversations and you start to build up a picture. Not a picture of failure as much as a picture of excuses which permit us not to even contemplate failure.
So, what are we trying to do in Catholic Youth Ministry? What does success look like?
To put it simply, success looks like committed young Catholics. Catholics who practice their faith by receiving the Sacraments, who have a lively prayer-life, who make their faith the key part of their decision-making, who live by the Church's teachings, and who are willing to say both to themselves and to the world that their faith is the centre of their lives.
That's what success looks like. And if your ministry is successful, then it is taking apathetic, lapsed Catholics, or even complete unbelievers, and turning them into nothing less than that.
Of course, we all know that. But then, we allow ourselves to swallow excuses along the way. We allow ourselves to settle for half of that or for the hope that we have sown a seed that might, maybe, perhaps, one day, turn into something vaguely approaching that.
One of my favourite parts of the Gospels is the story of the seventy two from Luke's Gospel. Jesus sends them out to preach and they return saying 'we saw Satan fall.' I just love that line. The excitement and the joy of the encounters they had must have been amazing. They trusted the Gospel to do it's job and they saw amazing things. It's a great model for ministry. What they didn't say when they returned was, 'well, we had some good conversations and ran some good sessions, and we really think that when they've got married and had kids some of them might come to back!'. No. They ministered, and they saw results!
At this point there are two distinct dangers. The first is to be frustrated when we don't always see immediate results. After all, even Jesus couldn't convince everybody. He and his apostles had to shake the dust from their feet more than a few times. So, the first danger is to think that we always have to see immediate results. The second is to use that as an excuse for never seeing immediate results.
It can be done. If you don't believe it can then you're in the wrong job!
More to follow...
Brilliant article from Clayton Imoo...
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New York and Texas Gather Thousands of Youth in Hopes of Strengthening Faith
BY JACQUELINE BURKEPILE
The Archdiocese of New York held its first New York Catholic Youth Day on April 6 at the College of Mount St. Vincent in Riverdale, N.Y. With more than 1,500 youth and young adults present, the theme for the event was "Rejoice in the Lord Always," from Philippians 4:4. The diocese held the event to recognize U.S. World Youth Day, typically held on the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Originally scheduled for November, it was rescheduled due to Hurricane Sandy.
The day consisted of music, entertainment, workshops, adoration, confession and a food drive led by Catholic Charities. Featured guests included Father Agustino Torres and Father Stan Fortuna of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, the Full Armor Band and Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who celebrated Mass for the participants.
Cynthia Martinez, associate director of youth ministry for the Archdiocese of New York, hoped the youth left the event on fire for the love of Christ.
"We hope the participants left with a greater sense of community, not only with their own parishes and/or schools, but with the rest of the archdiocese. Also, that they had an experience of the joy of Our Lord, as highlighted by the theme," said Martinez.
Father Stephan Norton, pastor of St. Benedict's Catholic Church in the Bronx, N.Y., led a workshop for youth ministers. He hopes they took away inspiration that will influence youth on a parish level.
"I hope I filled the youth ministers with a renewed vigor in the faith that will impact the youth," said Father Norton. "My hope and prayer is that the youth ministers were once again on fire with the gift of the Holy Spirit in this Year of Faith."
Full Armor Band helped provide music for the event. Lead vocalist Douglas Hutchings was amazed by the spiritual transitions the youth made throughout the day
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Brilliant stuff from ChristianPost.com. Here's a slice...
Dear Youth Leader,
As you read this letter perhaps it's 9:25pm on a Wednesday night. The last teenager and adult volunteer have left the building and you're stuck folding the metal chairs and doing your best to clean the youth room so the church custodian doesn't get mad at you…again.
To add insult to spilt Coke, tonight may have been one of "those" nights for you. Your jokes fell flat and that group of arrogant churchy kids (who always sit in the back left corner) were mocking you with whispers from their giggling Pharisee paradise. The preacher's kid glared at you, daring you to call out daddy's dearest in public. You took his dare and was met with rolling eyes and heavy sighs by him and his sarcastic posse.
Down deep inside you may be wondering if you're making a difference at all. You're scrolling through your weekly to do list and it may seem more like meetings than mission. You're tired of the stress youth ministry triggers at home, at church and, most of all, down deep inside your own heart.
You may be thinking about giving up.
You may be wondering if it's worth the small paychecks and big headaches.
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Great stuff from YM360.com. Here's a slice...
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Brilliant stuff from CatholicYouthMinistry.com. Here's a slice...
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One thing I've been reflecting on a lot lately is how many people there are who believe in the Gospel and then just sort of put it to the back of their minds.
To serious believers, it's just nuts!
A priest friend of mine used to say that the Gospel is either completely false or completely true. There's nothing in between. It's not going to be half true, or true for some people, or some of the time etc etc. It's either totally true or it's not. It either changes everything, or it changes nothing. Once again, there's nothing in between.
But yet, millions of people have found just that - something in between. A way to make the Gospel half true, and so to put it into the background. The 2011 UK census reports that 59% of people self-identify as Christian. Yet, a 2007 Tearfund survey suggests that only 7% if us go to Church every week. So, in other words, 51% of people in the UK have found that something in between.
I mention this because Pope Francis had something to say a few days back about not being content with a mediocre faith, by which, I guess, he means that something in between. Take a look...
I've just discovered a site called Average Youth Ministry, and an article about the Post-Christian Gospel. Here's a slice...
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Now that we've nailed down what the problem is, sort of, we need to move forward.
To me, moving forward means shedding the things that we know don't work, the things that just hold us back and give us excuses.
There are two of those I'd like to tackle immediately. Two conversations, or pieces of language, that have no place in successful ministry.
Firstly we need to stop having conversations that go something like: just because… Doesn't mean he's not a good Catholic. You know the ones: just because he doesn't go to Mass… Just because he's living with his girlfriend… Just because he doesn't agree with the Church's teaching on [insert very important teaching here]... doesn't mean he/ she/ whoever isn't a good Catholic.
We've all heard that one, right?
And the second thing that I think we need to finally drop is talk about 'sowing seeds.'
Don't get me wrong, I think that seeds genuinely are planted a lot of the time, and I think that what is planted can come to fruition years later (though it mostly doesn't, if we're honest). I also love Oscar Romero and his seed prayer, and I completely understand that faith is often an evolving process and not something that happens in a flash.
However, let me put it this way… Whenever I'm involved with a project, one question I always ask is what success the project is having. Anybody serious about their work should be able to answer that one quickly and thoroughly. When I ask that question and the only answer I get is 'well we're sowing seeds...' I know that there's a big problem.
Both conversations have their good points. Both conversations can be valid and can carry some truth. However, my problem with the first is that it allows us to lower the bar, and my problem with the second is that it gives us an excuse to cover up failure.
If we have to talk about people who have major areas of weakness in their lives, at the very least it's a big problem. Those people may be good in a great many ways, and they may be close to God in a great many ways, but they objectively have a problem. Similarly, while sowing seeds is a good and noble pursuit, if it's all we can point to when were asked about the success of our project, with no actual tangible harvest to show, then again, we objectively have a big problem.
So here's my suggestion… Let's agree that people with major weaknesses in their lives can still be good people. Let's agree that seeds are planted by our work and that those seeds may one day come to harvest, and then... let's stop talking about those things. Let's agree that if we have to talk about those things then something has already gone wrong.
Instead, let's commit ourselves to tangible results in here and now. If we can't actually do that, then we don't belong in this field!
What I come up with will obviously be fallible, but hopefully it won't be too subjective, by which I mean that I hopefully won't just be tying the problem to things I know I don't like. That's what seems to happen with most of this sort of article, and it's really not helpful.
I think I would divide the problem into three areas.
Firstly, to quote Cardinals Suenens, Catholics these days of being sacramentalised, but not evangelised. They're being put through programmes, classes and other assorted experiences which are giving them bits of knowledge and discipline, or even great experiences, without ever actually inviting them to get to know Jesus Christ in any sort of real, powerful way. His truth, his power, his challenge for their lives.
Secondly, their day-to-day experience of Christian community neither inspires nor challenges them. They just find it a little dull. It doesn't link the gospel to their everyday lives and help them to see how life-giving it really is. It doesn't give them what the Church often calls zeal; it doesn't challenge them to change the things in their lives which are wrong.
And, thirdly, there is a lack of supportive loving communities to which young people can belong. Faith is ultimately a community thing. It's not meant to be lived alone, and so it's much harder if you have to wade through it without the support of a loving, close group of like-minded people.
I'll leave this post there. Obviously, these ideas will be expanded far more in upcoming posts, but essentially, this is what I see as the problem.
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