The Spirit of Adoption

Were we able to listen recently to the prayers of the Liturgy of the Word during the Easter Vigil? If we heard them clearly as we welcomed new members into our Church family, how might they have challenged our methods in youth ministry?

O God, supreme Father of the faithful, who increase the children of your promise by pouring out the grace of adoption throughout the whole world and who through the Paschal Mystery make your servant Abraham father of nations, as once you swore, grant, we pray, that your peoples may enter worthily into the grace to which you call them. Through Christ our Lord.  AMEN.

Do our youth ministry efforts reflect the pouring out of the grace of adoption?  Are we engaging, as suggested by our beloved Holy Father Francis, towards the peripheries of our local community let alone the “whole world?”

Let us pray. Almighty ever-living God, surpass, for the honor of your name, what you pledged to the Patriarchs by reason of their faith, and through sacred adoption increase the children of your promise, so that what the Saints of old never doubted would come to pass your Church may now see in great part fulfilled. Through Christ our Lord.  AMEN.

Are we increasing the children promised? Oh, wow, the numbers game?  Well, yes… sort of.  After everything we have seen and heard… The National Study of Youth and Religion, Sticky Faith, and other research into our field, are we doing the same old, same old and hoping for better results?

O God, who make this most sacred night radiant with the glory of the Lord’s Resurrection, stir up in your Church a spirit of adoption, so that, renewed in body and mind, we may render you undivided service. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  AMEN.

Does our ministry unite the faith community as one family?  Can we claim undivided service? Paul reminds the Galatians that There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  It is easy to imagine that that list might, could, should include There is neither old nor young.

Almighty ever-living God, be present by the mysteries of your great love and send forth the spirit of adoption to create the new peoples brought to birth for you in the font of Baptism, so that what is to be carried out by our humble service may be brought to fulfillment by your mighty power. Through Christ our Lord.  AMEN.

Does our ministry invoke the Spirit of sacred grace-filled adoption of young people into our faith communities?   That is a reframe of an old and familiar question on the youth ministry examination of conscience… Is this a ministry for the outsourced professional staff or delegated volunteer leadership or is it of the in-sourced whole community of faith? Towards the latter answer, one that has a new resource, Adoptive Youth Ministry.  Author and Editor Chap Clark explains it all this way…

To be adopted is to be fully accepted as a member of the family, with all the rights and privileges of a natural-born child. Previously, God was not our Father, but in Christ we are now included in the family of God. This is a theological and ontological fact that is made plain throughout Scripture. As Paul writes in Ephesians 2:19, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.” In Christ, we are not only called God’s children, but we also are God’s adopted children. While this is a powerful image for who we are in Christ, what little attention theologians give to this fact is limited to either human adoption in a family or a debate over our standing as God’s children.

The power of adoptive ministry is not that we are adopted by a group of “surrogate parents” (the older people in the church) but rather that the inner circle of the gathering does whatever it needs to do to make sure that the adopted person experiences the family of God as a fully embraced and included participant. Adoptive ministry recognizes that in every group or gathering, church or organization, some people are dominant and many are not—and the many who are not often feel like they are on the outside of the community or group. Adoptive ministry mandates that it is the responsibility of those in power to draw in, to include, and to equip all those who feel like outsiders so that they feel included in the very center of the family of God.

I am still reading the book and anticipate blogging more on it in the future.

Does our ministry unite the faith community as one family?

D. Scott Miller

D. Scott Miller is the dean of Catholic Youth Ministry bloggers which is a polite way of either saying that he is just plain old or has been blogging for a long time (since 2004.)

Scott recently married the lovely Anne and together they have five adult young people and also grandparent three delightful kids (so, maybe he is just plain old!) Scott presently serves at Saint John the Evangelist in Columbia, MD as the director of youth and young adult ministry.

He has previously served on the parish, regional, diocesan, and national levels as well as having taught within a catholic high school. He is one of the founders of RebuildMyChurch and has returned to posting regularly (keeping regular is important to old guys) at ProjectYM.

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