Where They Are At

So, there I am sitting in one an evaluation of a program.  It was not “my” program, but I played along and offered my “two cents.” Otherwise, I was pretty quiet (easy to do for an introvert) and listened…  I listened hard.

This is a large program.  It had many bodies, just over one hundred. It had many experienced leaders, over 20 showed up on a hot summer night to do eval. Most of all, it had much history of the “way things are done.”  There were many moving parts to consider, reconsider, and consider again

There were two moments in the discussion that were hot buttons.  They seemed pretty divergent… at first.

The second moment regarded the faith of young people.   You know the conversation. You have played along on it yourself; probably more than once.  “Is the program ‘spiritual / Catholic / promoting faith’ enough.” I was neither driving the conversation or steering it either.  I noted that there was an intriguing (passively defensive?) posture held by many. It claimed what we were offering was good enough because we are “taking the kids where they are at.”

It was one of those moments where I did not have a coherent thought to respond in the moment.  Thank God that I blog and can still work it all out after the fact.

The first moment regarded cell phone use throughout the whole program.  There has been a growing surge to  demand that cell phones be collected or left at home. Only adults need cell phones for use only in the case of emergency.  The more outspoken in the group seem to have little appreciation what cell phones offer. Things like the ability to take pictures. Stuff like updating social networking. There did not seem to be much appreciation for touching base with parental units while away.

I did not feel that I had any real skin in the game. I do not mind cell phones as long as they are not distracting away from programing. I have attempted to incorporate their use, occasionally, into programming.  The meeting broke late and it was on the long drive home that I began to make connections.

In the cell phone discussion, adults were urging that a higher standard be set.  They were recognizing where the kids were at, but wanted to demand / expect something more of them. Perhaps they were not comfortable with where the kids “were at” in their technology use.

The same urgency was not found in the  ‘spiritual / Catholic / promoting faith’ stuff.  These same evaluators were more comfortable with an undefinable “taking the kids where they are.”  There was not a similar inclination towards setting a higher standard.  They wanted to leave them be.

My realization was that so little of this really had much to do with the young people.  What we were discussing was the comfort level of the adult evaluators.


  • We should accept kids “where they are.”  But we should have deeper conversations about where they really are at – their family lives, the way they communicate, their needs for connection, etc.  If we operated out of stereotypes, than we are likely to agree with the quote “The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.” Before recognizing that it attributed to Greek philosopher Socrates.
  • We should have expectations whenever we gather / minister with young people…  But these should invoke deeper conversations than our own need to clone the wonderfulness that is either found within ourselves or within our own nostalgia for the way we had first experienced a program.

Like I said, Thank God that I blog and can still work it all out after the fact.  Hit the comments and offer your own take on this.

Where are they really at – in their family lives, the way they communicate, their needs for connection?

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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