It’s interesting. In youth ministry, we flirt with the language. We will talk of changing the world, transforming the culture, even ReBuilding the Church.
But, as suggested by Brendan Busse, SJ, there is a word-of-which-must-not-be-spoken:
The word has baggage but I think we ought to say it: Conversion. We’re in the business of conversion. I’m not talking about baptizing pagan babies (those days are behind us) but rather the conversion of hearts and minds toward the needs of the poor and vulnerable. Our [ministry] seeks to convert people to a life of empathy and understanding through the insights of the creative imagination and profound intellectual inquiry. This is not negotiable. The world needs change and we all need conversion. Our commitment is a Christian one and our purpose is radically transformative. If you [move on] from one of our [programs] unconverted we have failed you. [brackets mine]
Much of our attention is given to getting young people in the door. Lots of time is engage in assuring that they are connected with what is occurring in our programming. But, conversion?
Our goals in ministry include that we are To empower young people to live as disciples of Jesus Christ in our world today. Well, empowering for discipleship is conversion.
It is the invitation to the rich young man to “sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have a treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Luke 18: 18-22) It is the action of the woman who left behid her water jar and went into town and told people that she had previously intentionally avoided of the man who had told her of everything she had done and who she questioned could possibly be the Messiah. (John 4: 4-42) It is the re-routing of the disciples who were on the road to Emmaus and re-experienced the Lord in word and in the breaking of bread. (Luke 24:13-35)
Empowering for discipleship is conversion. Renewing the Vision outlines our ministry in this manner:
We are confident that young people will commit themselves totally to Jesus Christ, who will ask everything from them and give everything in return. We need to provide concrete ways by which the demands, excitement, and adventure of being a disciple of Jesus Christ can be personally experienced by adolescents—where they tax and test their resources and where they stretch their present capacities and skills to the limits. Young people need to have a true opportunity for exploring what discipleship ultimately involves.
Tax and test and stretch to the limits… Might we refrain from use of the word conversion because of the Voldemortian implications that it has for our own lives, that we, as well, need to take the opportunity to explore what discipleship ultimately involves for our own lives?
How will you and your ministry speak of conversion today?