It seems that youth ministry, however, does have an impact on the greater Church. In the Thomas Berger book, The Juvenilization of American Christianity, he describes how our religious beliefs, practices, and the developmental characteristics of adolescents become accepted as appropriate for Christians of all ages. Berger outlined how we often begin with the praiseworthy goal of adapting the faith to appeal to the young, but it sometimes ends badly, with both youth and adults embracing immature versions of the faith. This leaves a sense of emptiness that cannot be explained, and can only be ignored for so long.
Ask yourself these questions:
> Can we be satisfied in only setting the kid’s table for our religious family gatherings?
> Are we helping young people to identify spiritual maturity as attainable?
> With an infusion of cultural activity that encourages embracing immaturity, are we helping young people to claim and find, rather than just seek, faith?
Pope Benedict XVI suggested that “young people are also led to think that it is impossible to make definitive choices that commit you for life.” We are not meant to embrace the unsteady stance of searching, but “each of us was created to make, not provisional and reversible choices, but definitive and irrevocable choices which give full meaning to existence.” Those words may sound complex, but their meaning is quite simple. Without faith, you find the important decisions of your life more challenging to make. Teach a young person to have faith, and you can help them see the definitive choices that they must make more clearly.
When it comes to the development of a stronger youth ministry we should be sweating the question of, “How does the Church change if we aim toward a more mature faith?” We must find ways to fully challenge our next generation to have the courage to choose that which is essential in life. It starts with finding effective ways to invite young people to the truth that we have found in our own relationships with Jesus Christ, and to have them not fear listening and opening up their hearts.
Where do you start in this important pursuit? It’s no small undertaking and according to T.S. Eliot, home is where one starts from. Without a sense of permanence of a spiritual home, young people will be deprived of a launching point for their own faith. Reflecting back on the parable of the Prodigal Son, it is suggested that he did his wandering and searching, but circumstances brought him back home. He very well could have just stayed in the first place if he had a better sense of home, and the challenges of expectation that were surrounding him. Of course we can only speculate, but we can be fairly certain that if he had a higher sense of spiritual purpose that would have been beneficial.
For Discussion: How might we “up” the stacks of the challenges of expectations surrounding our young people regarding faith? Please comment below with your critique clarifications, and responses. <image source>
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