February 29th only comes once every four years – It is the Leap Day that makes our Leap Year last three-hundred and sixty-six days instead of the usual three-hundred and sixty-six. For this reason, I have often held the presumption that this day which occurs only once a year must certainly be “YoungChurch Ministry Appreciation Day.”
Youth and Young Adult Ministry types do not often get appreciation for the many hours that they offer- days, nights, weekends, in service in the Lord’s name to ‘tweens, teens, and emerging adults. If you were ever able to spend just a little time with them, you would most likely share in my admiration for their tireless energy and passionate spirit.
On the last day of January, the Division of Youth and Young Adult Ministry hosted a day-long gathering on the Feast of Saint John Bosco, patron of young people. Assemble were dozens and dozens of those who take the lead in parish ministries with young people. The whole Church should have been able to witness the passion and energy in the room. We discussed the future of ministry with young people and how we might continue to strive for more effectiveness in that ministry.
So, on “YoungChurch Ministry Appreciation Day,” let us as church find ways to celebrate those who have dedicated their life to the Church and her more youthful members. The Archdiocesan Youth Advisory Council has already send them a Christmas video with a specially worded carol just for them, Perhaps you might send a note, a call, an e-mail, a pat-on-the-back could certainly be the encouragement needed. BUT, we might wish you “good luck” getting these folks to accept any acknowledgement for too long before they attempt to share the appreciation of this ministry by crediting many others.
On a “YoungChurch Ministry Appreciation Day,” many would likely attempt to share the spotlight with many others. They would first and foremost credit the very vital and essential role that parents in the faith lives of young people. All the research indicates that young people develop a faith that is remarkably similar to their parents. Those serving the YoungChurch are intentionally striving to find partnerships with parents and to assist them in their primary role of ministering in the faith lives of their sons and daughters.
A Youth and Young Adult leader would also likely call attention to those within the parish that are finding ways to include and involve the communities’ younger members in the mission of the Church. These are the folks that are going the extra step in recruiting and training and mentoring the next generation of parish leadership, social justice and or respect life committee members, ushers and cantors and lectors. They are intentional about sharing their love for our community, our mission, and our worship so that it might continue from generation to generation.
Finally, that same Youth and Young Adult leader might very well divert your appreciation to those who are actively engaging our younger members in conversations about faith. Catechists, core team members, retreat chaperones, Catholic middle school and high school teachers, and Confirmations sponsors. They will call your attention not to just one person, but to the many within your community that have made a choice to do one radical, extraordinary acts of generosity for both the church and her younger members.
So, on a “YoungChurch Ministry Appreciation Day,” you might not be able to get a Youth or Young Adult Ministry leader allow the spotlight to shine on them alone for too long. They are a little bit different that way.
In her book, Almost Christian: What the Faith of our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church, Kenda Dean describes the difference in this manner: “(What) gives me hope is all of the people who are committed to kids in the church. Youth ministers are an irrationally hopeful breed. I have the privilege of working with youth ministers all the time, and they are constantly ignoring what’s impossible and doing it anyway, and that’s the ‘one radical thing’ that keeps the church alive. God shows up under conditions like that.”