Fear and Mercy

What impels us in youth ministry? How have our motivations affected our level of creativity and growth as a field?

Recently, I viewed David Rothkoph’s TED video on how fear drives American politics.  In the early ramp up of the 2016 presidential campaign, it should be mandatory viewing for the thoughtful voter.  It also helped to provide some perspective of decision making in the church as well.

As Church, of what do we fear?  Are we striving to regain a Lost Generation?  Are we going again the cultural tide of Spiritual and not religious, of closing church doors?

Rothkopf would suggest that sometimes fear can produce a constructive response. But sometimes it can produce an unconstructive response.  For the US government, the crisis of 9/11 came about because we were looking for threats in the wrong direction and, Rothkoph insists we are still distracted from critical issues within the present signs of the times and our inability to collaborate towards modern solutions.

CYMbLogoAdam McLane recently posted about his understanding of the Youth Cartel’s mission. It is about revolutionizing youth ministry… an image that was a long-term banner of a previous time, on a predecessor blog site. Adam thinks of revolutionizing youth ministry as fighting against death… the death of youth ministry.   And, I get it.   But, I think that The Youth Cartel’s real contribution is not against death, but for life.  If youth ministry does not die, it is not because of revolution, but evolution.  If youth ministry does not die, it is not because of revolution, but radical evolution.

da9d8b2001e6489306bc17eae684b271Pope Francis has taken a larger view of this that just limiting it to the youth room.  He has called for a missionary impulse, capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world.  It is an evolutionary description of what can be next.  It is a description of radical evolution when he contextualizes it with his Shibboleth understanding of Mercy.

We can use the word radical here because it is true to the definition of being far-reaching or thorough. At the same time, it is true towards the origin of the word radical by being rooted into a fundamental nature.

Pope Francis calls us to recognize the Lord’s mercy in the world and to engage in conspiring with the Creator generosity. The Holy Father is encouraging our fears to impel a constructive response.

I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty, because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.

He seeks Pope Benedict’s inaugural vision of a Church which is alive, a Church which is young. He is resisting the unconstructive response

More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us, ‘Give them something to eat.

Or, a mercy that is as free and expansive and life-giving enough to suggest the animation of the Holy Spirit.

Which, of course, brings us back to the question.  In this season of the fear of Halloween and the examples of mercy from all the saint and all the souls, let us ask again: What impels us in youth ministry? How have our motivations affected our level of creativity and growth as a field?

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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.


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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