I have another article on Slant 33 responding, along with Brooklyn Lindsey and Michael Novelli, to the question In a strong denominational setting, how do you support your denomination? Hit the link to check Brooklyn and Michael’s take on the question. Here’s mine:
A Baptist preacher, a Catholic priest, and a Jewish rabbi walk into a bar… I have no idea where the punch line will go, but I will default in hoping that the Catholic priest does not fare too badly in the end.
I have friends who pick Catholic teams in the NCAA basketball brackets, even if Notre Dame is facing Duke, Boston College is up against Kentucky, or Xavier against Ohio State. (That’s all right; I have other friends who will pick Michigan over Gonzaga because a Wolverine should beat a Bulldog, or they prefer the team colors… Yes, I have weird friends.)
But man, as Catholics, we seem to sweat Catholic identity about everything…
Sometimes I wonder if Lutherans are sweating Lutheran identity as much, beyond my own perceived conclusion that it involves, “Hey, we are not Catholic!” A Google search indicates that there are about seven times the hits for “Catholic identity” over “Lutheran identity” as well as “Baptist identity.” All this in a time when the church should be more engaged in confronting moralistic therapeutic deism, that mutant watered-down faith that sloppily meshes our doctrine together in a statement more about us as people and not about our unique understandings of our relationship with the Lord and the church.
There are some things I do to continue to imbue my own ministry with Catholic identity (beyond cheering, “Go, Irish!”), and I suggest they may be applicable for you no matter your denomination.
Follow the news. What is the major source of news in your denomination? I have come to follow a few select websites because I am aware of the influence they bear in denominational leadership. Also, I utilize Google Alerts to monitor what is happening in my denomination.
Collaborate denominationally beyond your own church community. Whatever your denomination’s structure, find ways to actively engage in the programming, training, and discussions occurring beyond the boundaries of your individual church’s reach. It is important not only for you but also your volunteers and young people that we recognize that we are part of something much larger than us. Define differences. Early in my career, I found myself as a Catholic youth minister in Freeborn County, Minnesota, which understood itself at that time to be the “most Lutheran county in the United States.” It became important to help young people articulate not only the differences but the belief behind it.
Once I was offering a True Love Waits (started by the Baptists) retreat weekend in Bountiful, Utah, where the young people were immersed in Mormon culture. Young people appreciated the opportunity to redefine CTR: Choose the Right into Choose the Rite as they engaged in making decision to wait for sexual activity until marriage.
Never assume with parents. In 1 Peter 3:15, we are reminded to “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” Yet we usually do not imagine that we should be doing that in house as well. The research indicates that the cultural religion of moralist therapeutic deism is being passed along, in part, generationally. We need to be able to pass along the richness of our faith tradition not only to the next generation, but we must continue to remind or re-educate parents about the depth of faith into which they were baptized and sought baptism and/or confirmation for their young people.
One thing is for sure. We have all got to improve our efforts to assist young people in being able to articulate what it is they believe as well as what it is the church they call home to their faith believes. That is true for denominations as much as it is true for non-affiliated churches.
As a denomination in the United States, Catholics are blessed with many organizations and structures that are designed to serve and enhance youth ministry. Yet, even if we were not, I would hope to find ways to collaborate with my brothers and sisters in Catholic youth ministry, seeking them out and gathering with them locally as well as within the national non-denominational conferences around the country and via internet connections.
Oh yeah, and, “Go, Irish!” <image source>
Previous Slant33 contributions include Where do you draw the line on social media interactions with students? and How do you determine the line between vulnerability and over sharing?