I was blessed with the opportunity to visit with Mark Oestreicher last Thursday. He was speaking about the need for “Belonging” in today’s young people. (Thanks, Kevin Bohli for allowing me to be with the youth contacts in the Arlington Diocese. And, Tony Vasinda, this picture is for you!
Marko hit onto a familiar theme for Kevin. Renewing the Vision calls for youth groupings. For far too many years, we continue to fall short of that challenge. Marko suggests that the youth culture has become the predominant culture. So, young people are further segmenting themselves. He would insist that no matter how alike the kids in your youth group seem, they are quite multi-cultural because of the cultural diversity of today’s kids.
Seth Godin has a thing about tribes. He insists that the internet, while connecting us all to one another, has allowed silos of interest. People will “tribe” together by what catches their skills or imaginations. In doing so, tribe members commit to the cause, commit to a tribe, and commit to the people who like-mindedly surround them. Leadership in never about forming my tribe, it is about the tribe, their tribe
For tribes to flourish, they must be from within a safe place. Relationships and tribes are tenuous stuff. In the end, they will ask for selfless choices and countercultural responses. Is that not the guts of Discipleship?
Discipleship, of course, has never been a “one size fits all” proposition. How are we doing? Do we in youth ministry or catechesis desire a discipleship that fits our view of the Church? Do we then lose their view of their tribe (and themselves)? Do we ask them to come into our stationary box where may have contained the Spirit? Or do we take a missionary stance and speak the Word into their tribe? Do we invite them with the opportunities, formation, and offered discipline with love so they may speak of Christ within their own families, tribes, and corners of the world? Do we offer all this in the fullest of anticipation that they will grow and achieve more that we ever possible could ourselves?
Paul got this and went to the Corinthians, Romans, Ephesians and others. Our post-scriptural understanding of the Blessed Mother finds her connecting into Guadalupe, Lourdes, Fatima, and Knock. Of course, Pope Francis has been about this as well:
There is a tension between the center and the periphery…. We must get out of ourselves and go toward the periphery. We must avoid the spiritual disease of the Church that can become self-referential: when this happens, the Church itself becomes sick. It’s true that accidents can happen when you go out into the street, as can happen to any man or woman. But if the Church remains closed onto itself, self-referential, it grows old. Between a Church that goes into the street and gets into an accident and a Church that is sick with self-referentiality, I have no doubts in preferring the first.
Ministry as not self-referential? Ministry as self-less? We need to have an examination of conscience on our own motivations.
What connects our ministry, our churches, our ministries is not a hierarchical structure. It is a man who two thousand years ago washed feet and forgave sin to heal. The connection is Christ. And it found within a sense of unconditional belonging… Not to MY thing that meets on the second and third Sundays, but to your own experiences which speak Spirit within your life. Marko reminded me of that.
So did Pope Francis:
Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the “peripheries” in need of the light of the Gospel. (EG, 20)