Missionary Discipleship is all the buzz in the church. Maybe your parish is considering becoming Rebuilt. Perhaps they are pondering a Divine Renovation. Perhaps the answers can be found in Forming Intentional Disciples. Efforts towards the New Evangelization of the Church seems to have clear and renewed pathways for adult Catholics.
Did you notice all those things I mentioned above focused on adults?
Saint Mary’s Press recently published a study on the dynamics of disaffiliation in young Catholics entitled “Going, Gone, Gone”. When asked at what age did young people who have disaffiliated from identifying themselves as Catholic, nearly three-quarters of the (disaffiliated) respondents indicated that it was between the ages of 10 and 20. The median age of disaffiliation was 13 years old. Nearly half had joined other religions while a third claimed no religion and the rest reported being atheists or agnostics.
Have our efforts related to Missionary Discipleship had a trickle-down effect on youth ministry? Are we intentionally trying to bring teens to Christ and make them disciples or are we just playing games, putting on big events? The New Evangelization is not a status quo mentality and an idea that pastoral programs are simply to proceed as they did in the past. Catholic youth ministry needs to move beyond merely rebranding their efforts as new evangelization and actually bringing about change. We need to place a vision into action that becomes a Divine Renovation which is Rebuilt to Forming young people as Intentional Disciples.
Nine years ago, Mark Oestreicher attempted to describe Youth Ministry 3.0. He called for Communion – a true community with Christ in the mix. True community is life – on – life, whole life, eating together, sharing journeys. It is working through difficulties, wrestling with praxis (theology in practice), accountability, safety, and openness. Community serving side – by – side, cultivating shared passion and holy discontent, mutuality, and a host of other variables. True community is not a program. It is not something people sign up for. It is not something we force on people. This is best found in a multitude of small groupings within the parish community.
Oestreicher also called for a ministry of Mission, which in this context, starts with the assumption that God is already actively working on earth, bringing out God’s redemptive, restorative work, bringing the transformation of all creation. A missional ministry seeks to discern, observe and identify things and people close to the heart of God, where God is already at work, and joins up with the work of God already in progress.
In commemorating the Bicentenary of St. John Bosco’s birth, Pope Francis highlighted that while Italy and Europe have changed significantly in the last 200 years, today’s youth are still “open to life and the encounter with God and with others.” However, the Pope also said that youth continue to face “discouragement, spiritual anemia and marginalization.” The Holy Father encouraged that we accompany youth “in the search for a synthesis between faith, culture and life, at times when decisions are difficult, when trying to interpret a complex reality.”
We are experiencing the plague of an exodus of young people disaffiliating from the Church. Not unlike Moses, may we have the wisdom to not have an exodus to the promised land of a revitalized Church without bringing along the next generation. With our young and old we must go. It is a pilgrimage feast of the LORD for us.