As both a millennial and a faithful Catholic who’s worked her share of days in a parish office and youth ministry, the question of “what to do about youth these days” is always a relevant one. It’s a question we can’t stop asking ourselves, and one almost no one has a great answer to. The Bishops met back in October to discuss this very topic. We’re still waiting on the final documents from the Synod, but I’ve never been that patient, so let’s talk about it today!
There aren’t really any concrete answers, but there are many fantastic starting points. Brian Holdsworth had a great video about it … it’s just 8 minutes and definitely worth a watch. I’ve pulled some of my favorite quotes out below, if you just want to skim the highlights.
The first point he tackles is if we should be “relevant” and “like the culture.” The quick answer is no. No one likes someone pretending to be something they aren’t. The way he speaks about it is quite interesting. Brian says:
If we make our faith look and smell and sound like everything else, we will signal to the curious that there’s nothing unique about this experience. And because there’s nothing unique about you can rest assured the God’s not here so don’t waste your time looking for him here.
WOW! Harsh, right?
It seems a little harsh, but sometimes the truth hurts – and that’s okay. We need to hear it anyway. The Church is unique, God is unique, He is transcendent! Let’s not forget that, or even downplay it.
He continues by reflecting on his experience at most Catholic Masses:
I find I have to work really hard to have a spiritual experience in what is supposed to be the summit of all spiritual experiences. Our liturgy should enhance and make the spiritual life easily accessible and if the opposite is true we’ve taken a serious wrong turn somewhere.
Does Liturgy at your parish provide a path to a great spiritual experience? Or is it just like everything else we do in a day?
Now that we’ve outlined what not to do, we ask:
So if pandering to relevance isn’t the way to retain youth membership, then what is?
Brian’s first thought is a great starting point.
Well, I think we need to be ourselves and present Catholicism as it actually is. Don’t water it down and don’t pander. Because doing so just makes us, the Church, look desperate and pathetic, and that’s not the kind of thing that is going to inspire people to want to follow Christ.
Don’t try to be something you aren’t. Christ didn’t try to be something He wasn’t.
So just 4 easy steps:
- Don’t water the faith down.
- Don’t pander to the culture.
- Re-embrace the distinction between the sacred and profane. [“The Liturgy should be like nothing else in this world, we shouldn’t be afraid of that, it’s the reality.”]
- Tell the youth the truth, the doctrines of the Church. [“If we claim to have the fullness of truth, which is God, then we should act like it. Yes, telling the truth is risky and it will draw the anger of many. Do it anyway. Standing firm in doctrine and in truth is the only thing that will attract people who love what is true.”]
Well, they aren’t easy steps, not really. They are hard, but this is a big thing. The biggest thing. The salvation of souls is on the line, so we have to dive in head first even when it’s hard. We won’t stop talking about this here, so stay tuned!
What are you doing in your parishes to encourage youth? Share your great ideas below so we can all learn from one another!