(Youth) Ministry Bias

Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash

Last week I shared about the book, The Art of Forming Young Disciples regarding a new way of thinking about youth ministry.

Then I read this email from Edmund Mitchell and was even more convicted in my resolutions to think differently. In my work with parishes with their Parish Vision Plan, I share a lot of different things with them. I’ve written about many of this here in this newsletter (you can read the archive of past articles here).

What works for one parish isn’t necessarily what works for every parish. Some things are the same for all parishes though, such as:

  • The mission of the Catholic Church is to “Go and Make Disciples of all Nations.” (Matthew 28)
  • Catholics (on the whole) are not very good at evangelizing (sharing the Gospel).
  • People are leaving the Church at an alarming rate.
  • We are the bearers of truth and have been entrusted by Christ to build His Kingdom on earth.

How we do all of these things is different for each parish. Why? Each parish is made up of different people at different places in their journey of faith. Some of very diverse, others are not, some are in the inner city, others are very rural, some have new people registering every day, others are facing mergers, closures, or clustering. Although the way we live out the solutions to these concerns is different, the fact that we are all facing them is not.

While that book I shared last week and Edmund’s articles are focused on youth ministry, the themes can be applied to evangelization and discipleship with everyone in our parishes and communities.

We need to think differently than we have in the past. Albert Einstein has a famous quote about insanity. He says, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.” If what you’ve been doing for a particular ministry or demographic isn’t working, don’t just keep doing it. Evaluate if some part is working and brainstorm something different to add on to it. This is the only way we can change the outcome.

What we’ve been doing to engage youth and young adults for the past three decades isn’t working. We can see that by how the number of people who identify as ‘nones’ is rising. 18% of young adults in 1999, 37% in 2019. Next year’s census will give us even more information about this trend.

So what shall we do? Everett’s suggestion in the book is to identify what their basic pastoral needs are and then seek to meet those needs. There’s a new video out (preview here) from the More That You Realize campaign I shared recently that focuses on one-on-one conversation. The point is be intentional about how we are reaching out. Ensure we are actually reaching out and not just “waiting for them to come to us.”

Read the rest of Edmund’s emails at this link, there’s some super amazing stuff in them!

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