What do you think of when you see or hear the term, “Youth Ministry?” We continue reading in one of the longest chapters of the Holy Father’s Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation (which can be found on this link at the Vatican site).
232. Similarly, especially in the case of young people who do not come from Christian families or institutions, and are slowly growing to maturity, we have to encourage all the good that we can.[Cf. Evangelii Gaudium 44-45] Christ warned us not to see only the good grain (cf. Mt 13:24-30).
In good and fruitful ministries to young people–schools, parishes, and campus ministries–people will be attracted from outside the fold. How do we handle this situation? A general approach, as well as being prepared for individual encounters are important.
At times, in the attempt to develop a pure and perfect youth ministry, marked by abstract ideas, protected from the world and free of every flaw, we can turn the Gospel into a dull, meaningless and unattractive proposition. Such a youth ministry ends up completely removed from the world of young people and suited only to an elite Christian youth that sees itself as different, while living in an empty and unproductive isolation. In rejecting the weeds, we also uproot or choke any number of shoots trying to spring up in spite of their limitations.
Elitism can be a problem. Sometimes the impetus comes from within the group itself. Some young people are more comfortable with an insular group that reinforces their habits. Sometimes, it is imposed from the outside by parents and ministers. I’d go so far as to say that a group that cannot welcome outsiders has abandoned their Christ-centered mission. They have become a junior auxiliary of a country club.
The synod’s final document adds to the theme, suggesting we need courage and confidence:
233. Instead of “overwhelming young people with a body of rules that make Christianity seem reductive and moralistic, we are called to invest in their fearlessness and to train them to take up their responsibilities, in the sure knowledge that error, failure and crisis are experiences that can strengthen their humanity”.[FD 70]
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