Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Great Expectations...

It is no secret that many are thinking what we have done in youth ministry has not born the desired fruit of adult faithfulness.  There is no shortage of critics of what has become a rather sad mixture of entertainment, fun, and baby sitting which substitutes for honest catechesis and faith development.  I have said the same thing perhaps a half dozen times on this blog.  So you should not be surprised when I find a quote that illustrates many of the very fears I have about what usually passes for youth ministry.

When we don't expect teens to rise to challenges, we don't teach them doctrine. However, this lack of confidence in teens has left us with an ignorant generation (or several) with regard to what the church actually believes. It is strange that we teach young people complex calculus and physics but don't think they can handle or will be interested in understanding the significance of the Trinity or atonement.  [You can read it all here...]

Now I will grant you that parents are largely to blame.  We have created a culture of fun in which boredom is the ultimate problem and the ultimate rebuke to what we do with our children.  We have become slaves to their pleasure and happiness instead of parents and mentors of good, virtuous, and faithful lives as Christians.  I am speaking here of Christian parents and teens and not simply to those outside the faith.  But let us explore the thought expressed above.

My kids and most of those pre-teens and teens in the Church are comfortable with highly technological tools.  They know more and know better than I how to deal with computer malfunctions, how to use social media effectively, how to traverse the complicated menu structures of I-Tunes and the various I-appliances they own... Yet when it comes to the faith, we discount their ability and turn the great topics of faith into dumbed down and trite little ditties that you sing with hand motions or fit into a three part outline in which all the parts rhyme or an acrostic in which the first letters form the name of the latest greatest movie (Hunger Games anyone)...

My kids (well beyond high school) took advanced placement courses and dealt with subjects that were not even in existence when I went to school.  I find that our faith conversations probe some of the deepest topics of the faith and they have remarkable insights that sometimes eclipse my own.  But why am I surprised?  They have gone to Sunday school, been catechized in the faith, regularly participate in the Eucharistic mystery, and attend adult Bible studies.  They are fully capable with the intellectual capacity not only to learn but to be fully conversant with the chief doctrines of the faith.

We should not sell our youth short.  It is not the goal of acolyte service that they have fun in church.  They are leaders in their part of the Divine Service and are called to shoulder significant responsibility.  It should not be the goal of Sunday school or catechism class or youth group to baby sit or entertain these youth.  They are facing adult size decisions every day and they live out the bulk of their lives in a faith unfriendly atmosphere of educational institutions.  They need to be equipped for these serious challenges and we do them a great disservice when we entertain them instead.

They have the capacity... do we have the willingness to teach them, to nurture their faith, and to equip them for the fullness of their lives in Christ?  It is not their problem.  It is ours.  We will be held accountable.


Janis Williams said...

I greatly fear we adults are guilty of 1. not thinking doctrine is importand - it won't help our youth get a job that pays well (as being computer savvy likely will). 2. being lazy. I suggest it is we as adult boomers who are interested in pleasure. We want to be entertained and mollified. It takes serious effort to train a child/youth in the Faith. It means we must realize that catechesis for ourselves does not end so long as we live.

If we are not concerned that our faith be built up (by attendance on Word and Sacrament, and personal piety), why shoud we expect our young people to?

Anonymous said...

The sad thing is so many adults want to be entertained too and don't want to think deeply.