Seventy-five parishioners and priests gathered at Holy Rosary Cathedral to listen to Michelle Braden and Braden Kuntz, Archdiocesan Youth Ministry Coordinators encouraging a rethink of youth ministry. Most parishes are worried about the lack of young people in their pews and are searching for ideas that will help bring them back.
Groups gathered to discuss the impact parish life had in their past. We realized that in many cases social activities centered around the church especially in rural communities. If young rural people saw their friends after school, it was usually at Mass on Sunday or at church social functions. There weren’t as many extracurricular rivals for the attention of our youth in the past. However, many young people today are starving all around us, searching for spiritual food to feed their souls.
Seven young people shared their faith stories with the group and as we listened, a common theme emerged. They were invited to join the youth group by others, they were noticed and listened to, they felt part of something bigger than themselves and they felt loved.
As we were encouraged to “Rethink Youth Ministry” we were asked why we wanted young people back in our churches. Michelle said, “is it because you are tired and want them to get involved as long as they do things the way they have always been done. We can’t ask them to participate and share their gifts and then criticize and second guess what they have done”
Some suggestions we heard were: Notice your young people, ask questions, get to know them and learn their names; move out of our comfort zones go where the young people are in our communities and on social media; find ways to serve, offer to teach someone to bake bread or build something; draw out their gifts, ask them to serve; resist blaming the parents, the schools, or the parish; choose your battles; if we are constantly criticizing the little things like chewing gum or hats, will they come to us for guidance when they are facing a major problem; and of course... pray, pray, pray.
Workshop participants received handouts with action suggestions with things we can do and copies of the document, “YOU Give Them Something to Eat prepared by THE Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, a link to which is available on the Youth page of the Archdiocesan website.
Young people are not the church of tomorrow, they are the church of today and together we can give them something to eat.