Catholic Youth Work
The following items are tagged Catholic Youth Work
What are you interested in?
Blogged by James Preece 1 Year ago...
Before you read any further, please indulge me in a game of Flame chicken. The challenge is to try and watch it to the end...
How did you do? Spot anything explicitly Christian? Me neither.
Anyway I thought you should hear from Lucy on the Catholic Herald blog...
I went to the event and I have got to be honest it was pretty pagan. What was on offer was pretty humanistic and the best things that were said at the event were by two Protestants! The organisers of the events are all lefties and a lot of the Catholic speakers of the event as well were. There was little mention of Jesus or conversion at the event and sadly it was a missed opportunity. Although kudos for having Eucharistic Adoration at the end. But overall poor show guys -slick organisation, poor content!
The event was poor, simple as. I went in there with expectant faith, many people I spoke to about the event in the evening thought it was good, and about 40% of the people I spoke too thought it was awful (mainly priests and seminarians, I even spoke to someone from one of the contributing organisations and he was shocked at how bad it was).
Then there's "Flame goer" on this blog..
I attended FLAME at the weekend - and I am in two minds about the event. yes, it was great to see over 8,000 people gathered as a witness and expression of faith, to see people smiling and becoming enthusiastic about faith, and for many there this may have been their first opportunity to pray in such crowds. However, what faith were they expressing? FLAME provided little opportunity to express what being a Catholic is...No Mass (yes there was adoration, which as has been commented on other pages, most people are saying was the best part of the day), but with an arch-bishop, about 12 other Bishops and many many priests, it was a missed opportunity not to have Mass, no talk about reconciliation, nothing about Confirmation...nothing about what Catholicism is all about. At one point, during one of the talks, a person sitting near me was heard to exclaim "when are they going to talk about God?"
FLAME, as an event was a stepping stone to what could become something amazing. Big events can have their place - yes bring young people in this country together who may not have enough money to go to WYD, or may not have a lively young parish in which they can witness their peers expressing what they believe, but my petition would be, if they are to be Catholic events, then include some Catholicism. Encourage us to live OUR faith, start planting seeds so that we can develop our Catholic faith, and allow an opportunity for expression.
The work that went behind the event was huge, and I applaud the people who had the courage to undertake the event and who worked tirelessly on the day to ensure a smooth running day and a day that many people seemed to really enjoy - there were many smiles and many laughs. But next time, make it about Catholicism...
Now might be a good time to revisit the article I wrote for the Catholic Herald aaaaaages ago: Catholic 'youth ministry' treats adults like children...
Blogged by James Preece 1 Year ago...
On Saturday several thousand young Catholics converged on Wembley Arena for the CYMFed (Catholic Youth Ministry Federation) Flame (as in Olympic Flame) Congres. It was, by all mainstream conventional measures - a success. Thousands of young Catholics came together, they had a great day, they took part in adoration.
I don't know if you have ever seen those videos of cold war era soviet military parades? Hundreds of soldiers and nuclear missiles paraded through the streets of Moscow in a show of strength. Yet history tells us that outside a country was failing, people were queing for hours to get bread and it would not be long until communism collapsed altogether. It was later discovered that many of the paraded missles were fakes.
Despite what you might have guessed, the Catholic Church in England and Wales spends a lot of money on young people. We pay out 10% of all capital expenditure at 329 Catholic secondary schools, we run chaplaincies at schools and universities, we employ diocesan youth workers, mission teams, retreat centres and youth villages. Yet what do we get in return? How many young people did you see at Mass on Sunday? One rather convenient feature of having so many chaplains in so many schools is the ability to round up large numbers of teenagers for a bit of a jolly down to London with their mates. With 345,216 young people in Catholic secondary schools, it's not asking much to round up 10,000.
Put on a show, get some photos of a the crowd and voila. Everybody's salary is justified for another year! Even the Archbishop looks good! Hooray - Catholic Youth Work is a success!
Only it isn't.
Because we all know that for the vast majority of young people formation simply isn't happening. Catholic Youth Work isn't working. Why? Because no amount of trendy (e.g. decades old) music and excitement is a substitute for solid formation in the faith. Even the really good youth workers are fighting a losing battle against a Church which has abandoned Truth for a pandoctrinal sea of equally valid choices.
I can see a place for large events, but events like Flame are actually counter-productive if they give the impression of success where there is none. Like victims of leprosy, we go on hurting ourselves because we do not feel the pain. This parading around just perpetuates the myth that the emperor has clothes on...
...and someday the money is going to run out.
Blogged by James Preece 3 Years ago...
Please note: The information in this blog entry is out of date. CYMFed have now released the names of their board members, information on this can be found here.
You may recall my previous blog entries on the subject of CYMFed. The Catholic Youth Ministry Federation, which seems to have all the power and authority of the Bishop's conference (able to put a poster in every parish Church and get Archbiship Vincent Nichols along to their conference) without any of the responsibility.
These people are shaping the direction of Catholic youth ministry in this country and we don't even know who they are. According to their website...
The Catholic Youth Ministry Federation (CYMFed) seeks to help shape and support Catholic Youth Ministry in England
CYMFed currently brings together 32 stakeholders - Dioceses and Catholic organisations working with young people in England and Wales. Within this federation there are numerous staff and volunteers, between them working with over 30,000 yong people each year.
CYMFed’s organisation is run by the principle officers of each diocese and organisation, who meet three times a year, and the Board which meets regularly. Bringing together the ‘on the ground’ practitioners of those working with young people in a Catholic context, CYMFed is the single most experienced and qualified body in the UK to hold, protect and further the vision of youth ministry.
So who wields this immense power and influence? Who makes the decisions about the furthering the vision of youth ministry?
I'm grateful to David Beresford for leaving a comment on this blog offering to answer any questions I might have about CYMFed. I sent him a list of fifteen questions, two of which were:
- Who sits on the CYMFed board? What are their roles?
- Who decides who sits on the CYMFed board?
Remember, if you want to know the same information about CAFOD you can find it here and for CES you can find it here. I don't think it's unreasonable to ask who sits on the board of an organisation that works with over 30,000 young people every year!
David sent me quite a long email in response (I did ask fifteen questions!) but the only thing he said regarding the questions above was this...
Far from being in any way “anonymous” or “shadowy” this membership already engages every Diocese, and every Religious Order, Movement and Organisation working with young people nationally. These members – working with CBCEW – are the ones drawing up the documents to shape the strategy for Youth Ministry nationally, and this is therefore absolutely inclusive and transparent.
It's difficult not to see CYMFed as anonymous and shadowy when I still don't know a single name (apart from yourself) of a person on the CYMFed board and I don't know who appoints people to the CYMFed board. If I don't know (and I have done as much as anybody might reasonable do to find out) then nobody knows outside of those who are on the inside. I've asked and you haven't told me. Is it a secret?
I'm not opposed to an organisation like CYMFed existing, I just think it ought to be truly open and accountable so that people like myself can keep an eye on it's activities and sound the alarm if we think there's something not right.
I'm a fair man, so before blogging about it I sent this...
Can you confirm that you won't be sharing the names of the CYMFed board members?
That was a more than a week ago and still no response.
I'm discouraged and alarmed at the same time. University Catholic Societies will tell you who sits on the commitee and they don't wield anywhere near so much influence.
Why would people running an organisation like CYMFed hide in the shadows?
Blogged by James Preece 3 Years ago...
The National Youth Sunday materials this year are a lot better than last year but there are still some low points. I don't know about you, but every time I see a sight like this my heart sinks...
Yes. Very clever. I see what you did there. You got some bread and you broke it. Now all we need is a bottle of Jacob's Creek and we're all set.
My heart sinks even more when I see novelty experimental prayer suggestions...
1. Eat and pray
Based on part of the WYD theme: “...the living God” (1 Tim 4:10)
You will need
- Lectionary open at Christ the King (B), or a Bible open at John’s Gospel, chapter 18
- Bread, grapes, chocolate, jelly babies etc.
Place the book and the food close to each other.
Simply ask the young people to eat slowly whilst reading the word of God. This is a good way to form an association - each time they eat that food again they will remember the word of God.
If there are no allergy issues in your group, chocolate is a good choice because it melts slowly in the mouth.
What bothers me about this is the attitude that prayer with young people has to take the form of a novelty activity that somehow hints in the direction of a religious experience but doesn't explicitly consist of, you know, actually praying.
It should really be called "Eat and read" because nowhere in the instructions does it say anything about prayer. Yes, I know, reading the scriptures can be a form of prayer but that in itself needs to be explained and it isn't.
How does it make things inclusive and straight forward to encourage young people to pray in such a way that they will only understand it as prayer if they already know about it beforehand?
Blogged by James Preece 4 Years ago...
Bishop Terry's invitation to Young People...
Each week during Lent I will come to Hull, York and Middlesbrough. I hope to meet you there. If you are open to what the Lord is saying, life will never be the same again. I promise. Together, I want us to begin to answer Jesus' challenging question: "Who do you say I am?"
St Mark's Gospel: Who do you say I am?
The demons recognised at once who Jesus is: "We know who you are, the Holy One of God." But Jesus silenced them.
Jesus tried to show his disciples - through his teaching and his miracles. He thought they were beginning to understand. "You are the Christ," Peter said, "the Son of God". But when the going got tough, when the way lead to the cross, they ran.
What about you? Who do you say that he is?
Come and find out for yourself.
Mark's Gospel: Who do you say I am?
Mark is sure he knows who Jesus is. "The Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God" is the first line of his gospel. Jesus tries to show his disciples by his teaching and his miracles who he is. "You are the Christ" Peter said, "the Son of God". What about you? Who do you say he is?
[Source: Middlesbrough Catholic Voice]
I would encourage all young people in Middlesbrough Diocese to get themselves along to their nearest meeting with the Bishop.
York people need to get themselves to English Martyrs on Tuesdays in March (the 3rd, 10th, 17th and 24th) Hull people need to get themselves to The Endsleigh Centre on Wednesdays in March (the 4th, 11th, 18th and 25th) and Middlesbrough people need to get themselves to St Thomas More on Thursdays in March (5th, 12th, 19th and 26th)
This is your opportunity to find out what this religion stuff is all about.
Blogged by James Preece 4 Years ago...
This week in the Catholic Herald there is an interview with Bishop Kieran Conry. He's the Bishop who is supervising "an Interim Youth Ministry Co-ordinator" who will be doing research "to determine the current provision for youth ministry within the Dioceses, and directions for further development".
The interview covers lots of things I'm sure many bloggers will be covering - but I'm most interested in what he has to say about young people...
A Youth Mass with a liturgy designed to appeal to youngsters had been proposed. The website for it displayed the bishops' logo. Suggestions included distributing tips on high-energy light bulbs, handing out Fairtrade chocolate and in a list of things to be sorry for in the penitential rite: leaving water in your kettle.
Did the bishop think any of the suggested liturgy was a bit silly?
"Well, it might be. But it's youth. We're not going to switch light bulbs on in young people's heads, not at a single event. But it was felt some of that would be appropriate for young people." Leaving water in the kettle? "For young people that's an issue - energy saving."
Could the Church be more radical? Talk about the serious questions - repentance, salvation?
"You can't talk to young people about salvation. What's salvation? What does salvation mean? My eternal soul? You can only talk to young people in young people's language, really. And if you're going to talk to them about salvation, the first thing they will understand is saving the planet. You're talking about being saved and they will say: 'What about saving the planet?'"
Hold on a second.
How do young people have any idea that the planet needs saving?
Look at the planet. It's enormous and remarkably stable from one day to the next. Does it look like it needs saving? Have young people started being born who are able to detect tiny shifts of a fraction of a degree centigrade in the average temperature of the whole earth from one year to the next? I doubt it. The only way any young person knows that the planet needs saving is that somebody told them.
Imagine that! Young people being told stuff.
Now look at human beings. Spot anything about them? Unlike the planet (which I am sure will get by without us for millions of years thanks very much) human beings are mortal. Human beings do not live forever. They die. What happens then?
Does Bishop Kieran Conry really really believe that young people find it easy to see that the earth needs saving but cannot conceive of their own mortality? That none of them might be even slightly interested in what happened to gran when she died last year or what will happen to themselves?
Amy Welborn (author of several highly regarded books for teenagers) puts it better than me...
it was this part about young people that struck me, since it betrayed, I think, such a lack of understanding of young people to a level that was almost insulting. I mean, I was insulted, and I'm so far away from being a young person it's not funny anymore.
Young people only understand "salvation" if you hook it into "saving the planet?" Has the bishop ever spoken to an actual young person and listened to them speak about their deepest questions…why am I here…what is this life for…what in the world am I supposed to do with this life? …am I an accident…is there any point…death? Death?
Young people are facing absolutely enormous questions... why am I here…what is this life for…what in the world am I supposed to do with this life? The Bishops are giving them pap about recycling and not over filling kettles.
This is failure on an epic scale.
You can inflict the full interview on yourself here.
We got up to leave. My mind turned to the bishop taking the Friday night train back to Brighton, sitting in the carriage in his black clerical clothes. Then I realised he wasn't wearing clerical garb.
Did you know that Canon law says it's okay to poke a Bishop in the eye so long as he isn't dressed like a member of the clergy?
It doesn't? Well it should.
Blogged by James Preece 4 Years ago...
My unhappiness with the themes for Catholic youth work in the UK is well documented. "Be the change you want to see in the world..." (Ghandi), "Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great..." (Mandella) and "I am because we are..." (Ubuntu) are not exactly brimming with Christological significance.
Instead they betray a semi-pelagian humanist underpinning. We need to change ourselves. The sanctifying grace of God is nowhere to be seen. Baptism? Communion? Confession? These things are not for us! We will change ourselves! We will be great! We are because we are!
Anyways... thought you might like to see the themes that Pope Benedict has chosen for the next three World Youth Days...
Benedict XVI is inviting youth to celebrate the next two World Youth Days at the diocesan level, leading up to a culmination in the 2011 Madrid event.
A statement from the Holy See affirmed that the Pope picked event themes for the '09 and '10 youth days, "so as to help build a spiritual itinerary that will culminate in the World Youth Day celebrations scheduled to take place in Madrid, Spain."
The theme of the 2009 World Youth Day, which will be celebrated next Palm Sunday in Rome and in each diocese, is: "We Have Set Our Hope on the Living God" (1 Timothy 4:10).
In 2010, the celebration will also be held on Palm Sunday in all dioceses, with the theme: "Good Teacher, What Must I do to Inherit Eternal Life?" (Mark 10:17).
These celebrations will lead up to the international World Youth Day in Madrid, scheduled for Aug. 16-21, 2011, with the theme: "Rooted and Built Up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith" (Colossians 2:7).
Notice how none of them are inspired by third world humanist philosophies. Notice how they are all of them based on scripture.
Yay the Pope.
They also work quite well with Bishop Drainey's "Who do you say I am?" (Matthew 16) meetings with young people in Hull.
Yay the Bishop as well...
Blogged by James Preece 4 Years ago...
I think it's rather good.
Let me just share one or two things with you.
The Holy Father began by reminding us all that we have been specially chosen and loved by the Father who has called us into existence for a very specific reason.
Rather, he has loved us into existence and wants us to search and find him in all that is good, beautiful and true in our lives and in our world.
That is why we have been given the great gift of freedom. So that we might choose the good, the beautiful and the true. And it is in doing this that we will find genuine happiness.
He said, do not be fooled by those who see you as just another consumer in a market of undifferentiated possibilities. Where choice itself becomes the good, novelty usurps beauty and subjective experience replaces truth.
He reminded us that Christ is truth and only he who is truth can be the way that leads to real life.
What our faith teaches and brings to those who will receive it is life, life in Christ. This is what the Church is all about and we first began to live this new life at our Baptism when God drew us in to his very own life and we became his adopted Sons and Daughters.
Listen to the whole thing...
Around a month ago the Diocesan Youth Officer (the Priest in charge of the Diocesan Youth Service) resigned. I remember talking with a friend about possible replacements and my friend was pretty negative.
There's only seemed two options. Either they would pick a mushroom (a fun-guy) who would entertain the kids with jokes, talking about football and recycling tips (sigh) or they would pick somebody good (I thought the existing guy was quite good) but they wouldn't be able to get anything done because of the prevailing culture of pap.
The only way out that I could see would be if the Bishop himself decided to personally see to the task of forming the young people of the diocese. My friend said that there was no way the Bishop would have time. Based on what he says at the end of this message (from about 4:45), I reckon he is going to make time.
Throughout this coming Lent I want to meet with you.
I want us to get together to share, understand more deeply and begin to live Jesus' life giving words. Each week I will come to three different venues in the Diocese for the first four weeks of Lent.
Will you come? I hope to meet you there, and if you listen, if you're open to what the Lord is saying, your life will never be the same again.
Blogged by James Preece 4 Years ago...
I wrote recently about the "closure of Catholic Youth Services earlier this year" and the subsequent 'research' which is "to determine the current provision for youth ministry within the Dioceses, and directions for further development".
I won't lie to you, I'm pessimistic (now there's a surprise). Bishop Kieran Conry, the man whose name is down to supervise this research has his name on the front page of the reclaimthefuture.org.uk website. He and his interim team will speak with the existing Diocesan Youth Services and ask how things are and they will all reply "great thanks" and then they will be asked about future development. "More of the same please.." they will reply. "Only this time, can it be less religious looking..." National Youth Sunday 2009 will be entitled "SimplyCafod" and will come with liturgical suggestions such as getting somebody's mum to say mass in the garden in vestments made from bin-bags.
As has been pointed out before - it's one thing to write a blog criticising those who are working with young people, quite another thing to say something constructive.
So, here goes. Here's my attempt to talk... constructively... about youth ministry...
I think we can all agree that youth services and youth work in general exists to fulfil a need. Otherwise there is, quite literally, no need for them (duh). If we can identify the need then we can identify what youth work services are for and then (my favourite part) we can figure out what went wrong and fix it.
Beginning with the wider concept of formation. Formation begins as a baby when we first experience the love of our parents and continues throughout our lives. It consists of learning (as we are evangelised and receive catechises) but also spiritual growth as our prayer life develops and we partake in the sacraments. The ultimate goal of formation is to form ourselves in the image of Christ.
Charting our Formation
I find the following visualisation is very helpful, it's not perfect, but it's helpful.
We can't measure formation empirically (like we measure height or weight) but we are all aware of different levels of formation. A five year old who has just learned the Our Father clearly has 'less' formation than a thirty year old priest. We talk about people being 'well formed' or who have 'not had much formation'.
I think that allows us to draw the following chart...
I hope I didn't lose you there. Charts like this (usually with distance and time) are a part of GCSE physics (I know, because I recently helped Ella's brother with his revision) but many of you may not have been to school for a while so allow me to explain.
The chart above has two axis, along the horizontal axis we have 'Age' and along the vertical we have 'Formation'. The line traces the amount of formation a typical Catholic might have received according to their age.
At the left hand side you can see young Catholics begin life with no formation and rapidly get lots and lots (hence the steep curve). They are constantly learning hymns and how to pray, about love and friendship, about Noah's ark and Jesus and so on.
As the Chart progresses it levels out. For much of adult life (the right hand end) much less formation happens. I'm not saying that's how it should be, I'm saying that's how it is. For most Catholics, most of their formation occurred when they were a child.
If this were an inspirational blog entry, I would now ask you to break in to groups and talk about what your own chart would look like. Joking aside, I would be interested to see what other people's charts might look like.
Now, I'm going to mark up that chart a little bit...
The Required Formation Line
I spoke earlier about a five year old having less formation than a priest. Somewhere in between I think we can say there is a line that is crossed, a 'level of formation' which is required to get by in life as a Catholic adult. I don't want to get in to a discussion right now about what formation is required for a Catholic to survive in a very hostile secular adult world. The point is, that there is a level of formation required.
The grey line on the chart marks this point. The point where our formation crosses that line and we become mature Catholics, perhaps it happens at confirmation, perhaps not until we are much older. Clearly a child who just completed their first communion preparation is below that line (contraception? what's that?) while one would hope that most adult Catholics are above it. I would suggest that any adult who is below that line is probably going to end up a lapsed Catholic sooner or later.
Think about this for a moment - what level of formation are you at? Are you over this line or under it? What sort of formation do you think a person needs to survive as a Catholic in a hostile secular world?
The Age Line
The vertical blue line on the other hand, marks the age at which a person has to live in the adult world. Don't mistake this line for the age at which a person is an adult. If you are fourteen when your friend turns to you and tells you she is thinking of having an abortion - bang - you have hit that line. For most people I would guess that line is around sixteen (when you can buy beer, have sex and get an abortion) but perhaps for some it is older. Certainly it is getting younger and younger and we are kidding ourselves if we think it is anywhere close to thirty-five.
Again, it might help you to stop and think about your own life. When did you cross that blue line? When did you hit an adult challenge to your faith? How old were you when, for instance, you started taking yourself to Mass?
The interesting thing is this. The blue age line creates a hard limit by which the grey line needs to be met. If we don't have enough formation to survive in the adult world, by the time we need to live in the adult world - we're going to have problems.
That's the real challenge of youth work, that limit. I'm, sure all of us can think of friends who have hit the wrong line first, perhaps it was us. Maybe they got a boyfriend and had sex before they understood the Churches teaching on human sexuality or maybe they still found mass boring (because they didn't understand it) at an age when they were expected to go to adult masses. Maybe they met an atheist friend with clever arguments... You get the idea...
The two lines form two areas...
I think this chart is really nice because it shows neatly the relationship between youth work and adult formation.
The Two Areas
The yellow area is the shortfall between the formation required to survive and function as a mature Catholic. The youth work exists to make this yellow area as small as possible.
The green area is the extra formation above the bare minimum. Adult formation exists to make this green area as big as possible.
The Adult Formation people, in order to make their area as big as possible, should be grabbing young people as soon as they are over that grey line. If a seventeen year old can cope with a diocesan training day for extraordinary ministers or a talk on the creed, they should be encouraged to go.
The Youth Department, in order to make their area as small as possible, should see the conversion of young people in to young adults as their primary aim. They should be looking at what adult formation are doing and asking "how can we prepare young people for that?
The Two Tasks of Youth Ministry
Diocesan Youth Services, Chaplaincy Teams, Youth Officers, Parish Youth Groups, Youth Masses and Children's Liturgies all exist for only one reason and one reason only: That yellow triangle.
People are not born adults which is why youth ministry exists to achieve two vital goals: Bridging the gap and closing the Gap.
Bridging the Gap
The requirement for bridging the gap is most extreme when we are little children. Little children can't follow readings, can't understand homilies, don't want to keep quiet, need to ask questions. We bridge that gap by giving them children's liturgies - a place where they don't have to keep quiet, can ask questions, get a simple explanation of the readings.
As we get older, the need to bridge the gap should get smaller. Older children can follow readings, though perhaps they struggle to understand the homily and socialise with old people. So we bridge the gap with youth groups where they can socialise with one another and where the priest can preach to their level.
By the time a child is turning in to an adult, the bridge should be getting imperceptibly small. They should be getting better and better at following readings, understanding homilies, socialising with old people and so on. If the bridges are getting bigger and bigger - something is seriously wrong.
Closing the Gap
We can't compensate for the gap forever. We can make the mass simpler, but we can't make the arguments for remaining chaste simpler. We can't ask the atheists to kindly write books with easier arguments in them. Eventually, young people will need to get by as adults.
Closing the gap means forming our young people so that they need less and less bridges. If they find mass boring, we need to teach them to appreciate the mass more for what it is and not for it's entertainment value. If they struggle with the Churches teaching on human sexuality, we need to teach them to understand it.
Closing the gap is vital. Closing the gap means giving young people the formation they need to be confident adult Catholics with a firm grasp of the Catholic faith. Able not to just to understand it, but to appreciate it and live it and want to share it.
What Went Wrong
The above charts were hypothetical. The chart below is, sadly, very real. The chart below shows the formation of, well, pretty much my entire generation and the children in our Catholic schools to this very day...
Firstly. Formation is not continuous - many parishes have no children's liturgies or what they do have is just colouring in sessions, no Catechism classes like the Indian children have. Religious Education in schools is a joke. Formation occurs only in sudden bursts around the time of sacramental preparation. Three times - first communion/confession is the first, confirmation is the second and (for some) marriage preparation is the last.
See that red arrow?
That is the key. Right there. That's what we need to fix. That shortfall.
Formation is totally inadequate. Young Catholics are completely unprepared for adult life. The secular world hits them like a freight train. That shortfall is the reason pretty much everybody I went to school with no longer goes to mass.
That red arrow is their inability to reconcile suffering with an all loving God, it's their inability to understand the Church's teaching on marriage, it's the way they find mass boring (because they don't understand it), it's the way their history is so bad that they read Dan Brown and think 'oooh, how interesting', I always wondered if the Church might have albino assassins.
The Main Problem in Youth Ministry Today
The mistake we have made is simple, we have done everything precisely backwards:
Our bridges (which should be temporary) are permanent.
Our gap closing formation (which should be permanent) is temporary.
Our bridges (children's liturgies, youth groups, simple language, etc) should be temporary. They should be short term things that young people grow out of. Instead, we are attempting to make them permanent. Instead of young people growing up to join the adult world, we are trying to pull down the adult world to meet young people, even when the young people are thirty and have kids of their own.
This is exemplified by the Diocesan Youth Manager who on hearing the Pope lead the Lord's prayer in Latin did not say "we need to be forming young people to deal with this" but instead said that the Pope "came across as exclusive". Better that the entire worldwide Church refrains from using any Latin (a permanent bridging of the gap) than young people are formed to learn a few Latin prayers.
Meanwhile, our formation (which should be formation for life) is temporary. Instead of forming young people so that they can cope with all the challenges ahead, we form them for their first communion so that they can cope with saying "Amen" when the priest says "The Body of Christ". We form them for that but we don't form them for waking up one Sunday morning at university and wondering "Why do I even bother going to Mass?"
Turning Things Around
If we are going to fix youth ministry, we need to literally turn it on it's head.
We need to begin to see bridging the gap as temporary (you can't go to children's liturgy forever) and closing the gap with formation as a permanent. We need to start asking ourselves "okay, so these kids need entertainment during mass, how are we going to make sure that's not still true when they turn eighteen?"
We need to begin to see formation as permanent. Formation needs to stop being a last minute elastoplast job where we teach kids a couple of prayers by rote in the hope that they don't embarrass us too much when they make their first communion. The formation we give today needs to serve our young people for the rest of their lives.
A Quick Example
It's really very simple. When we spot a shortfall in formation (let's imagine young people can't say basic Latin prayers with the Pope) we need to do one of two things.
a) If the young people are really incapable (because they are six, or deaf, or law graduates) then we bridge the gap. Temporarily. While we work towards a time when...
b) If the young people are capable of learning "Hello, My name is John" in French at school then they can probably learn a few Latin prayers as well. Help them to stop depending on the bridge.
So what now?
Two things need to be done. Firstly, We need to find out exactly what that red arrow up there represents. A list could be made of everything from "People find Mass is boring because they don't understand what's going on" to "People disagree with the Church on... [whatever]".
Second - just this: Start making an effort to form our young people so that those problems are no longer problems. If young people find Mass boring, we should be seeing teaching from the youth service on how to help young people appreciate mass for what is it (and not how much fun it is).
I don't really have much to say beyond that. This is supposed to be a blog not a piece of coursework - my final point is this. That people are not falling away from the Church because they don't understand the importance of living simply, they are falling away because they don't understand the mass and because they don't understand Humanae Vitae.
I will be confident that youth work is being done properly when instead of using her space in the Middlesbrough voice to bash Latin, the Youth Manager begins to use it to write articles like "How to get the most out of a boring Mass" or "Why I won't be having sex until I'm married". Heavens, even "I believe in God" would be a start.
As the previous two Popes have pointed out. Young people thrive on challenges. We need to challenge them to (literally) reach for the heavens, to stand up as heroes and saints against the problems the world is going to bring.
As Chesterton observed: It's easy for a dead fish to go with the current, but it takes something alive to go against it.
Let's not repeat the last twenty years all over again. Let's have decent youth ministry that brings our kids up to swim against the current.
Because the current is getting stronger.
Blogged by James Preece 4 Years ago...
What is a Facilitation Course and who do they expect to go to it when it's from Monday 9am until Tuesday 5pm with an overnight stay?
Where is this Liturgy Training Day, Hull and who do they expect to go to it when it's on a Tuesday from 9.30am until 12.30pm (that's not a day)?
Perhaps if they actually spoke to the people run youth groups they might discover that we have jobs.
(Yeah, so I could be nicer, but they don't speak to the nice youth group leaders either...)