April 19, 2013

Catholic Education Outreach / Kay Scoville

Teens learn what to stand for in the midst of a community

Kay ScovilleCertain questions keep coming up in our attempts as Church to evangelize teenagers to the Catholic faith. Are we reaching the teens where they are? Are we engaging them and helping them to have a hunger for the Catholic faith?

As I mulled over these concerns on my commute home after a long day in ministry, I heard a popular song come on the radio called “Some Nights” by Fun. The lyrics that captured me were:

“But I still wake up, I still see your ghost. Oh, Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for oh. Woah oh oh. What do I stand for? Woah oh oh. What do I stand for? Most nights, I don’t know anymore … ”

After researching the lyrics and the relevance of this song heard by millions of teens around the world, it seems that the song is questioning the world—as all teens do—and stating that since we will never fully get what is “truth” we might as well live in the moment (as many teens do).

As life unfolds, there is a need to question who we are and what we stand for in order to make good choices and choose the right path. During the course of our life, we are constantly changing, growing and learning.

In Frank Mercadante’s book, Engaging a New Generation: A Vision for Reaching Catholic Teens, he affirms that something has changed with our teens in the new millennium. As they have access to an overwhelming amount of information, some valid, some not, through new media, they are questioning what they stand for.

Gone are the days in which the teen inherited their faith from their family. Rather, they are choosing their faith. In addition, with their incredibly busy and stressful lives, they are choosing only meaningful experiences in which they have a sense of belonging, community and purpose.

They are no longer looking for entertainment; they have a vast number of ways to be entertained. They are looking for authentic, real and perhaps “unplugged” experiences. They want to be accepted for who they are and desire genuine relationships which can be challenging to achieve in this digital age where status updates and tweets allow them to be whoever they want to be behind social media.

Parents and youth ministers are constantly challenged to keep up with the latest way to communicate with these teens in order to keep connected.

Despite the suggestion that parents are no longer connected to their teen because they cannot keep up with the rapidly changing digital world, the National Study on Youth and Religion found that parents still have great influence.

This study, which was the largest of its kind, was an evaluation of adolescents and their faith, and realized that the religiosity of teens actually reflects the religiosity of their parents. If the parent is a strong practicing Catholic, it is more likely that the teen will be a strong practicing Catholic. If the parent is not, then perhaps the parent had not received the tools necessary to defend and teach what the Catholic Church accepts as truth.

We as Church leaders and fellow parishioners need to engage these parents in the truth so they in turn can be the primary teachers of their teens. We need to equip and support them with the means to embrace and live an authentic life of faith with confidence in order to be examples for their children.

Youth ministry needs to engage the family as a whole, and faith development must be a community experience for the entire parish.

It’s also important that we establish youth-engaging parishes. It is not as difficult as one might think.

A youth-engaging parish is a welcoming parish where hospitality is a priority, where members go out of their way to welcome newcomers. Such a parish offers a sense of belonging and connection with the pastoral leadership as well as fellow parishioners. It invites members to participate in the liturgy, service or social events by identifying and affirming the gifts and talents of each individual—that sense of being valued.

What do we stand for? We can find the answer in the Scriptures, especially during this Easter season and in the many available resources during this Year of Faith at www.archindy.org/yearoffaith.

In the Acts of the Apostles, we read that “the community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power, the Apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all ” (Acts 4:32-33).

As we stand up for what we believe in, the truth of the life, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, may we serve as witnesses to our young people. May our Church continue to bear the fruit of all the many seeds planted among us.

Let us be confident in what we stand for as evangelizers of our faith so that the youth reflect what we believe.

(Kay Scoville is the archdiocesan director of youth ministry. She can be contacted at kscoville@archindy.org.)

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