July 17, 2015

Catholic Education Outreach / Kay Scoville

Help lead youths back to Christ

The longer I am in Church ministry, the more amazed I am at the dedication and passion embraced by my colleagues in parish youth ministry.

Imagine accepting a position in which you are to work many weekends and evenings averaging six days a week; are willing to ride in a bus with teens and then sleep on a gym floor to offer a mission experience; strive to be creative and flexible in your programming to beat the competition (sports, dance, drama, etc.); apply for grants or plan fundraisers to help find money to offset costs of supplies, programs and events; all for a rather modest salary.

With the challenges I just described, why would anyone desire to take such a position?

The answer lies in Scripture.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus commissions the disciples to carry out his mission. “Jesus said to his Apostles: ‘As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give. Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick…” (Mt 10:7-10)

Parish youth ministers embrace this mission and do so out of love. Love for the teens and love for Christ. Their ultimate goal is for the teens to come to know Christ and to love and respond to him. They strive to be Catholic role models while providing pastoral care, service opportunities, Scripture studies, and opportunities to be community to build up the kingdom so that we can be one body in Christ.

As Church, we may have to be reminded that youth ministry is not just the responsibility of one person, the youth minister, in the parish. By our baptismal call, we are all called to build up the body of Christ and to minister to our young people for we all have something to offer them.

Studies confirm that young people are leaving the Catholic faith, and not returning. According to the Pew Research Center, those who have left Catholicism outnumber those who have joined the Catholic Church by nearly a four-to-one margin. Of those who left, 71 percent have cited that they just gradually drifted away.

One tends to “drift away” from something they no longer see as important or live giving. Parish youth ministers realize that Christ is the way, the truth and the life, and they passionately desire this revelation for our teens.

I invite you to seek out your parish youth minister and ask what you can do to impact and stop this exodus. They need the support of the entire Church to do their very challenging job.

Perhaps what they need is something as simple as to donate snacks, drive youths to a service project or financially sponsor a young person to attend the National Catholic Youth Conference in November 2015 or World Youth Day to see Pope Frances in July of 2016.

At the very least, please offer prayers and encouragement to these ministers who love our young people.

(Kay Scoville is the archdiocese’s director of youth ministry.)

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