God is truly in control
“I was actually drawn to youth ministry and retreats as a youth, invited by adults in my home parish who saw in me a gift for leading my peers. Even after attending, assisting, leading, and crafting dozens of retreat experiences, I never imagined I would be working in retreat ministry as a full time career. I can say now, looking back, how grateful I am to those leaders who nurtured my vocation by inviting me into ministry.”
Continued from above…
What have you learned in working with young people?
Patience, patience, and laughter! Youth ministry has taught me that God is truly in control when the best made plans go awry and in spite of a seemingly disastrous set up, the most prayerful outcome is drawn forth. I have learned that young people, while they may have their own language and way of expressing their faith, can prove to be more open to the Spirit’s movement in their lives and are thus role models for even the adults around them. I have also been shown hope countless times with every young person I encounter on a retreat which can be so very important as the message our media gives today usually focuses on the most negative and harmful things in young people’s lives: drugs, sex, bombs, gangs, and so on and so forth. It is that hope that encourages me to remind other adults that not all young people wander aimlessly, lack faith, or seek only self-gratification.
What are some of the spiritual challenges that you feel young people face today?
I think that young people face the spiritual challenge of violence as an expected encounter in life. From airport security to tragedies such as the one at Virginia Tech, a constant sense of sadness and violence can be a daunting reality in which to expect a faith life to flourish.
How can the adult faith community support young people?
The adult faith community can support young people by recognizing that youth are a part of the church now and not only in the future. They are members of the body of Christ at their very baptism - not after graduating high school. This recognition is a springboard for encouraging youth to be active leaders, just as I was encouraged in my own faith community as a teen. Supporting young people means giving them a place to call home that they recognize. If all of the leaders in a church or all of the music, art, and ministry only looks accessible for adults, then we’ve stopped inviting young people to grow. The adult faith community should never stop believing in their youth or expecting them to want to participate. Our faith journey as Christians is, after all, never ending, so why should we assume that youth don’t have much to offer to the rest of us just because their at the beginning of their adult faith life?
What can the wider Church learn from young people?
There is a boldness in spite of innocence to young people that can only come with youth. It is because of their own openness that young people are at times role models to the wider Church, especially in regards to ecumenical prayer and interfaith dialogue. Young people today are much more open to a global sense of community, in part because technology puts people across the world suddenly within our reach. The wider Church should always strive to be open and welcoming of other cultures and customs much like young people are today.