Youth ministry shop talk, just for fun.
Currently, I am using a youth ministry program called LifeTeen. It is Catholic and in fact probably pioneered the modern Catholic youth ministry model. It's definitely had it's ups and downs since it's inception (notably, it's founders have become heretical felons and it's liturgy was a bit wonky at first), but it's teaching has always been orthodox and it continues to be so to this day.
My major critique of LifeTeen is that it perpetuates the Culture of Cool. It is an unspoken message of LifeTeen that to get teens to come, we must be cool. Young adults only on the Core Team (the name for the group of volunteers that enables LifeTeen to be so great), dress hip (jeans, tshirts), reference pop culture. To be fair, I don't think this is limited to LT; I think it's an unspoken rule at most youth groups.
Here's my main program with that concept: I'm not the salesman of cool. Eventually, youth become adults - and they will not care so much anymore about cool (God willing). They will care about what is True. And if I'm caught up with selling cool that THAT is my focus, more than showing them what is True, then whatever faith they develop will not last. It will not develop deep roots and grow into a mature adult faith. It will be a phase - along with the pop music, the fashion trends, and the iPhone 6.
My philosophy of youth ministry is more or less based on two ideas: use relational ministry (more on that later), and offer them only Truth. I do not try to be cool because I am not cool. I am a chubby 29 yo bookworm homebody - I'm not going to fool any teen into thinking I am actually setting trends (or even following them). But I am confident that when a teen is facing hard things, when they are suffering or questioning or wondering - I can be there with them. I can show them where I found peace & joy, and show them how to grasp these things themselves. I can introduce them to Christ as I found him: waiting for me in Adoration, coming to me in the Eucharist at Mass, speaking to me in the silence, embracing me in mentors and friends.
The only thing I can see that youth group offers that they cannot get anywhere else is Truth. Everyone else is selling them something, but I am offering them not a lifestyle, not a fashion choice, not a club to join, not another class of human being to try to be - but the knowledge that they come from Love, must live in that Love, and at the end of their life, must make an accounting of that Love to God Himself. This Truth is hard, because unlike the claims of platitudes we enjoy plastering on our walls, Love is not the easiest path. This is why others hesitate to offer this message in plain terms - they are not hearing it from pulpits, from media, from friends. No one else will say "Love is sacrifice. Love is the Cross." But I can't believe that sheltering them from this at all benefits them, since they already experience suffering - shouldn't they know what it's for? Shouldn't they have the chance to have this suffering redeemed?
Cool will never have a prominent place in my Catholic youth ministry because suffering will never be cool. Since I trade in Truth, suffering in love and its necessity to salvation is the concept that underlies what I do. I believe that this message is what the youth hunger for - these 'words of eternal life' that they can get nowhere else, except from Christ. I'd much rather offer them that than cheapen our teachings with trappings of modernism.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Thursday, August 7, 2014
This is actually a post I tried to get up LAST week but failed miserably and then I finished it on Thursday night and Blogger ate it and I cried and now finally it's here. Futility, thy name is blogging.
I have yet to really reflect on some of the bigger messages of Edel (Cathedral building, etc.), but the connectedness really stayed with me - the need for moms to break out of isolation and fear, to have camaraderie again with one another. This week, as we've been at my in-laws, I've really tried to let this concept settle in my head so that when I see another mom, I automatically see her for being MORE like me, rather than less. Turning that switch makes each mom interaction into a potential affirming experience for both persons, instead of one where we approach one another with wariness or fear.
Despite this, I still have some definitely feelings about parenting. At least, I have feelings about how I should parent my child (since I think that's the only child I'm qualified to parent). I think there's a fair question there: how do you respect and affirm other mothers, but still honestly acknowledge (maybe even discuss?) your parenting differences? I tend to gravitate towards other women who parent like I do, but there have been a few friends that break the mold. Do you see yourself doing that - choosing friends based on parenting styles? Is that good/bad/neutral?
One of the best aspects of Edel, and one that has been really on my heart lately, is the space that it made for work outside the home moms. So often, in the Catholic world, that terms feels wrong - or maybe only reluctantly right. So devalued are women who stay at home and who mother, that we have gone 180 degrees and turned our backs on women who choose a different path. Yet we forget that some of our greatest female saints who were mothers, worked outside the home! St. Gianna Beretta Molla isn't going to be accused of being a slouch in the mom department anytime soon, and she was a doctor. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton became a nun and founded an order - while she still had children at home! We forget that God's calling is individual, and while we can discern that something would be wrong for us, it doesn't mean it's wrong for everyone.
I'm really praising God lately for that freedom to embrace what He's calling me to.
The other thing that has really been on my heart has been children and what a deep blessing they are. Could Edel have affirmed that anymore? Those babies there were so lovely and it was so wonderful to be in a space that affirmed their existence as an unqualified good. Seeing that many women there, all of whom believe the same and are living their lives in that way, made me realize that we are starting a revolution - a revolution of love. By God's grace, our children will grow up knowing they are precious to us, and to Jesus Christ. In a world that is eroding the dignity of human beings more and more each day, this message can be nothing short of transformative!
Another great aspect of Edel has been the posts that have come out after it addressing the crosses of infertility, sub fertility, etc. There was a good deal of Twitter conversation about the place of wives who are not mothers at Edel, and I think a valid question is, should Edel have sections of it geared towards women who are not mothers? But Danielle Bean provided another great take on this question in the first chapter of her book, Momnipotent, which was in our swag bags at Edel. Disclaimer: I did not want to read this book; I think the title is hokey, and the cover juvenile. I only read it because I ran out of reading material on vacation. And guess what? It's fabulous.
The first chapter discusses how motherhood is the essence of womanhood, because motherhood is not necessarily tied to physical mothers. Incredibly powerful, and moving. Give it a read if you can!
A truly mind-bending part of Edel was meeting bloggers IRL whom I had only previously known by their blogs. This was odd for me because I don't have an interest in meeting my favorite bands, authors, or actors. I went to Edel to meet - you. But it did reveal to me that the internet, as much as it is a great good and helps connections, can also increase objectification. To see that each of the 'big names' were real women - women with postpartum bodies, babies, wounds, needs - that was very important for me. It's easy to disconnect the words on the screen from the very real people who write them. I am hopeful that Edel served as preventative medicine against that.
The big theme to all of this is adult female friendships. How do you make them - and keep them? I have a lot more to say on the topic, but it seems to me that most of these friendships are formed around a common activity (exercise, sewing, homeschooling). But do you require complete parity in friendships - same age, similar aged children, same faith, same interests? I don't think I could find even one person that has complete parity with me! (or is that narcissistic??) Some women even seem to have these large groups of friends, where everyone is friends with everyone else and hangs out regularly. How does this happen?
Hoping crowd-sourcing has the answer here.
Post script on a personal note - we just returned from about a month's vacation and I'm sick plus work is looming over me. I'll be lucky if August doesn't eat me alive.