Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Youth Ministry

Amy Welborn wrote about youth ministry and since she has comments turned off over there, I'll comment here. First of all, I have no qualifications in that area except that I am a Catholic, a parent and an ex-teenager. I am a Catholic who has never left the Church but who has four siblings, none of whom, as far as I know, are active Catholics or practice any religion. We were all raised in the same home; we all were taken to mass weekly and attended religion classes all through high school, even after most of our peers had been allowed to drop out. Why did it "take" with me and not with them? What could our parish or or parents have done differently that would have made a difference--if anything? Honestly, I don't know. Yes, we came up in the infamous era of burlap banners and feelings getting higher play than memorization of doctrine--but by the time my baby brother was confirmed, that had started to change. Even so, I know that I'm not the only member of my high school class who still attends mass--though I know of quite a few who have joined other churches.

Amy, and most conservative members of the blogosphere seem to be against youth masses, especially those with Contemporary Christian or praise music. The music is a topic for another day, but I'll say that as a mother, I like family mass as part of what we do as a family. I don't know the population at our Lifeteen mass. I don't know if they are kids who, lacking the Lifeteen mass would be attending another mass (with or without family members) or if they are kids who, if it was not for Lifeteen, wouldn't be attending mass at all. I know that even before Lifeteen, I did not see large numbers of teens at the mid-morning mass. I also know that while there is a core of about 20 kids I see together when we do attend the Lifeteen mass, judging by the size of the school and CCD program, if all the parish teens attended, there would be over 200 kids. Clearly Lifeteen isn't getting most of them to come to that mass regularly--but does it get kids to come who wouldn't otherwise? Does it develop a love for Christ/the Church/mass that those twenty regulars wouldn't already have?

Amy says she'd rather her teen see a mass full of people who have fought the good fight, lived life, rather than a mass full of people with basically the same lack of experience as they have. But how do teens view those older people? Do they see them as examples to be followed, or as proof that church isn't for them anymore than the local senior citizen's club is? She wants them to see parents with kids, single adults, the whole spectrum of people in the Church--but she also says it will be a good thing when her daughter goes off to college and can get involved in a good campus ministry program. Why the difference? What about kids who aren't going to college?

I don't know the answers but I do know that many kids who are raised Catholic leave the Church, either for the Protestant church down the street or for no church at all. Is there anything we can do about it?

2 comments:

  1. Ruth,
    I have mixed feelings about LifeTeen. Before our parish began LifeTeen, we had kids being baptized in the local megachurch for the sole reason that the music was good at their services. . At that time, our theology faculty at the high school was pitiful. LifeTeen came and at the same time, a more quality Theology faculty was hired. The result is kids who are on fire. Not all of them, just a nice handful, but it's progress. I don't know if that would have happened without LifeTeen or not. My big quibble about LifeTeen was that it totally eliminated family dinner on Sundays. The kids still went to Mass with us at 9:00am and then they'd go again for LifeTeen at 6:00. We'd have a nice brunch, but dinner was out of the question. That irked me. When your kids are teens, you need all the relaxed family time you can get and we were missing a big chunk of that for LifeTeen. All in all though, I think LifeTeen was/is a positive in our parish. At the very least, it let some of the curmudgeons know that our teens are good kids.

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  2. So I will approach this as a mom who has btdt. I liked the Lifeteen Masses. What I feel "we" got out of it was a core of very committed CATHOLIC young adults. MY son and his seven friends are still VERY committed Catholics (at 22-23). My daughter did not have Lifeteen until Mass until she was a sophomore- and did not have the peer group my son had. Still, her Lifeteen friends (23-25)also are committed Catholics. Most are like her- married to non Catholics and struggling to bring their spouses into the fold- or single and still attending Mass on their own. Her Catholic school "friends" - NONE of them are continuing to practice the Catholic faith- many joining other faiths (many not Christian faiths).
    Life teen PERMITS kids to be Catholic- in a society that does not encourage it.
    The down side is that Lifeteen was founded by a very corrupt man/priest who is on the way to being a lay person. That is probably one of the reasons Amy doesn't like it. Yes, it does stop kids from attending with their family---but then our family just began to attend the Lifeteen Masses.
    At the very least- they will get the real doctrine and will know what they are getting into as adults if they faithfully attend Lifeteen programs. IMHO

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