A youth ministry for the 21st century

Each generation makes the message of Jesus Christ present in its own time, its own language and its own culture. Youth ministry is not oblivious to these changes, and must present the beauty of Christianity in an appropriate way. An experience such as Life Teen can give clues about ways of catechesis:  participatory and in a contemporary language, without cutting doctrine and with a deep sacramental practice.

Pablo Alfonso Fernández-April 11, 2017-Reading time: 4 minutes
Large group of young people posing for a photo.

The next Synod of Bishops, scheduled for 2018, will focus on young people and vocational discernment. It already has a Preparatory Document that was made public at the beginning of this year. This text helps to focus youth ministry today in an appropriate way, and as on other occasions, it includes a questionnaire at the end whose answers will serve as a basis for drawing up the Working Document for the Synod. The tone is optimistic and hopeful, and its reading encourages the Church to perceive the voice of the Lord through young people who, even today, know how to distinguish the signs of our times. As stated in the introduction to this Document, by listening to the aspirations of young people, it is possible to glimpse the world of tomorrow and the paths the Church is called to follow.

There are many pastoral workers who work with young people, and sometimes their dedication does not bear the expected fruits. This situation leads to a certain discouragement, and one can have the impression that Christ's message is somewhat outdated, that it does not connect with the interests and aspirations of today's young people. The temptation then arises to cut back on the demands of the Gospel, or to show a somewhat more diffuse figure of Christianity, one that does not require a vital commitment so often perceived as costly. We know that this is not the solution. In fact, Christianity a la carteBy losing its authenticity, it also blurs the appeal of an ideal, of something worth fighting for. And today's young people, like those of other eras, are those who seek to improve the world. They value the authentic. They are not satisfied with substitutes. They are capable of compromise if the message of Christ is shown with all the strength and attractiveness it has.

A youth group that works

There are many initiatives aimed at further integrating young people into Christian life projects. One of them is the method of Life TeenThe program, which began in 1985 in a parish in Arizona, in the United States, is now present in close to 2,000 parishes in more than 30 countries. It was started by Randy Raus, with the aim of bringing young people closer to Christ after living a process of personal conversion. 

This father of a family is now the president and one of the founders of the evangelizing project of Life Teenwhich he presents with professionalism and enthusiasm all over the world. When he began to feel this apostolic restlessness, he had the opportunity to meet Mother Teresa and asked her: "Mother Teresa, what should I do? Life Teen? -Take them to the Eucharist. - Is that all," he asked, "but there must be something else. Mother Teresa replied: "Don't worry about the numbers, help only one person at a time and start with the one who is closest to you on one occasion.

The parishes in which the method of catechesis is implemented in Life Teen The groups are made up of young people who share their faith in a lighthearted and joyful way, while at the same time living a profound proposal of encounter with Christ in the Eucharist and weekly formation in the doctrine of the Catholic Church. The pillars of their formation are therefore found in the Mass, in dynamic catechetical sessions and in the community in which they live with other young people.

Life Night: new experience for teenagers

In the catechesis of Life Teen the protagonism is given to the young people themselves. Rather than the transmission of a doctrine, the sessions are organized with the aim of sharing spaces and learning through encounter. There are two types of sessions, depending on the age of the participants: the youngest join the group and the oldest join the group. Edgeand from the age of 15 or 16, they are grouped in the so-called Life Teen

Its dynamics includes four successive moments that are named in English as follows Gather, Proclaim, Break, y Send. In the first moment (the meeting), the participants are received in a festive context, such as a snack or a game, which allows them to get to know each other and establish a first approach. Then the catechesis is given, explaining some doctrinal aspect or current issues that directly affect young people. Afterwards, the topic explained is shared in small groups, where everyone's participation is encouraged. Finally, they meet again, this time for a moment of prayer.

Parishes that use this method receive specific materials for catechetical sessions three times a year. These are resources designed to reach the culture of young people, who are accustomed to receiving many appeals through the audiovisual media. In addition, liturgical guides are included with suggestions for preaching and music for Eucharistic adoration meetings. This is an important element in the meetings, especially the music of praise, which through a vibrant rhythm and catchy melodies urges to feel the presence of God and moves the heart to a personal dialogue with God.

Think big

The last European meeting of Life Teen was held in Barcelona in March. There were about 200 attendees who shared experiences and sought ways to make evangelization among youth more effective and profound. Jordi Massegú, the person responsible for this method in Spain, explains that it is important to accompany adolescents where they are, and specifically in the social networks they use and in which they are present, such as Instagram y Snapchat

At the same time, it suggests that youth pastoral agents know how to show their activities in a more attractive way, taking care, for example, of the professionalism in their organization and diffusion, with the creation of posters with a more visual and direct design. There are specific tools for the elaboration of these materials, such as Worswag o Canva. Of course, the use of networks or the external appearance of the materials does not replace face-to-face contact with the friendship and sincere accompaniment that young people appreciate and contribute to generate with their enthusiasm and initiative.

In a 2014 audience to the Commission for Latin America, Pope Francis was thinking of young people by highlighting three aspects of Jesus' encounter with the rich young man: welcome, dialogue and invitation. This passage can help us as an icon of accompaniment for young people, and as the Pope explains, help them to understand that "Christ is not a character in a novel, but a living person who wants to share their unrenounceable desire for life, commitment and self-giving. If we are content to give them mere human consolation, we disappoint them. It is important to offer them the best we have: Jesus Christ, his Gospel, and with it a new horizon, which will make them face life with coherence, honesty and a clear vision"..

The authorPablo Alfonso Fernández

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