After spending so much time in Rome, immersed in history, this weekend we are definitely going in another direction. Our new series, the last of the 2010-2011 year, is a very different kind of series for us…its all about youth.
For a number of years now we have enjoyed the reputation as a church with a great “youth program” or a parish that does a lot for youth. Friends and fans as well as critics seemed to have all bought into this perception. It is true and its not true at the same time. A number of years ago we added a Sunday afternoon Mass. It was very popular mostly because it was the only one available in the region (today all the parishes on York Road have them). A few years into that exercise (we’re slow learners) we realized that many of the people who attended that Mass were young people, and so we began focusing on them in an intentional way. Our fame as a “youth parish” began to grow and spread. But if truth be told, we stumbled into the whole thing and in hindsight, it really wasn’t an exercise in youth ministry anyway, it was an exercise in doing church differently. Our Sunday afternoon Mass just became our laboratory for doing church differently, and the young people were very accommodating. Today, much of what characterizes our weekend “experience” got started on Sunday afternoons.
That said, we really do want to be a parish that is focused on youth and young adults, not exclusively, but deliberately and intensely. The Church started as a youth movement, the disciples that Jesus called were all teens and young adults. Jesus invested most of his ministry to these young people, discipling and teaching them to be the leaders of the Church after him. Later we know that is exactly what Peter and Paul and the others did too, they raised up a next generation of leaders.
At Nativity we want to be making disciples of everyone in our community. But our preferential disposition is toward the youth of our community, because we believe they are the best long term investment. And we do have a great youth program, but through this series we want to explain and promote it because a lot of people, a lot of our own people do not understand what we are trying to do. A lot of people think that if their young people “get confirmation” their faith formation is complete, confirmation means graduation from faith and church. Others are of the opinion that if their teen is in a Catholic school, that takes care of the religion stuff. Still others fail to think of it at all.
All of this is sadly missing the point of what we are trying to do. Youth ministry is not a class, it is not religious education, it is not CCD (which was a Catholic instructional program that ceased to exist about 40 years ago). Youth ministry doesn’t have grades or classes or teachers or classrooms. Youth ministry at Nativity is all about helping students develop a life long relationship with Jesus Christ and cultivating the habits that make that happen. Its about supporting our students as they grow in faith, while they’re growing through some of the most difficult and challenging years of their life.
We have separate programs for 5th and 6th graders, 7th and 8th graders and high school students. They consist of worship, fellowship and small group discipleship experiences. I have attended these programs and I can tell you they’re well done and they’re fun. They are run by volunteer youth minsters under the direction of our Student “Pastor” (as I like to call him) Chris Wesley. This weekend Chris will be joining me in presenting the message which will be challenging the whole church to get focused on the upcoming generation. You can do that in several different ways:
- Join us for this series and start thinking in the direction of the young people of our church, start praying for them too.
- Invite the young people in your life to join our programs; doesn’t matter if they’ve been before or ever. There is no sign up, all they do is show up. They can even bring their friends.
- If you don’t currently have a ministry and you think God might be calling you to youth ministry, use this opportunity to give it a try. You can learn more at a special information center we will have in the lobby the weekend after next.
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Keep up the awesome work Michael! You're posts are a breath of fresh air and give much hope that the Catholic Church can be a dynamic force for change in the the lives of all as you connect them to Jesus. I would have loved to have grown up in a church like yours, but alas the youth ministry wave that swept through in the 80's for my older siblings had washed out during my teen years in the 90's. Strangely God has still worked in my life and I find myself several months away from being ordained as a Priest in the Anglican Church (in Brisbane, Australia).
Keep being a prophet for the sake of God's Kingdom.
P.S. I stumbled across your site a year or so ago when I was working as a Youth Minister in an Anglican Church. Special thanks to Chris Wesley (who has an excellent blog as well!).