I asked the question last week, “What does the church have to offer to youth and their parents when they do make more of an effort to get involved in the life of a parish?” The typical answers are; our services, our church school, and any youth activities a parish may sponsor.
Yet, I think a key aspect to having our kids experience a greater connection to church life is best summed up in the idea of ownership. Kids have to experience their parish as their parish.I mean this in a good way. Do we empower our children in church life where they can take ownership and initiative in areas of youth ministry and service? Do we do too much for our youth instead of letting them step forward and take initiative? Can we allow them to fail so that they learn from their mistakes and encourage them to try again?
Can we allow our kids to take responsibility for planning a church service project? Can we encourage our kids to step forward in areas of music (especially the older ones) in learning how to lead a choir? Can we allow our older altar servers to be leaders in the altar and take responsibility for the duties that need to be done? We allow our kids to pass out bulletins in church, but how about teaching them to put a bulletin together, or maybe coming up with a youth page for the bulletin? This would be done by our youth and not by an adult. The more our youth are passive in their participation, the less likely they are to feel connected to their parish. The more active they are in their participation, the more connected they will be and the more likely to identify their parish as their parish.
When we pit the school calendar against the liturgical calendar, then it seems as if we are trying too much to “get” our kids to be more involved. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our kids chose to be in church because they love being there, as they are “Christ motivated” to be there? Then we no longer have to fight a battle. Perhaps my words are too simplistic. I realize many of our clergy, parents, and children are making efforts in walking this journey to be closer to their church. Thanks be to God for your efforts. I can only encourage all of you to act in a manner that encourages kids to take ownership of their life in their parish. If any of you have found ways to address this issue, please share your thoughts or ideas. Thanks for thinking about this.
The blessing of the Lord be upon you,
The unworthy +Paul