Though I am no longer a full time employee at a parish, I still consider myself a youth minister. I do a lot of ministering to teens around the country in many parishes, not just one. That being the case, I still found the need to be grounded in a specific community and in a specific ministry. Through a lot of praying my family and I decided that I would volunteer in the middle school ministry at our home parish.
Brian Kelsch, the EDGE middle school youth minister, is a great guy. He follows the Life Teen, Inc. format - Gather, Proclaim, Break, Send - pretty devoutly and so it is easy for Core Members to identify with the flow of the nights. For this ministry I run a small group of 8th grade boys and girls, from 15-25 kids each week.
This small group has been very rewarding, and sometimes frustrating along the way. I think having some of the funniest kids in the room is a double-edged sword. They bring a lot of joy with them, but also a lack of, how do I put this delicately? An inability to shut up. That's it!
For the last two weeks in small group when we meet up, instead of asking vaguely connected-to-the-talk questions that are also supposed to be engaging and fun, we have been praying Lectio Divina as a small group. If you haven't listened to the podcast yet, you should stop reading and go have a listen. It's episode number 2.
Lectio Divina with 8th graders can be very difficult. They are not accustomed to silence, sitting still, or mental prayer. For them, faith is a chore required by their parents, which includes coming to the EDGE on Wednesday nights. These are all obstacles to be still, quiet, and in (somewhat) solitude so that God's whisper can be heard.
But I have to say, these last two weeks have been great! Teens will never stop surprising you with the depth of their faith. I really feel like we assume that the kids have no relationship with God simply because they have no language to articulate that relationship.
Yes, they are very poorly catechesized, which is why they cannot articulate who God is in their lives. Our goal is to provide opportunities to increase that faith, to deepen that relationship, and to give them the words to describe it to others. Once we give them the language of the Faith, connecting it with what the Church truly teaches, then they will become evangelizers themselves.
But without our catechesis, without supplying them with the needed articulation, instruction, and formation, they will have no language to express their hearts, and thus, never share the love of God with their peers.
Here is yet another reason why catechesis and evangelization are inseparablely linked. This is the New Evangelization.