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Aha Thinking: Imagine Something Different

...I know that "your young hearts want to build a better world. I have been following news reports of the many young people throughout the world who have taken to the streets to express the desire for a more just and fraternal society. Young people taking to the streets! The young want to be protagonists of change. Please, do not leave it to others to be protagonists of change. You are the ones who hold the future! Through you, the future enters into the world. I ask you also to be protagonists of this transformation. You are the ones who hold the key to the future!"

by Pope Francis, Christus Vivit #174

"AHA!" - a moment of spontaneous, sudden realization, inspiration, or understanding. Everyone has "aha" moments at one time or another. But why are they important? Because perhaps an "aha" moment is God's way of getting our attention. Let's face it, we are often so distracted by our own thoughts and ideas that we rarely entertain a different perspective. 

Studies have even shown that 95% of the thoughts you will have today are the same repetitive thoughts that you had yesterday. So, think about it, when you have an "aha" moment, it could quite literally be God nudging you to think differently about a situation, person, place, or thing.

For many parishes and schools, August is the time of year when we start a new season of religious education, campus, and youth ministry. We plan out our yearly classes, schedule retreats, and service opportunities and heavily recruit for more volunteers. But before you get too far ahead, maybe pause and invite in an "aha" moment. Is it time to envision your ministry with youth and their families with a fresh new perspective?

Looking to our bishops (USCCB) website for inspiration, I read "now more than ever, we must turn our attention to our young people and engage them as 'protagonists' of the Church's mission. Their insights can help us grow as a Church and guide us as we all learn to become better missionary disciples in an intercultural and intergenerational context." In case you are like me and need more clarification of what being a "protagonist" means, let me offer you this "aha" moment. A protagonist is the leader, the champion, the one out front, the loudest voice, the star performer. Does this describe the young people you know?

Let's simplify the bishops quote even further…

Young people can help guide us (church) as we all learn how to be disciples, if we engage them to be leaders in the church's mission. Let that sink in for a while. Have you had an "aha" moment yet? How will your ministry with youth and their families accomplish this? Sorry, I don't have the answers for what this means in your context but I hope this can entice you to pause, ponder, dream, and imagine a new way of ministry that is right for your faith community.

Prayer for an "Aha" Moment in Youth Ministry

Kind and Loving God,
I need some inspiration, I need an "aha" moment.
Gently nudge my creativity so that I can have a new perspective
because the same old thinking only produces the same old results.
Help me to have insights that spark brilliant, unexpected, solutions.
Now more than ever, may I be open to new ways of ministering
for and with the young people in my community.
Amen.

Tips for Finding Your "Aha" Moment

  1. Seek quiet. Your calendar is likely already packed full so you will need to intentionally set time aside for prayer, silence, and solitude. Scientific studies have shown that people make smarter decisions after just fifteen minutes of undisturbed quiet. Silence, prayer, and solitude are crucial for nurturing "aha" moments.
  2. Allow yourself a few minutes of daydreaming! Unplug, turn off your devices, and allow your mind to wander. Ask the "what if…" questions.
  3. If you are feeling stressed or anxious, flip the mental switch by doing something that makes you feel happy. Personally, if I am struggling with something, I find that getting away from my desk and going to an exercise class or a walk outside always gives me clarity.
  4. Listen – really listen to your young people and their families. What do they need and want from their faith communities?
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