Recently, my sister sent me a video showing a children's ministry at a church event where the group was being led in exercise and dance while singing words from Scripture. Where does this fit in the big picture of evangelizing families? There is so much competing for family's time and attention. Some churches are getting caught up in trying to respond to the distractions of culture, the pace of social media, and the lack of enthusiasm of young parents for faith. Sometimes the response is described as "market driven" -- competing with the culture by resembling it.
Evangelizing families means helping parents, families, and young people come to know and rely upon Jesus as their savior. This happens person to person. A parent experiences "Good News", a genuine healing response to their life situation and the person who provides this response points away from themselves to Jesus. A youth experiences a witness of faith in someone they admire and then they want to know the Jesus that person knows. A child feels the warmth of God's presence when invited to pray while lighting a candle. Through genuine care, witness, and encounter, we begin to see our lives and the world around through eyes of faith. When this happens, we see the situations in our life in a new way. We ask, where is God in this? How can my friendship with Jesus help me to respond? We hear God's voice in the ear of our heart. We perk up when we hear God's voice, the way a baby turns his head when they hear their mom or dad.
Once a family is evangelized, it is helpful to have many echoing voices. This is where things like this video could play a part. A family experiences God's love and sets their hearts on following Jesus as disciples. The parents see that their children enjoy the energy of music and movement. A program at church provides a chance for children to experience an echo of what the parents are sharing with their children at home from their heart and from God's Word. Many echoes about God's love and God's call are good things. These energizing resources are good to provide the echo and support.
We would be kidding ourselves to think that we should rely upon these things to witness and evangelize. People come to know Jesus person to person. This is where we have sometimes missed the mark. We have mistaken the resources for evangelization with the process of witness and care. Families are hungry. They long for genuine Good News. They've had enough of the "if you buy this, everything will be fine." They need faith. The treasure of our Catholic faith is something that is too rich to be shared through means that are thin. It is shared person to person. It is shared through light of a community of faith. It is experienced in the grace of the sacraments. We should use many resources to remind us of our home in God's heart, but we should never mistake the echo for the shout of personal witness and the raised voices of a community of faith.