Have you ever gotten into your car and started driving and then noticed that the seat is too close and the mirrors are all wrong? The way the car was set up by the last driver is just not working. When that happens, you can keep going (while being uncomfortable and knowing that what you're doing isn't working) or you can recognize that it's time to pull to the side of road and make adjustments.
You can feel it, can't you? The landscape for ministry with youth and families is shifting. Some of the practices of ministry with youth that our communities have been doing for years are not working the same as they used to. This is a "pull to the side of road moment." It's time to transform all our efforts to focus on helping youth become disciples.
This shift responds to a deep hunger in youth - a hunger for meaning, for belonging, and for purpose. This hunger is satisfied in friendship with Christ—a friendship that leads to belonging and to fruitful sharing of love and care with those in need.
Another way to describe this friendship is missionary discipleship. Pope Francis has situated missionary discipleship as a means of being Christ in the world by healing, sharing good news, and witnessing to the faith in a way that combines a life of service and faithfulness with the witness of evangelization. Young people are looking for the adventure of their lifetime.
As the church, we can propose the adventure of being a missionary disciple. Youth and young adults are missionaries when they seek to witness and serve those most in need, including the people closest to them.They are disciples when they strive to know Christ and follow his ways. Our engagement with youth and young adults should help them to encounter Christ, provide for accompaniment, promote belonging in the parish community, and lead them to mission.
Questions we can ask as we begin our transformation:
The Center for Ministry Development has been promoting renewal in ministry with youth through the lens of Missionary Discipleship around the country through our workshop, "Calling Youth to Mission – Equipping Young Disciples."