Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Youth Group Ghetto

At men's group this morning the issue of youth no longer believing or practicing the faith came up. I noted that I had recently read an article that argues youth groups often actually serve to ghettoize Catholic youth. The groups keep them separate and not fully involved in the Church and liturgy and with older believers. They are fed a diet of fun and games and social activities that make Masses seem dull and unstimulating.

I'd seen articles like this before, but I saw this one about the same time as that recent Pew study showing a decline in young people's involvement in organized religion.

Several of the other guys jumped in. One man noted that his son got confirmed and quit going to church because it was boring and he'd "graduated" anyway. The man added with a knowing chuckle that the youth groups' latest activity was a haunted hayride.

Another man whose wife had been involved with religious education/youth groups for a long time suggested that what I said sounded right.

Not that we were against fun activities, but it seemed that all of our kids who were part of youth groups in the last 20 years had simply not been well formed in the faith, and stopped practicing as soon as they got old enough or out of the house. (I'm sure there are many fine programs, by the way - ones that do indeed teach the faith.)

We then looked at our own examples and whether we had failed to truly lead when it came to faith in our homes. (I know I failed.) And we speculated what kind of example were adults in general setting when they found reasons not to go to church - a game, sleeping in, whatever - or teaching the young that it's okay to duck out of church skip right after Communion before Mass is even over. And, of course, the culture as a whole works against organized religion.

We also wondered what could be done to instill more of a sense participating in the faith. Maybe requiring serving in liturgical roles (lector, altar server, choir, and so on) as part of being in the religious education program or youth group. The social activities are fine, and it's good when there are social ministry components to youth ministry, but the more formal church type activities seem to be lacking.

I don't have an easy answer. I'm not a youth minister or religious education teacher.  And my own daughters are part of the statistics.

But somehow we need to find a better way to pass on the faith.

Maybe youth ministry has indeed become too much of a ghetto.

Pax et bonum

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