1. I feel as though I am trying to 'sell' Jesus as much to the parents as I am to the teens.
2. One of the hardest things is just trying to get butts in the door.
Tuesday night at the parish we had a second mandatory parent presentation on raising happy, holy Catholic teens and how to empower parents to help raise their kids in the faith. Also at the meeting I had interview times/dates available for their young person's interview before being confirmed. We another meeting on Sunday afternoon to offer more flexibility for family schedules. Out of 61 young people to be confirmed this November, 25 parents did not come. And two parents came late, stayed at the talk for 15ish minutes, signed their teen up for their interview, and went merrily on there way. Major. Bummer.
I was flabbergasted and disappointed...don't parents care about their kids growing in the faith?? Don't parents want their kids to have a personal relationship with Jesus and understand the Catholic faith?? Of course, I am not making a wide, sweeping judgment that all or even most parents don't care about the child's faith life....but its at times like this when you feel like you're fighting an up hill battle. Sure we could say there a lot of reasons why parents and teens are not engaged and connected in the Church and have a faith life...but it can be really frustrating for me sometimes, especially as I just want everyone to find all the joy and goodness in Catholicism as I do. Either be all in for Jesus or not at all, but don't be lukewarm or apathetic.
One part of the equation I think is because many parents I would say don't know/understand/or maybe get even now what they believe as Catholics. And this can be for many reasons. 30-40 years ago, Catholic schools and majority families were great at 'memorizing' the Catechism (a book of history/tradition/Scripture explaining why we believe what we do as Catholics), and sure memorizing has a great place in helping teach the faith, but that doesn't automatically translate to the heart, where people have a living relationship with Jesus. We cannot expect people to just be able to rattle of prayers and the 10 commandments and then expect them to turn out to be intentional disciples. For many years, a lot of Catholics have been 'sacramentalized' but not 'evangelized.' By that I mean, many of us just went to Mass on Sunday because we were supposed to or receive the sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation because our folks made us. We went to formation classes, received the sacraments, and basically did all the Catholic stuff on the outside, but perhaps on the inside maybe hearts weren't being converted and changed. And I think the Church has been realizing it for time and seeing the huge effects and implications this should have for how we educate/reach out to adults and children. First, introduce to them Jesus, help them know and love him...and then introduce the many awesome treasures of the Catholic faith to them.
If the parents aren't living lives as disciples, how can we reasonably expect that there kids are going to jump on the Jesus band wagon with all they got? My DRE (Director of Religious formation) and I are already talking about new ideas of starting some kind of out reach/ministry to parents with children of all ages. And it's going to take time...slowly we can turn the ship around.
I guess its frustrating because its like at times I am tying to 'sell' Jesus to these parents, as much as I am to their young person. I just feel weird even saying that out loud, "selling Jesus"...I'm not a telemarketer! But I imagine that there folks in the Church that could relate to that idea, because we really do have to compete for adults and teens attention and hearts just to even present the Gospel message to them; and sometimes that just can get tough. I was talking to a youth minister friend the other day and he said he got so discouraged about always just trying to get butts in the door that he almost walked away from youth ministry after two years, because it just started to wear on him. And it's funny cause I could relate to some of that in a very real way. Numbers are important in ministry, of course its not all about the numbers. But if you're only getting 4-5 kids at events, and someone down the street is getting 50-60 teens, you'd definitely ask and wonder, "What are they doing that is helping them reach more teens?"
Numbers do matter. Getting teens in the door does matter to even try and give the 'Jesus thing' a chance. But really at the end of the day, all I can do is my personal best and keep giving it all to the Lord and asking for more grace/guidance to help those I minister to...cause in the end, they are all his little ones; and I'm just a tool he can use to help capture their hearts/minds for Him.
I'm not hopeless or burnt out...its just hard sometimes after a rough day like this...