February 15, 2015
by Patrick Smalley, Director of High School Faith Formation & Young Adults
Easter is my favorite holiday. As we prepare for Lent, I can’t help but think about how we already know the ending to the story. We know that Easter will come. Jesus will conquer death and darkness, and that gives me hope and excitement. I don’t know about your family, but growing up we always used to go to my grandparents house, and we’d have to squeeze everyone around two tables: the adult table and the kid table. All of us at the same meal, but depending on what table you were at, each person had very different experiences. Sound familiar? I can’t help but notice how we’ve created a similar situation in our churches.
One of the toughest transitions our students face is during their 9th grade Confirmation preparation. It is through the sacrament of Confirmation, that we invite our youth to become adults in the Catholic Church.
If we are to view our students as adults in the community, how do we do a better job of wel- coming them into our parish? Otherwise, our newly confirmed will never have the confidence to leave the “kids table.” Here are three simple steps to ease this transition:
Make space. Our youth experience church differently than ever before. The baby boomer generation, for example, first determined what they believed, then acted according to those beliefs, and lastly found a faith community they fit into. The millennial generation, on the other hand, experience church in the reverse order: first, they find a community they fit in, then they act accord- ing to the ways of that community, and lastly they define their beliefs. If this is how our youth functions, then we need to promote our community in such a way that they can’t help but want to be at our table. We can share our enthusiasm for St. Ed’s by simply inviting them to something!
Share stories. Nothing connects us like our stories. We need to do a better job of explaining why we value our traditions, not simply recite for them a list of expected behaviors. Don’t be afraid to explain what seems like common knowledge—it may possibly be an explanation they have never heard before. Share your faith stories and ask to hear theirs.
Call them by name. We need to stop calling them the “future of the church” and start recognizing them for what they are—an essential part of our church today. By saying they are our future, we are minimizing their significance now. Often times, youth are simply looking to be valued and for caring adults who show an interest in them.