Some research data I have been compiling through surveys has revealed some common threads. However, it also shows a wide range of complexities and challenges. As a member of the clergy, and holding a leadership position in the Church, the bottom line is quite clear. We have a lot of room for growth and improvement in ministering to the needs of our youth and young adults.
What are some of the challenges?
There can be a sense of isolation. Difficulty fitting in with others and a subsequent lack of community is experienced by quite a number of youth and young adults. (I think this applies to many adults as well.) Peer pressure can add to the frustrations of loneliness.
Relationship drama is generally not in short supply. Cliques, bullying, and social media attacks are prevalent. This can result in depression, drug and alcohol use, sexual expoitation, and even suicide. A lack of respect for one another, and a lack of respect for oneself, can be devastating.
Trying to develop and nurture a healthy faith life can be a daunting task amid the difficulties of life. Establishing priorities in life is tough for even the most disciplined of people. This task is even more overwhelming when there is (or has been) a lack of parental guidance and support in the home. Dysfunctional homes, a lack of extended family being present, divorce, cohabitation, and other factors can challenge one's ability to be rooted in the faith.
How do you learn spirituality if it was never practiced in the home? If your parents never went to church, why should you? The busyness of life can be all-consuming. Even with good time management skills, how do you keep life in balance between school, sports, technology use, jobs, and family commitments? Where does God fit in?
How does a teen plan for college while maintaining good grades, engaging in service activities, playing sports, and joining clubs and organizations to build a solid resume for college applications and jobs? What happens if a lack of success kills your motivation at an early age? How do you recover from that? What happens if drugs or alcohol become an addiction?
How do you make ends meet financially while attending college? How does living in poverty impact your future? What happens if you are not college material? Why isn't it good enough if you attend a trade school? Why do people look down on that? If you got married at a young age and had a child, how do you find affordable daycare?
How do you find a good spouse? Why do people attack traditional marriage?
How do you stay positive and maintain hope? Will your participation in the life of the Church give you strength? How? This is an especially pertinent question if your pastor tends to preach nothing but doom and gloom.
Why do people hate Catholics?
The questions and concerns of our young people are numerous. They are also very legitimate and valid concerns. My teaching and preaching need to take these concerns into consideration. My preparation to teach or speak should be focused on addressing some of these issues.
These are just some of the issues and concerns raised in a recent survey. We obviously need to support and encourage our young people in their journey of faith. In a future post I intend to list the many things our young people bring to our local community of faith. How can we more effectively embrace and accept their gifts in our parish communities? We have plenty to ponder.
I am grateful to everyone who took the time to complete a survey. The information has been very enlightening and helpful. I will spend much time trying to figure out how to utilize that information to more effectively build up the Body of Christ.
Young or old, clergy or lay, we all have a responsibility to be a faithful witness of Jesus Christ. Let us hold one another up in prayer. Let us build a community of faith which truly reveals that the Kingdom of God is at hand.