Monday, September 24, 2007

What Kids Don't Want From Church

From Rod Dreher's Crunchy Con:

Via Amy Welborn comes this terrific list of guidelines for youth ministry from Father Philip Powell, OP, who does campus ministry at the University of Dallas. It's a list specifically for Catholic college students, but there's lots here that all of us can learn from. A couple of weeks ago some of us young parents from our Orthodox parish were talking about youth ministry, and how we need to structure it. Obviously the needs of younger kids aren't going to be the same as that of college students. But Fr. Philip gives us a lot to think about.

To read the rest of Fr Philip click here: Kids These Days: What they don't want from the Church

And now, my comments on Crunchy Con:

As both an alum of the University of Dallas and an Orthodox priest I think that Fr Powell is right on track. Whether we are talking about Roman Catholic, Orthodox or mainline Protestant or Evangelical Christian kid, they need and want a substantive faith. When I arrived at UD in '78 I was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a "conservative" Catholic. Actually I grew up in a "lapsed Catholic" family. What I encountered at UD was a view of Catholicism that I never even suspected existed. The combination of intellectual rigor and tangible piety has stayed with me all these years and has been a great asset to me as an Orthodox priest.

It is not a question of liberal vs. conservative, but insubstantial vs substantive. If, as Fr Powell suggests, there was a time when insubstantial & conservative converged in the Catholic Church that is no longer necessarily the case. What I think especially the Orthodox Church can learn from Fr Powell and Catholic institutions like UD is the need to raise our own intellectual standards and examine not only what we believe, but how we live as Orthodox Christians. We must also not be afraid of allowing our faith to illumine for us the larger world around us. For the most part Orthodox Christians--whether cradle or convert--seem happy to leave their faith in Church.

After 200+ years in America the Orthodox Church has not produced a Dorthy Day, a Martin Luther King, Jr, or a Billy Graham, to say nothing of an academic institution like the University of Dallas, a Thomas Aquinas College, a Grove City College or a Hillsdale College. If we wish to keep our young people we must, as Fr Powell suggests, be courageous and sacrificially generous in our efforts to help them pour their lives out for Christ.

As in the rest of the spiritual life, we only live by dying, we only receive by giving away--I have seen it again and again, it is only when I help young people discern and live out their unique vocation as Orthodox Christians that I have any hope of keeping them in the Church. Too often our work with youth reflect not a desire to help them be faithful to Christ's call for their lives but rather the dubious goal of holding them to our (my) standards for them.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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