Jared Dees at The Religion Teacher tells us simply how to evangelize teens.
“Teenagers today are struggling. They are wounded. Some have big wounds caused by abuse, both physical and emotional. They have big, challenging issues with sexual abuse, physical abuse, drugs, and alcohol. So many of them–even the popular kids–feel like outcasts. They feel unwelcome and not accepted for who they are. This isn’t a Catholic problem or a Christian problem, it is a human problem. Kids need healing.”
Until we give people (especially teens) the healing they are seeking, all other attempts to evangelize falls on rocky soil.
The ground must be tilled, built up, fertilized, watered and tended. Tended well.
In five years of DRE-ship, I’ve felt, more than I’ve seen, the hurt in the teens who are reluctantly dropped off in our church religious education building. The pressure is upon DREs and catechetical teachers alike to “teach” the faith to these teens. How does one “teach” a child who no longer “feels”?
The elementary groups are easy enough. We sing, we craft, we play, we act, we listen. They are happy. Then the hormonal teen years hit. Memorization/Q and A means nothing to hurting teens.
This is what Pope Francis and the creators (Pastors John Baker and Rick Warren) of Celebrate Recovery (Catholic connections are available nationwide) know very well. The program’s recovery principles are a Christ-based approach to the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous whose original 12-steps will be familiar to those who practice the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises.
The memorization of the Baltimore Catechism must be done in the elementary years.
For junior high/high school students, something new needs to be prayed upon.
To take liberal use of Jared Dees’ article:
“God loves them but they don’t know it yet. We can’t teach it. We can’t even preach it. We have to show it. We have to show them that they are loved and they are lovable through our own love for them. It’s hard to do. It takes courage. We have to listen and feel their pain. We have to empathize and feel compassion. We can’t run or hide from these conversations. We can’t avoid it. If we do, we validate their fears. We have to enter into their wounds and share with them the fact that we are wounded too. We aren’t immune to pain or the fear of rejection even today. As Christians we certainly don’t avoid the pain. This is the path to healing. The reassurance that they are not alone.”
Then the kicker…
“Most people don’t realize it, but this is the first and most essential step to doing evangelization. It doesn’t seem like evangelization because we’re not really talking about God or Jesus or the Church quite yet. We’re just listening and offering to be there for them.”
My concern is that we, representatives of the Catholic community, are having to be there and listen to them in place of/in spite of the family members who should be the first examples of Christian life to the children. And, in a number of cases, the hurt is coming from within those family units.
Teens are not in-tune enough to the dynamics of life to understand that they should “never let a Catholic spoil their Catholicism.” (ht to Catholic Channel)
For that matter, many adults haven’t reach that peace level in their relationship with Jesus Christ to understand it either.
And we are the adults teaching the youth in an approach and lifestyle that should be led by example and by the hand of God.
It’s definitely something to think about as we plan for this new school year.