David Ancell's Virtual Home

Lunch Break: What Are Our Plans Compared to God’s?

  /   Sunday, August 31, 2014   /   Comments(0)

I have posted another Lunch Break edition of the podcast.

Download it here.

Many times, we fear losing our freedom when following Christ.  However, what are our plans compared to his?

Category: Podcasts


Reflections on Young Adult Ministry, Part 2

  /   Sunday, August 24, 2014   /   Comments(0)

In my last post, I wrote about some wrong ideas that I’ve heard when people talk about young adult ministry.  In the second part of my reflections on young adult ministry, I want to talk about what young adult ministry should be like.  Young adult ministry is both very difficult to maintain but very important, and I do wish that parishes and dioceses would put more effort into it.

In order to talk about what a young adult ministry should be, I want to talk about why it’s needed.  We are in a period of time now where we are recovering from problematic faith formation.  The problem has gotten better, but I think it still exists.  My own passion for helping people learn the faith came from seeing the widespread ignorance that exists about the Catholic faith, even among Catholics.  While the Internet was very helpful to me, young adult ministry also helped me to understand what I was missing.  Something needs to be done to reach those who weren’t shown the fullness of truth as the positive good that it is.  Although many life decisions may have already been made or at least started, young adults are still in a position where they are charting a course for their careers, marriages, and other aspects of their lives.  The longer we go without reaching them, the more life choices they will make without a full understanding of what God wants for their lives.

Since I’m a big believer that helping people understand what not to do helps people understand what to do, I want to start by talking about some of the things worst things that someone can do while running a young adult ministry.  Here they are:

A well-done young adult ministry should have spiritual, catechetical/formational, service (with at least some being geared towards evangelization), and social aspects, and people who participate should be strongly urged to participate in all aspects of the ministry.  Prayer and devotion are essential to ensure that people have an encounter with Jesus Christ and not just an academic experience.  After all, God is a person who loves us and wants our love and a relationship with us.  Eucharistic Adoration, even if it just means spending some time before the tabernacle in the church, is essential.  The parish or diocese should have an annual retreat or conference (maybe both) for young adults to spend a period of time in the presence of God and in the presence of other Catholic young adults trying to live out their faith in the world.

Cathechesis is necessary to help everyone learn and understand the truth and beauty of the Catholic faith.  If young people are bored with the faith, it most likely isn’t because too much doctrine is being taught but because doctrine isn’t being taught.  Some formation programs have been little more than the sharing of our own feelings and experiences without reference to the truth that sets us free.  In fact, some people object to teaching concrete doctrine under the well-meaning idea of “meeting people where they are.”  People should be taken where they are and be treated with the love of Christ, but that means that we should not leave them there.  Young adults will vary widely in what they know about the faith, and many will learn important aspects for the first time and say things like “Why haven’t we heard this before?”

With this in mind, though, people do need to see concrete examples of a lived experience of the faith.  So, faith sharing informed by the Gospel is essential, whether it’s a group discussion or some people talking about what Jesus has done in their lives.  The Faith has definite doctrine because God has revealed himself, but this is something to be lived, not just an academic subject.

It’s also important to mention that cathechesis shouldn’t be the only aspect of a ministry.  Just remember that we are in a culture that is heavy on entertainment, and having something purely catechetical can easily foster an “entertain us” mentality.  The expectation to be entertained is very pervasive in the younger generations, and the faith must be something lived, not just a form of entertainment.  That form of entertainment won’t hold up well when living the faith becomes difficult.  Without aspects of service and evangelization, you can easily fill a ministry with people who expect to be entertained all the time and have little commitment to the ministry or to outreach.  At that point, the young adult ministry is already on life support from whoever is doing the work and is pretty much guaranteed to die once that person is no longer willing or able to continue.

Therefore, service activity is a must.  At least some of the service activities should be geared towards evangelization.  Young adults need to reach out to others to share their faith, especially other young adults who may no longer be going to church (or who may barely be still there).  Of course, service to those in need is important also.  However, even that service should be geared towards bringing others to Christ.  Also, some of the service events need to connect the young adults with other ministries in the Church.  The young adult ministry should not be the exclusive participation in the life of the parish for its participants.

I want to say just a little more about forming people to evangelize.  Service can include service within the ministry itself.  Some may be willing to help catechize the other young adults.  Forming leaders who are witnesses and who are willing to be speakers and teach the faith to the others is essential.  Young adults from the group should be doing a good part of the teaching and could even be available to be speakers at other events in the parish or diocese.  They will be a great inspiration to others, especially older people who are concerned about the faith of the younger generation.

Of course, there should be a social aspect of the ministry.  It is essential, but it should not be central.  In fact, social events that do not precede or follow a spiritual, service, or catechetical event should be few and far between.  We do not want the ministry to turn into a social club.  Having an annual picnic or baseball game or something is good, but, other than that, the social time should be, for example, right after a Holy Hour or a speaker.  The social time is essential to help form the community and give the sense of belonging that is needed, and care should be taken not to let the group turn into a cliche.  Also, any onlookers should notice the Christ-like manner in which the group interacts.  The social time is a great time to develop that sense of Christ-like socialization.

Of course, reaching out to young adults can be very difficult.  They tend to be super busy, and sometimes other aspects of life get in the way.  However, this is Jesus Christ and his Church that we are talking about, and people are hungry for the truth.  Greater commitment to both the Gospel and the generations of people who never knew their faith is necessary.  In fact, the results may be discouraging at first.  If a group is started, a certain time commitment (at least a year) before giving up needs to be established.  Be sure that there’s a web page that people can go to.  If you have the technology and capable people available, you can even have a site with articles about the faith and even downloadable MP3s of previous talks available.  All of these things will help reach people who will be eternally grateful.

Category: Catholic, Spirituality


Reflections on Young Adult Ministry, Part 1

  /   Sunday, August 17, 2014   /   Comment(1)

Previously, I wrote a reflection on being a Catholic young adult.  Today, as I had mentioned, I want to write on Catholic young adult ministry.  I’m not so much writing as an “expert” but as a participant in some young adult ministry who has observed the needs around him and knows what he would like to see.  I’ve seen a ministry that was strictly catechetical and one that did nothing but social activities.  There were a few in which I was little more than an occasional participant, and a couple in which I spent a considerable amount of time doing work.  I was the webmaster for the Frassati Society of Memphis which disbanded in 2006. I want to write about my own suggestions as to what is needed, but first, I want to tackle some wrong ideas that I’ve seen circulating.

Should there be young adult ministry?

One of the hosts of a podcast that I have otherwise enjoyed actually said that it is impossible to really have a young adult ministry.  The lives of young adults, in his opinion, were just too diverse to have a ministry dedicated to such a group of people.  They are in just too many different states of life.

He has a point that there is quite a bit of variation on the state of life of young adults.  Some are married, and some even have children.  Some may still be in school, but, in my opinion, unless they are older than most other students or are not in school full-time, a good campus ministry may serve them better.  Some may have graduated college and are working in a profession.  There are others who have no idea what to do with their lives.  Some may have, quite honestly, made a pretty big mess of things.

However, there are two reasons why I think that we still have a need for young adult ministry.  First, there are some common needs of people in that age group.  There is a need for formation, for one thing, as well as a sense of community and belonging.  Second, people in different circumstances can support each other and be witnesses to each other.  The married can be an example of Christian marriage to the single people.  The people who are in their professions may be of help to people trying to find their place in the world.  It just takes a good community of people dedicated to Christian charity (and to not becoming a cliche).

With that being said, chances are most of the people who participate in the young adult ministry will be younger and single.  I’ve seen a ministry that was able to integrate married couples for a short time, but, once they have children, it has been very difficult for those to remain (including my wife and I).  Often the people most in need of the ministry are the people who are out of college, most likely working, but aren’t yet married or committed to another vocation.  It’s actually quite an unnatural state, but there are many reasons why someone may be in that state.  For me, a little more than ten years passed between graduation from pharmacy school and getting married.

It seems that people in the Church have a hard time figuring out how to reach and involve people in that state.  This time can either be spent in selfishness or as a time of service and spiritual preparation for one’s vocation.  Young adult ministry, when done right, can really give people in this state a sense of mission.

Group vs. ministry

When I first went to young adult activities where I lived right after graduation from pharmacy school, the local diocese had formed a young adult committee.  They had gone to some conference where some supposed expert told them that they need to make it clear that they don’t have a young adult “group” but a “ministry.”  Apparently, the problem with the idea of a “group” is that it implied membership and commitment.

My concern is not so much with whether someone says they have a “group” or a “ministry.”  I tend to regard those things a semantical games.  Membership and commitment, on the other hand, are essential for a successful ministry.  You definitely have to have a committed core group to run the ministry.  If people are expected to grow in their faith, they will need to commit to doing so.   In fact, lack of commitment has been the major reason for the failure of ministries that I have been involved in.  Granted, you can’t expect everyone to be ready to dive in right at first, but having a free for all with no one committed won’t get anyone anywhere.  Besides, Jesus himself requires a total commitment of our lives.  This is the a Gospel outreach that we are talking about!  Saying that you can’t expect commitment can easily suggest that Christ and his Church aren’t being taken seriously.

Membership is also essential to building a community and a sense of belonging that is so necessary for people who otherwise might not know how to find their place in the Church.  The key is to make sure it avoids becoming a cliche or a closed group that doesn’t reach out to others, or, worse yet, doesn’t really welcome new people.  Let people come and see what the group has to offer, and, be ready to have them register to be a member after they have been.

But we already do young adult ministry in things like marriage preparation, etc.

Yes, it is true that marriage preparation or baptismal preparation, you are working with young adults, but what about people who aren’t about to get married or have a child.  Also, is this really the time when you are going to catechize someone?  If someone is looking to get married and is just then being formed in what Christian marriage is, it means that the person went through years of their life, dated, and selected someone to marry without having really understood how their marriage is part of their Christian mission.

The preparation better start before someone is even dating, or you are already really late in the process.  Someone receiving the formation during the years where they are likely to be trying to meet the person they wish to marry will be in a much better position to know what to look for and what to work towards and will be better able to enter into a solid Christian marriage.  Take a look at this document from the Pontifical Council for the Family. It talks about remote, proximate, and immediate preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage, and I wish this was how things were done.

Next time:  I’ll give my suggestions for good, solid young adult ministry.

Category: Cathechesis, Catholic


Lunch Break: When the Official Programs Do Not Convey the Faith

  /   Wednesday, August 13, 2014   /   Comments(0)

I have uploaded another Lunch Break edition of my podcast.

Download it here.

This one was kind of hard to put into a podcast.  Maybe there is much more that I could have said.  There are a lot of you out there who have made a rediscovery of the full truth and beauty of the Catholic faith after having been Catholic for a number of years.  I would consider myself one of them.

Then, there are things that would be hard not to realize.  Books found in the parish library that contain false teaching.  Parish religious education that waters down the faith.  The marriage preparation program may not say anything wrong, but it doesn’t say enough of what’s right.  Some kind of program about life doesn’t even mention God until around chapter 25.  The priest or the people are doing something at Mass that doesn’t belong in the Liturgy.

Imagine seeing this and trying to explain to an outsider that what he is seeing isn’t really how things are supposed to be despite how widespread it is.  Imagine trying to explain to your fellow parishioners that something they have been doing for years isn’t quite right.  Imagine trying to explain to your friends that the diocesan program contains false teaching or is really watered down and that the real truth is found elsewhere.

It’s a strange situation that we are in.  It is less of an issue than it once was, but it’s still around.  However, we must not lose heart.  We must work to bring people to the fullness of the Catholic Faith.

Category: Podcasts


           



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