Up Front and Personal

The Basics of Talking To Young People

by Paul Morisi

As Christians, we are called to be evangelical. We are commissioned by Christ Himself with the daunting task of not only spreading the Good News but also to help people encounter Christ in an intimate and real way. Trying to accomplish this with today’s youth can seem, at times, like an unattainable goal. There are a few steps that can help in the evangelizing the youth of today.

Put Them on Your Calendar: Show young people that they are important to the lifeblood of the parish. Know when their events are happening, and see if you can help at them. In my experience, the youth ministers who made time to support the events that their youth were participating in (whether it be a play, a school dance or a sporting event) had an easier time evangelizing and catechizing. I am not saying to become a season ticket holder for your local CYO program, but make the effort to show up at some of the games. If you have a youth ministry core team, this is a much easier task. And who knows, you may enjoy yourself!

Hospitality: When I was teaching religion to junior high students or running a youth night with my youth group, I would always tell them that we have a religion based on a man, Jesus, who was always sharing with other people. Not only was He sharing His divine gifts but also His hospitality. People didn’t go hungry when they were with Him. Since Jesus is the master teacher, we should take a cue from His example. When trying to evangelize youth, we should prepare a welcoming environment for them, a place where they feel comfortable and at home. Part of that hospitality is meeting teens where they are spiritually. They may not be ready for the perpetual adoration you have scheduled next week; they may not even be ready to go to Mass on a regular basis. We have to be a Church of welcome that meets people where they are.

Listen: Human beings are social animals. We love being in the company of other people; so much so, we now have social networking, a way to be with people when you aren’t with people. If we are to evangelize young people, we must be willing to listen to them. Paying attention to their needs and concerns will go a long way to gaining their respect. Keep in mind that understanding and not solutions are sometimes the key to effective listening.

Proclaim: You do not have to imitate the televangelists, but work the Gospel message into conversations. Teens will have questions and opinions (be prepared to listen again), and it’s okay to not have all the answers. You are engaging them in a faith-based conversation, which is a basic step in the evangelization process. You do not need to discuss transubstantiation or the Parousia but rather that God loves them and Jesus died for their sins. If we are successful, they will come to learn the complex teaching of the Church.

Today’s youth are looking for two things – truth and happiness, which for us as Catholic Christians both have the same end, Jesus Christ. We must be true witnesses to Christ and make the youth of today see that through Jesus Christ and His Church that they can not only find the Truth but happiness as well.[hr] Paul Morisi is the diocesan coordinator of Adolescent and Young Adult Faith Formation.