Working in youth ministry for the past few years has been an eye-opening and amazing experience. It’s been beautiful to see the work that goes into a youth night, summer event, the spiritual growth in one of our youth, or the “complete 180” someone has in their spiritual life. For those who don’t know me, I was a member of the St. Francis youth group through high school, attended religious education classes here, attended Spirit Retreat 31 in 2012 before my Confirmation, and was part of a weekly event we used to do called Pass It On. I was very involved with our youth group as a teen and had many friends in the group, friends I still hang out and talk with today.
I was blessed with the opportunity to start working at St. Francis as the youth events coordinator in 2015, which has allowed me to continue to be a part of and see the fruits of youth ministry here at St. Francis (I now also assist with communications). During the three years I have been working here part-time, I took 9 months off to serve as a NET Ministries missionary. Now I mostly work remotely, as I’m enrolled at Wichita State University in Wichita, Kansas, finishing my college degree. So besides being involved with youth ministry and communication at St. Francis, I am also surrounded by many young adults (like me) living out the “college life.”
As I look back on my time in our youth program, I notice a lot of things have changed. I also notice the friends that I still have today from the program. I see two sides of a coin. I see those that are still fully practicing their faith today and those that only see the inside of a Church when they visit for Christmas. That’s not judgment, it’s an observation. I’m not anywhere near being a Saint, but it’s interesting to me to see the differences and its caused me to start to ponder why this might be the case.
You can do some research and find possible explanations, but I have my own theory. I don’t have research to back it up, but I have what I’ve experienced. The one thing that I have noticed between those young adults I know that are still actively practicing their faith versus those who aren’t, is their family. I don’t mean that their family is together or separated, however, there are studies that show that family makes a difference. I’m talking about how their family practiced their faith. For the most part, the friends I have that still practice their faith today had parents that actively practiced their faith. But, why?
I think the answer is fairly simple. When we see the people we look up to living that life and making Church or the faith a priority, it becomes a priority or part of our own lives. This isn’t always the case, but I think it is the case more often than not.
While I am not a parent myself and would never assume to know the struggles, demands, challenges, or joys of that role, I am realizing more and more that the parent’s role as the primary catechist of their child(ren) is so crucial. In fact, the Church says that using parish catechesis to teach a child about the faith is a “privilege” and that catechesis at home “precedes” other forms of instruction of the faith. (CCC 2226).
I definitely appreciate and understand how blessed I am that I was brought up in such a strong youth program here at St. Francis, but I am realizing more and more that the true gift of my faith was instilled by the example of my parents, not by the youth ministers, retreats, or events I experienced at the parish. Of course, those helped and added to my faith experience, but I am eternally grateful to my parents for making our Catholic faith a priority for my childhood years.
If you are a parent reading this, especially if you have someone in our parish youth program, first off, thank you for bringing them or encouraging them to come. I am sure some weeks feel like it’s a battle or you basically have to drag them to Church or the youth programming. Your efforts don’t go unnoticed.
However, I would challenge you to look deeper at your own faith life. Do you make an effort to show them that you pray outside of Mass on Sunday? Do you invite them to pray with you? Do you live a Christian life? Do you go to your own Bible studies, classes, conferences, etc.? Do you serve the Church in a ministry?
Basically, do you live the life that you want for your kids? If not, what can you do differently now?
When it comes to faith, I have truly come to realize as a young adult that it starts at home. That phrase can’t be said enough. Here at St. Francis, we can help your child as much as possible to experience Jesus Christ at Young Church or at Mass. But, when they go home and living the faith goes away, so does all of that work.
So I want to invite you to come and learn more about your faith and how you can live it out every day. Our goal in the catechesis department at St. Francis is to be a resource for you as you serve as the primary catechist of your child(ren). Don’t be intimidated — we are here to help!
If you have a child in our Young Church program and you feel called to get more involved, I would encourage you to consider assisting with that program. How powerful would it be for your child if instead of dropping them off at Young Church you stayed and led a different small group, showing them that you commit that time to learning about your faith as well?
But, most importantly, if you’re a parent that still has children in the house, what can you do to show them that your faith matters? I’d imagine your efforts won’t go unnoticed — not by them and definitely not by God.
If you’re at all interested in joining the Young Church Core Team, we have a come and see night available on April 15th from 6pm-8pm in the Family Life Center. You’ll get to watch, experience, and participate in a Young Church night to know just what it is we do. If you’re interested, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This blog was written by Joseph Barringhaus, Youth Events Coordinator and Digital Media & Communications Assistant here at St. Francis of Assisi. If you’re interested in writing a blog for St. Francis of Assisi, please contact Joseph at email@example.com.