We all talk about our need to work with youth in our community and church. I’m sure that our youth themselves, really appreciate what is already being done.
We have active youth organizations, dance groups, choirs, schools, and church groups! Our young people do want to get involved. They need knowledge, friendship, and opportunities to meet and, of course, form relationships which are the essence of society.
It’s not just anybody who can be an effective youth minister. Not everybody seems to have the skill to be able to communicate with someone who may be a few generations removed. That’s one matter. Our young people are crying out for social, cultural, and spiritual interaction but they seem to reject very quickly what seems boring, irreverent, or just not true. In other words, one has to understand youth if one is to work with youth.
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Some time ago, in America, Merton STROMMEN created a huge survey of 420 questions and he found 7000 teenagers to answer them. He summarized his findings in a book called “Five cries of youth”. This book became a handbook for teaching institutions, churches, and just anyone who wanted to work with young people.
In the survey, young people themselves talked about what was troubling them and where they needed help. It seems to me that these concerns are still very real for our young people today.
Merton says that the most urgent problem of young people is that they are lonely and have a very poor opinion of themselves. It’s not a surprise that Australia and New Zealand have had the highest suicide rate amongst young people in the world. Our drug culture is out of control. This is a direct effect of this leading problem.
Most urgent problem of young people is that they are lonely and have a very poor opinion of themselves
Secondly, this survey found that dysfunctional families and family life left young people as psychological orphans. This caused a lack of the ability to love, trust, relate, and to communicate with others.
Young people are also outraged with what is going on in the world around them, Social issues, economic problems, prejudice, and unfairness are all part of a society which outrages them and wants to disconnect them.
People who are not open minded or ready for new things, especially if they stick to stereotypes, frustrate young people. The church is often viewed as being in this category. While they would be ready to interpret God’s word according to the mind of this modern world, young people are ready to hear what God actually wants from us.
While they would be ready to interpret God’s word according to the mind of this modern world, young people are ready to hear what God actually wants from us.
The fifth cry of young people is that they want to see joy in their lives and in those around them. Despite the sorrows that are met in life, the young want to see the satisfaction and joy in those who teach and live according to their own beliefs.
This happiness or satisfaction in life is a real challenge for anyone who deals with the formation of youth. “Who you are speaks louder than what you say” is the old saying.
Mr. Strommen certainly heard what was being said to him. Our youth workers need to heed these lessons as well. They are the keys to success in youth work.
+Peter Stasiuk C.Ss.R. AM
Eparch for Ukrainian Catholics in
Australia, New Zealand and Oceania