This Sunday is mission Sunday. You probably didn’t remember that. Don’t worry, I didn’t either but someone reminded me. Would you call the kids in your youth group missionaries? Most of us wouldn’t. But do you strive for them to become missionaries? That’s the tough question.
I’ve been reading Rebuilt: The Story of a Catholic Parish and he talks a lot about turning people into disciples. At one point he even links this to being missionaries. They see their parish as completing the great commission to bring the Gospel to all people in Zip Code 21093. You probably don’t live in that Zip Code (if you, do use the “Contact me” link above as I’d love to learn more about this parish). But you each live in a certain neighbourhood full of people who probably barely realize your Church exists let alone that they have a youth group.
We’re called to reach as many of them as we can. This is being a missionary.
It is so easy to focus on serving the needs of the dozen kids who show up for youth group. They are right there begging you to. However, they are so often just consumers. Your mission, or better, their mission is to be missionaries to reach each one of those unchurched, dechurched, badly-churched, and so-badly-churched-at-the-Catholic-Church-they’ve-become-Mormons. The youth group can’t just be a pity party over how few come or a museum for the super-holy; if it is you’re probably wasting your time. It needs to reach those who aren’t there.
Each teen in youth group needs to become a missionary. They need to do something, something that costs them sweat, blood or tears, to serve others. It could be as simple as collecting money for an African foster child or serving at the soup kitchen once a month. It could be leading a small group for an hour once a week after school or organizing an event to teach little kids the faith. They need to serve somehow. As Fulton J. Sheen said, “The difference between a child and a teenager is that a child wants to be loved and a teenager wants to love.” Love means serving.
Being a missionary also needs to be presented in a larger context. This is the perfect time to talk about vocations. A priest or nun is someone who’s missionary 24/7 for life – not that others aren’t but it’s a different way. For example, I studied Computer Engineering before I entered religious life: if I had not heard the call, I would dedicate most of my time to caring for my family and designing Computer parts which is much less directly missionary than what I do now. Even some lay people become missionaries in their state but usually for a certain time period not life-long. There are many websites to help out with this call: the first I’d list is Vocation.com which is for those thinking about it;Vision Vocation Match is for those thinking more seriously but unsure of the community; and then many missionary communities (like mine) have sites.
I link to what I know best; a lot are directly related to the Regnum Christi movement which we legionaries are part of. There are plenty of others out there but if I start linking one and forget another, I’m in trouble.
Being a missionary is not just a nice plan, a cool way to operate, or an added bonus. Being a missionary is Christian life. Each Christian is called to spread the faith. Vatican II reminded us that this is the call of each and that the Church herself is missionary by nature. Just before the Ascension in Matthew 28, Jesus told us ALL “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
Rebuilt has a bunch of other items that are important; it’s worth the read. One thing is the importance small groups. The main youth ministry I’ve done has been using Conquest and Challenge clubs which are built around teams (another name for small groups). I’ve found the groups are a great support and help teens step out of themselves. If we want teens to be missionaries, we need to help them start small in groups so they realize they can do it.
What do you do to help teens be missionaries? (Tell me what you’re doing well in the comments, even if it seems like self-promotion.)
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