The Value of Youth Ministry Retreats

I’ve just come home from a youth camp with the Melbourne Youth Mission Team.  I had an amazing time with a wonderful group of young people, and was reminded again of how much I enjoy ministry with young people.

Here’s some of my highlights from the weekend: everyone spontaneously dancing to the Jackson 5 as we re-grouped for the main sessions; a first-time participant being ‘group-hugged’ as he farewelled the rest of the group yesterday; and the group belting out Matt Maher’s ‘Alive Again’ as the recessional hymn for the final Eucharist.

The first two highlights make the third highlight possible.  Faith formation, evangelisation, conversion happens when there is an experience of Christian community.  When young people encounter a genuine faith community who welcomes them they begin to experience the plausibility of Christian faith – that it makes sense, and that it is possible to live out.  Most of all they experience the Gospel as the way of love.  People don’t really think their way into belief (which is not to deny the legitimate and essential intellectual dimension of faith but to contextualise it); they are loved and love their way into faith. Those young people belted out the words of the song because they meant it, they had encountered the One who re-creates us, but it was possible because they had been part of an intense experience of Christian community for the weekend.

YMT launched their new national iStand Generation follow-up ministry over the weekend.  The website is still under construction but it’s worth a look.

Posted on July 4, 2011, in Evangelisation, Youth Ministry and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Daniela Kesina

    Thanks for your reflections Fr Chris! Your highlights are similar to the moments that often stand out to me when working with young people on retreats. It’s also great to hear about YMT’s work in Melbourne:-) Daniela

  2. Hello Father,

    First let me say that it’s great that you’re working with youth and helping them encounter Jesus.

    Having said that I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed with some of this post. You said that people don’t think their way into the Faith; well I did. The intellectual underpinnings of the Catholic Faith are absolutely essential if one wants to live a Christian life in our secular country. They’re needed to defend the Faith against doubts and skepticism, both our own and that of others.

    I sometimes fear that the Charismatic movement focuses too much on the emotional side of the Faith and, that if young people are only religious because it makes them feel good, then their faith will be built on a weak foundation. Using emotion and community as a way of fortifying yourself in the Faith, without a strong intellectual foundation, is pretty subjective. After all hundreds of millions of protestants can experience the same emotional gratification when caught up in the excitement of charismatic worship; but that hardly makes their doctrines correct.

    God gave us both a heart and mind to know Him. Faith without reason, to paraphrase John Paul II, is blind.

    – From a 20 year old convert

  3. Thanks Fr Chris. I’m glad it was a great retreat.
    I think the comments from “anonymous” are interesting – and actually not really opposed to what you wrote, Fr Chris. Both an intellectual foundation and an ‘experience’ of faith are extremely important. Not only are they not mutually exclusive, they are totally complementary. We know intellectually, for example, that God is trinitarian – is a love relationship itself. This doctrine makes sense of the lived experience of love we find in Christian community; it explains why human love is such a powerful ingredient in evangelisation – because through it we experience the love of God itself.
    Without intellectual formation, we miss the profound nature of that experience (and a lot else besides) but without the experience the profound teaching is not ‘incarnated’ in our lives and loses some of its power to persuade actual people that the Trinity is reality and makes a difference to the world.
    Just a thought. Blessings.

  4. The above is a good explanation, I hope it didn’t sound like I was trying to downplay the need for love in conversion. Catholicism isn’t just an intellectual exercise, however I don’t believe that the role of reason and scholarship in Catholicism should ever be downplayed. Seeing Father Chris’ latest post was encouraging, it sounds like a great night and I wish I could make it.

    Jake

  5. Hey Fr Chris
    Thanks for helping out at the weekend, was great to have you there!
    I just read the replys, and I have to say that the ‘anonymous’ commentor does bring up quite an interesting discussion, which was well followed by Chantelle’s e replys, and I have to say that the ‘anonymous’ commentor does bring up quite an interesting discussion, which was well followed by Chantelle’s comment.
    While thinking about these comments, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own spirituality.
    As an 18 year old practising Catholic, I can happily say that I have grown a desire for the Lord through witnessing his love in other people. This fully inspires me and makes me proud of my faith. I, however, can also happily say that I have a very minimal understanding of Catholic Theology. just read the replys, and I have to say that the ‘anonymous’ commentor does bring up quite an interesting discussion, which was well followed by Chantelle’s e replys, and I have to say that the ‘anonymous’ commentor does bring up quite an interesting discussion, which was well followed by Chantelle’s comment.
    While thinking about these comments, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own spirituality.
    As an 18 year old practising Catholic, I can happily say that I have grown a desire for the Lord through witnessing his love in other people. This fully inspires me and makes me proud of my faith. I, however, can also happily say that I have a very minimal understanding of Catholic Theology. Any intellectual knowledge I have has been attained from books and websites such as this. In placing my spiritual testimony in a parallel with someone who has been fully formed in faith, I have to say that I do find it harder to live my faith in a secular world without any intellectual knowledge of why I’m doing what I’m doing. A common reply to this question from friends and priests is ‘Because God loves you’. This may be a good enough answer for others, but my imperfect human body and brain does demand something more in order to maintain its desire for the Lord.
    In reflecting on this blog post and comments, I have to say that I do agree that ‘intellectual knowledge’ of faith is as complimentarity to an ‘experience’ of faith in the same way that a human ‘body’ is complimentarity to a ‘soul’; they are mutual to the point of being the same thing. They are not ‘seperate’ aspects of faith per se, but co-exist.

    Anyway, that should be enough from me (for now), as this is Fr Chris’ blog, not Joshua’s blog.

    Gb

  6. As you can clearly tell, my previous comment went a bit haywire, as I posted it from my mobile browser. Cant delete or edit it.
    What I meant to say was:

    Hey Fr Chris
    Thanks for helping out at the weekend, was great to have you there!
    I just read the replys, and I have to say that the ‘anonymous’ commentor does bring up quite an interesting discussion, which was well followed by Chantelle’s comment.
    While thinking about these comments, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own spirituality.
    As an 18 year old practising Catholic, I can happily say that I have grown a desire for the Lord through witnessing his love in other people. This fully inspires me and makes me proud of my faith. I, however, can also happily say that I have a very minimal understanding of Catholic Theology. Any intellectual knowledge I have has been attained from books and websites such as this. In placing my spiritual testimony in a parallel with someone who has been fully formed in faith, I have to say that I do find it harder to live my faith in a secular world without any intellectual knowledge of why I’m doing what I’m doing. A common reply to this question from friends and priests is ‘Because God loves you’. This may be a good enough answer for others, but my imperfect human body and brain does demand something more in order to maintain its desire for the Lord.
    In reflecting on this blog post and comments, I have to say that I do agree that ‘intellectual knowledge’ of faith is as complimentarity to an ‘experience’ of faith in the same way that a human ‘body’ is complimentarity to a ‘soul’; they are mutual to the point of being the same thing. They are not ‘seperate’ aspects of faith per se, but co-exist.

    Anyway, that should be enough from me (for now), as this is Fr Chris’ blog, not Joshua’s blog.

    Gb

  7. Effectively expressed without a doubt. !

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