ok, enough goofin off. Back to youth ministry! Yeah!
Today's lesson (I feel like a teacher or something) is on Justice and Service.
Every orthodox, semi-conservative minister just did a shudder, didn't they? Why is it that everytime we hear these words we think "Tree Huggers!!"? I heard a very smart man on a radio program say once that the left has hijacked social justice and the right has hijacked pro-life work. When one side hears about the other they do this roll of the eyes and shudder.
Well, folks, they belong to both and I'm going to talk about Justice and Service:
We cannot call ourselves followers of Jesus unless we take up his mission of bringing "good news to the poor, liberty to captives, and new sight to the blind" (Luke 4:18) -Communities of Salt and Light,p. 3
Yes the poorest of the poor in our country IS the unborn. However there are thousands of the born who are in need of care. Furthermore, there are thousands of youth who need to learn to go beyond themselves and care for their neighbor:
-engages young people in discovering the call to justice and service in the Scriptures
-involves (them)...in actions of direct service...in efforts to address the causes of injustice and inequity
-develops assets...faith...by promoting gospel values in their lifestyles and choices
-incorporates doing the right thing with attention to why and how we do what we do (includes involvement, exploration, reflection and action)
-involves a supportive community that builds a sense of togetherness
-nurtures a lifelong commitment to service and justice involvement
-from Renewing the Vision, 1997
I am strong opposed to telling kids in a Confirmation program "You have so many hours of service. Go do them and tell me what you did". Are you kidding me? Where is the "sense of togetherness" where is the reflection, where is the developing of assetss and faith??
When I worked in Southie, the Director did it briliantly and I will always do it this way:
We had a day each week dedicated to a service project. We did 3 a month and always went together as a group. At the end of each time we did "Mad, Glad Sad".
So, for instance, I have set up a couple of places where the Confirmation kids can come to all at the same time. We arrive at the Nursing home on a Saturday morning and I do a prayer and short introduction. I let them know that they will smell, see and hear things that they'd really rather not, but my challenge is to ask God to give you the courage and grace to walk into that residents' room and engage them in conversation, talk to them about their life, spend time with them and let them experience the dignity of being human and cared for.
We always did it as a community, as a group, because there are some kids who jump right in and do it and some kids who are scared to death. Solution? Put those kids together. When we work together we can support one another and help each other grow.
Why did I pick the places? Because I refuse to call dog grooming or yard raking Justice. Or Service. Some parents complained that their kids weren't outgoing, or wondered why they couldn't use their talents to serve where they wanted to.
Why? Because Justice and Service are not about us. Certainly there is so much need in the world that we can almost pick and choose what works for us, where we feel most comfortable. However, this being their Confirmation prep time I believe very strongly that they need to see that service IS ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE. If your brother is in need, you help pick up THEIR cross. You don't say "Oh, wait for someone who can do that kind of work" (like those who passed by the man in the story of the Good Samaritan). No, we need to respond to others' needs, not our own. (Think St Francis and the Leper. Hello? Are we called to anything less?)
At the end of every service opportunity we gather for the last 10 minutes for reflection. We always circle up so that everyone can see each other and share if our experience made us "Mad, Sad or Glad". I found that giving them those words helped them think about what was going through their minds as they served. And they weren't alwasy glad-and sometimes kids would say that they were mad that they had to be there. Good! Cry me a river! That's exactly the kid that I wanted there!
So, in closing, we are ALL responsible for our brothers and sisters. As youth ministers we need to develop in the youth a sense of thinking about others rather than ourselves. There is also ways that you can involve youth in areas of injustice, both globally and locally. Talk about why there are homeless people. Talk about China's human rights violations. Talk about St Francis and the Leper. Talk about what we can do as a Church (not as a government) do ease the sufferings of our neighbor.
"For as you did to the lest of my brothers, you did for me" Matt 25:40