3 December 2011
Pastoral ministers must find fresh ways to engage young people with the gospel, adult educator Chris Duthie-Jung told a youth ministry conference in Palmerston North last month.
Drawing on doctoral research into the Catholic identity of Gen Y New Zealanders, he suggested that to respond adequately to the needs of young Catholics, ‘we need to get to grips with a changing sense of what it means to be Catholic’.
‘Every year we’re seeing a greater struggle to find connection between young people and the Church.
‘We need to find fresh ways of presenting the gospel and innovative and contemporary ways of engaging new generations.’
The three-day NZCBC National Catholic Conference for youth and young adult ministers drew more than 70 participants from throughout the country.
The founder of the 22-year-old youth and social work agency, Challenge 2000, Kitty McKinley, introduced her ‘R’ ingredients for a youth ministry cake.
The first she suggested is ‘reaching in’. ‘It is only when we have found God inside ourselves that we can minister to youth and make a difference,’ she said. ‘The second is reaching out and not becoming preoccupied with talking about things instead of doing things.’
‘We must ask ourselves how real and relevant our ministry is in the Aotearoa New Zealand context and what role the Treaty of Waitangi has in what we do.’
Emphasising the importance of relationships, she said it was important to continually educate and renew ourselves and to recognise the ‘great responsibility’ in youth ministry.
Bishop Peter Cullinane set the unity theme of ‘Head, Heart, Hands’ based on Jn 15:5 ‘I am the vine you are the branches.’
He said discipleship is possible only if we are united by Christ.
In his opening address Bishop Peter said ministry to and with young people involves giving and receiving. He compared this to ‘receptive ecumenism’.
‘In the past, Churches brought to each other an explanation of the things that were important to them. They “put out their best china”. In receptive ecumenism they show instead their dirty hands – they ask each other for help with problems they have not successfully resolved. They receive from one another.
‘With youth ministry, we don’t even have to pretend that we need their help – we simply do. We need help to speak to people whose thinking and values have been formed mainly from sources outside the gospel.’
He also emphasised praying with the gospels and, as well as seeing Jesus, looking at the people around him. ‘The way Jesus affected them is the way he still affects us – he hasn’t changed.’
Attendees also participated in an interactive session which Rebekah Siave of Wellington led exploring Tu Kahikatea Standing Tall and other foundational youth ministry documents.
Another keynote speaker, Samuel Clear, from Harvest Inroads Australia, told of his 15,600km walk around the world for the unity of Christians, and of the many obstacles he encountered and gifts he received during the journey.
As well as praying at churches of all denominations, Mr Clear was held at gunpoint, faced wild animals, suffered dehydration and endured extreme temperatures. He believed that it was his trust in God that protected him even though, he said, ‘it hurts to trust God’.
The conference ended with a Commissioning Mass during which participants received a mirror containing the words ‘Head, Heart, Hands’, to encourage them to reflect on how they are using these in their ministry to and with youth and young adults.
Images: Participants at the NZCBC National Catholic Conference for youth and young adult ministers in workshops to build trust.