Tonight at our parish our middle school youth group, STATIC Youth, is holding its second move night. This is a chance for all generations to come together and be a community, to watch a movie and enjoy the company of others, and it’s all for free, and that’s a good thing in today’s economy.
One of the things we try to teach our youth is giving back to the community that you belong to, not only to the world at large, but right here at home. We offer our youth many opportunities to give back, from serving dinners to our parish to service projects they create. The opportunity to give back is more than a cute little lesson; it is a life lesson, one that some adults need to learn as well as our youth.
All too often the adult parish feels that the youth is there to be seen and not heard, to clean up after the adults, not the other way around. Well STATIC Youth, I am proud to say, has turned that idea upside down! We believe that the youth of the parish should be an active part of parish life; they should be seen and heard.
All too often the powers that be place no value on the youth; they see them as always taking from the parish, taking money, time, space and resources, yet never giving back. Not too long ago this was an issue at my parish (who am I kidding it still is). The religious education director had to defend the parish program for our middle school, we were called on the carpet for taking, taking, taking, and never giving.
Now this was and is totally untrue, but as the powers see it, they spend money, and the youth of our parish do not have nice little envelopes with their names on them to give money back, they see it as all taking. Never mind the fact that the parents give, not only money but time as volunteers to the youth program, and because of that, some are even more actively involved in the parish, but that don’t count, the youth just take. Never mind that we run several fundraisers each year to help defray the cost and to raise money for the youth, and never mind that the powers that be tell us that the money all goes to the general fund, and not the youth, we just take.
Our middle school program does more than any other parish group to try an involve the whole parish in activities, we have the movie nights and two dinners throughout the year, we have invited our high school youth group to join us in many events (not that they come or invite us to anything). We have presented many ideas to raise money and most have been knocked down, and yet we are told we take.
I really don’t think this is an oddity, that my parish is different than most. I would hope it is, but I have a feeling it is not.
Does the youth take, sure but so does the men’s club and the woman’s groups or the prayer groups and so on. The difference is that they are allowed to give back, they are allowed to raise funds, and they are, now this is the big part, get ready for it, they are RESPECTED!
It’s that simple, the youth are not respected, they are not considered part of the parish life, and they are outside of the community. How sad.
It breaks my heart to say such a thing, but it is true, most parishes consider the youth a burden not a blessing. So how do we change this, but teaching our youth that they are important to the community, and praying that when they become the leaders of the church that they will remember what they were taught, that the youth are important. We can change the way the youth are looked at and treated, it will be a long hard road, it can be done, through a lot of prayer and hard work. Start today; show one youth at your parish that they have something to offer, teach one youth that they are loved and convert one heart at a time to understand that the youth of our church is the church as much as we are, all members of the body are important, just ask St. Paul what he thinks.