What the young look for in the Church

False images of Jesus – that he is out-of-date, distant or rigid – often make young people unattracted to him, making Christian ideals seem “out of reach to the average young person. Therefore, for some youth, Christianity is perceived as an unreachable standard.”

Mar 28, 2018

By Elise Harris
False images of Jesus – that he is out-of-date, distant or rigid – often make young people unattracted to him, making Christian ideals seem “out of reach to the average young person. Therefore, for some youth, Christianity is perceived as an unreachable standard.”

“Ultimately, many of us strongly want to know Jesus, yet often struggle to realise that He alone is the source of true self-discovery, for it is in a relationship with Him that the human person ultimately comes to discover him or herself,” the young stated in the document of the pre-synod meeting, Mar 19-24.

“Thus, we have found that young people want authentic witnesses – men and women who vibrantly express their faith and relationship with Jesus while encouraging others to approach, meet, and fall in love with Jesus themselves.”

Scandals within the Church damage the confidence young people have in it, the delegates said, but stressed that the Church can still play a “vital role” in ensuring that youth are accepted, and no longer marginalised.

The concept of vocation is still “abstract” to many, and therefore doesn’t cross their minds.

“Young people understand the general sense of bringing meaning to life and being alive for a purpose, but many do not know how to connect that to vocation as a gift and call from God and voiced their desire for mentors who are able to accompany them with wisdom and without judgment.

Youth also voiced their desire for more authenticity, transparency and openness in the Church’s life and structures, saying at one point that “a credible Church is one which is not afraid to allow itself be seen as vulnerable.”

The Church should also be “sincere in admitting its past and present wrongs, that it is a Church made up of persons who are capable of error and misunderstanding.”

The document encouraged the Church to be firm in condemning scandals such as sex abuse and the “mismanagement” of power and wealth. If the Church does this with humility, they said, it will “undoubtedly raise its credibility among the world’s youth.”

Young delegates also voiced their desire for a Church that is capable of spreading its message through modern means of communication and which is also able to answer young peoples’ questions in a way that isn’t “watered-down” or “prefabricated.”

Rather, “we the young Church, ask that our leaders speak in practical terms about controversial subjects such as homosexuality and gender issues, about which young people are already freely discussing without taboo.”

The document underlined a desire that youth would become leaders in their communities, and asked that young leadership programmes offering continual formation and development be established. Specific mention was made of the lack of young female role models in the Church, who also wish to contribute with “their intellectual and professional gifts.”

Youth said they want to be “met where they are,” stressed the need for the Church to find “new and creative” ways of encountering people outside of the usual setting, such as in bars, coffee shops, gyms, stadiums or cultural centres.

They asked the Church to engage with “the right instruments,” which the document listed in bullet-point format as having a multimedia approach; service in movements or charities; beauty and the arts; adoration and contemplation; testimonies and the synod process itself.

Going beyond practical, functional and institutional decision-making roles, youth said that ultimately, they want to be “a joyful, enthusiastic and missionary presence within the Church.” --CNA

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