Sunday, February 08, 2009

Kids are not stupid

I just got back from a really great Youth Group meeting. I did a topic night on Vatican Current Events. We looked at several controversial statements of Pope Benedict XVI from the past several years of his pontificate and examined the difference between how they were reported in the media versus what was actually said in the document. I had 22 kids show up, lively participation, true engagement and lots of great questions which demonstrated that (a) they actually knew and cared about what was being discussed, and (b) were making the necessary logical connections in their head to see the implications of what was being discussed and ask questions about it.

We talked about Cardinal Ratzinger's homily at the papal conclave (the "dictatorship of relatavism" speech), the Regensburg Address, some pertinent phrases from Summorum Pontificum (especially the clause from the intro letter that says that what was once considered sacred cannot ever be considered harmful), and finally discussed the lifting of the SSPX excommunications. It led into a fruitful discussion on obedience, when to disobey and unjust law, and many more questions that only teens could draw out of a topic.

My Youth Group is (by all indicators) a successful one. We learn about important things, pray together, and have fun as well. And do you know why? Am I more brilliant than any other Youth Director? No. Am I gifted with the ability to speak well? Not at all (some of my kids had a blast one time marking down all the times I said "um" in a talk and I believe it was in the forties). I shall tell you the secret of why my Youth Group is successful, why it started with 7 kids and has grown to nearly 40. This is the big key:

I realize that kids are not stupid and treat them accordingly.

Teens are some of the brightest, most enterprising people you'll ever meet. They have wonderfully creative ideas if you'd just stop to listen to them. They ask very pertinent questions and are able to grasp complicated ideas if you take the time to walk them through it. When I became Youth Director, I decided that I was going to give these kids the truth no matter what - not a dumbed down truth, not a sappy Youth Group experience focused on a slew of shallow service projects - but a Youth Group where there was serious intellectual growth coupled with true spiritual formation. That's what Youth Group should be: a place where kids learn how to be adult Catholics. Not where their petty teenage idiosyncracies are coddled and spoiled. When Youth Group is done well, it gives rise to an interesting dynamic: the kids grow in maturity and become more adultlike, and I feel renewed in my strength and get a little bit of my fleeting youth back.

Anyhow, I am just excited and very proud of my Youth Group kids that show up and participate so enthusiastically when the topic night is "Vatican Current Events" and who willingly read excerpts from Regensburg and the motu proprio. Kids are wonderful if you'd realize that they are not stupid and treat them as little adults, just as you would like to be treated.

In this light, I am curious to hear from you all: what are some horror stories you have heard from other Youth Groups? What are some things you think Youth Apostolate should include? What do you think about the way popular culture approaches the teenage demographic in general?

1 comment:

Mr S said...

All the great moments in salvation history were accompanied by food.

Isn't it amazing that the youth have an appetite for knowledge and understanding that at times even surpasses their love of pizza?

I have often noticed that the "doodlers" are perhaps in deep thought, and pop some unexpected questions at unexpected times. :)