Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Youth ministers challenged to serve ‘millennials’

the Inland Register

(From the November 21, 2013 edition of the Inland Register)

Frank Mercadante of Cultivation Ministries in Illinois spoke to youth ministers from the Spokane and Boise dioceses Oct. 19. (IR photo courtesy of Jeanette Benson)

The dioceses of Boise and Spokane joined forces Saturday, Oct. 19, to sponsor a workshop for youth ministers titled “Engaging a New Generation.” Held at Spokane’s St. Thomas More Parish, the day-long event featured nationally-known speaker Frank Mercadante, director of Cultivation Ministries in St. Charles, Ill.

The workshop was organized by Deacon Paul Heric, Liaison for Youth Ministry for the Diocese of Spokane, and Cris Kreslins, Director of Youth Ministry for the Boise Diocese.

While the Diocese of Spokane comprises the 13 counties of Eastern Washington, the Boise Diocese takes in the entire state of Idaho.

The purpose of the workshop was to help those who work with adolescents to develop a greater understanding of today’s teens by examining the social and cultural environment of the young and to understand its evangelistic and pastoral implications. Participants learned how contemporary learning patterns and generational shifts in communication preferences require new approaches to sharing the Gospel.

“Reaching teens is not just about connecting with them, having a program and sponsoring an activity,” Mercadante said. “It’s about the very life and vitality of our parishes. Youth ministry cannot happen in a pastoral vacuum. Its challenge is a reality which summons all the faithful to action and engagement.”

According to Mercadante, “Youth ministry stands at a crossroads. Trying to go back to an earlier era and save the Church as we knew it may mean losing a generation that doesn’t relate any longer substantially to our tried-and-true methodologies and approaches. In many ways we are presented with an incredible opportunity to become more real, loving, tolerant, community-oriented and service-focused.”

Mercandante challenged youth leaders to address the Gospel to youth of today, not those imagined to be living in another generation. People change in the ways they compute reality, think, and act, he said. This does not mean simply acquiescing to a culture which champions entertainment and excitement, but it does mean finding a way to listen more attentively to the psyche and heart of youth who, like all persons, yearn and long for God’s love and a sense of belonging to a community of those who love and care.

“The need to do something for our youth frequently appears at the tops of parish needs assessment lists,” Deacon Heric said. “And always there is a real desire to ‘do something’ for our youth – but the challenges of youth ministry must be understood. Our youth are not just the proverbial Church-of-tomorrow; they are a vital part of our ‘today’ experience of being Christ’s community of disciples.

“Mercadante’s workshop was a treasure trove of information about how to bring the Gospel to contemporary youth, that group we know as ‘The Millennials,’” he said. “Most importantly, he inspired us youth ministers to serve the youth in our parishes with greater skill, sensitivity and interaction.”

The joint-diocese workshop was part of the Diocese of Spokane’s increasing efforts to revitalize youth ministry in its 82 parishes. Other programs include regional meetings and workshops for youth ministers, a winter retreat for youth leadership teams, and the annual Catholic Youth Celebration, scheduled for Friday-Sunday, March 14-16, 2014.

Funding for the programs is provided by the Annual Catholic Appeal and a variety of grants.

The shift from Generation X (born 1961-1981) and The Millennials (born 1982-2002):

Generation X:

• Glued to a television
• Independent
• Worried about AIDS and crime
• Gathers truth through reason
• Things may be proved
• There is one way to live
• Enjoys big events
• Personal emphasis on Spirit
• Questions
• Cynical and brooding
• Seeks cultural relevance
• Emotionally touched


• Interactive on computers, social media
• Collaborative
• Concerned about grades and college
• Finds truth through experience
• Things may be probed
• There are multiple ways to live
• Prefers smaller venues
• Emphasis on the group, the Church
• Serves
• Upbeat and positive
• Values authenticity
• Practical, hands on

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