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Youth Ministry Today: 3 Lessons Worth Sharing

May 8, 2023

by Dr. Jayeel Cornelio

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of delivering one of the keynote lectures for the 2023 International Conference on Youth Ministry. Co-organized by the Loyola School of Theology and the Don Bosco School of Theology, the event attracted more than 750 nuns, priests, campus ministers, and youth workers from different countries. It was a testament to the enduring interest of church people in young people.

Although I was prepared for it, I had mixed feelings just when the program was about to start.

I feared that not many might be ready to listen to my empirical work. Note: this is a fact of life for me. As part of my work as a sociologist for more than a decade now, I’ve given many lectures about youth and religion. But the feeling is just different whenever I do it for the religious community. How do I convince them to think about youth and faith from the point of view of young people themselves? How do I do it without being without them thinking that I’m attacking them?

There are many sympathetic youth workers, no doubt. In fact, some are deeply involved and far more experienced than I.

But at the same time, I also know that bringing up the sentiments of young people, especially “impolite” ones, may be readily dismissed by some. At another talk I delivered years ago, one member of the audience, a Christian living teacher, was adamant that the problem was young people themselves. She was responding to my assertion that for young people, “right living is more important than right believing.” She found it offensive.

Thankfully, my recent keynote lecture ended on a high note. During the break, some young ministers introduced themselves. They were leaders from The Feast who expressed that what I said at the podium resonated with them. Based on experience, they agreed that there are indeed young people out there who are disengaged from church not because they are faithless. Instead, they simply feel alienated by it.

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