A few years ago, I took a training workshop on youth ministry. One of the things I found most useful in that workshop was the need to attend to the needs of the youth who are not present in our church, the non-gathered community. The facilitators pointed out that much of our youth ministry efforts are targeted at the youth who show up. And that is good. But it is only half the job of good youth ministry. There are many more young people outside of the church walls than inside. How are we reaching out to them with a word of support and hope? It is quite a challenge!
The same can be said of our ministry to adults. What if we took the time to minister to the community gathered as well as to those who don’t gather with us? Do we have something to say to them as well? How can we bring a word of healing, of peace, and of hope to them?
At a time when the spirituality section of bookstores are stocked with all sorts of books, I think it is fair to say that many people are searching for answers to the big questions of life. Are we there when they are searching, ready to engage in dialogue with their questions? Does the Gospel have something to say to the world of today? And do we have the audacity to reach out? Isn’t this the missionary turn we are invited to take today?
Two weeks ago, the Archdiocese of Gatineau invited journalist François Gloutnay to provide training to pastoral staff and to the wider community on how to use social media in catechesis and evangelization. It was the beginning of a discussion, an invitation to be present where the people of our community are present – in social media. To start the discussions there, and to invite people to journey with the gathered community.
We all need to reflect on how well we are using social media to start a conversation with people around us. How effectively are we using social media to stay in touch with the many people who reach out to us every year requesting baptism, First Communion, Confirmation, or a funeral for a loved one? Do we take the first step to “stay in touch” or do we passively wait for people to maybe come back to our parish? Are we there to provide a word of hope, of consolation, of joy to them as they continue along their journey?
We are coming up to the Season of Advent. It is a time of waiting. Yet for so many, it is a stressful time of busyness. Why not use social media to invite people to carve out a little time of peace, of joyful anticipation in this time of busyness? Isn’t that what people are looking for? And this doesn’t have to be complicated. We don’t have to re-invent the wheel. There are many good resources out there. Let’s guide people to these resources. We can send a message with links to our friends and fellow parishioners. Or post something on our Web site with an Advent message. Or post something on Facebook with links to Advent resources.
Here are some Advent resources, including on-line retreats, which might be of interest:
· Loyola Press maintains a page with many helpful links for Advent, including on-line retreats. There is something there for everyone: https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/advent .
· Franciscan Media also has a page of information, where you can sign up for a daily reflection https://www.franciscanmedia.org/christmas-inspiration/ .
· Is there another resource you know about and would like to share? Please let us know in the comments section!
Blessings to all in this Advent season!
Diocesan pastoral associate