Pastoral care (09): reaching out to the youth
“Shaping the future of the Church” can be achieved by those who win young Christians over to be active in the Church, says Chief Apostle Schneider. Following are some thoughts on the challenges, the opportunities, and a win-win situation.
Most of the time pastoral care is fascinating, demanding, and, in a positive sense, unpredictable. In this respect, there is probably no distinction in the pastoral care of adolescents or seniors, healthy, sick, or dying brothers and sisters. And yet there is always something special about pastoral care, particularly the care of young people.
A double challenge: life and faith
There are different approaches to pastoral care. One of them is an old educational principle that recommends: engage with and meet the person on his or her ground. But where do you pick someone up who, while growing up, sometimes does not even know himself where he or she belongs? After all, they are searching for their own goals and standards in life “while critically scrutinising the existing values and norms of their environment” the Catechism of the New Apostolic Church says in chapter 18.104.22.168. These stages of growing up, of normal development—which also involve radical change—are predestined for support and pastoral care.
And there are other challenges that young believers face. Particularly in the industrialised world they increasingly “find themselves caught between the standards of the gospel and the various religious and ethical views of what is, in many parts of the world, an increasingly secularised society. Young people are witnessing the marginalisation of the Christian faith and how churches are losing their significance. Increasingly, churches are becoming anonymous institutions and are no longer accepted as a moral authority” (CNAC 22.214.171.124).
It is very simple: be authentic and caring
Pastoral care offers the neighbour a heart, an eye, and an ear and supports him. This is where the principle of Apostle Paul is useful: “To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law” (1 Corinthians 9: 20). This is not a question of play-acting, pandering, or copying. It is about relating to your neighhbour, meeting him or her on their ground, and showing understanding and respect. This is what creates closeness, understanding, and a basis for pastoral care.
Jesus Christ exemplified this when He approached and counselled the rich young man (Mark 10):
- Jesus actively sought contact. His love and care applied regardless of the subsequent outcome.
- Jesus answered the man’s questions and pointed him in the proper direction. He answered all his questions.
- Jesus was authentic. He not only preached, but practised what He preached.
Diversity: training and opportunities
Those involved in youth care receive training and support in a variety of ways. The District Churches in Europe, for example, offer special training courses for youth facilitators. In North America youth leaders and teachers have access to an online platform that features specific topics. These offers are available worldwide and are adapted to the local conditions. The local Church offices and the local Apostles can provide more information.
Regular talks, as well as youth meetings, youth services, recreational activities, and regional youth conventions, provide an opportunity for pastoral care. Of course there are restrictions because of Covid 19, but there are also new opportunities. Social distancing has given rise to new formats everywhere: nac.today has already reported on webcam youth meetings in the Netherlands and Germany.
Whether it is offering pastoral care or asking for pastoral care—both can be a mission. Either way it begins by approaching the other and engaging in dialogue, and this is not exclusively reserved for the minister.
Multiple advantages: strong personalities and a strong Church
Pastoral care supports and strengthens. Young people can cultivate fellowship with one another so that they are “firmly anchored in the values of the Christian faith” and are inspired by them. This serves “as the foundation for making decisions in their lives” (CNAC 126.96.36.199), both in everyday life and in faith. Pastoral care aims to help young people in becoming strong personalities of faith who are aware of their responsibilities.
Chief Apostle Schneider drew attention to the fact some time ago that youth care is also important for the Church: “Those who win young people over to be active in the Church today, are shaping the future of the Church. The standards of tomorrow’s Church are being defined today.” And that also means that young people should approach their Priest for a change: “I tell you, dear young brothers and sisters, be demanding when it comes to the Church, and demand only the best.”
Photo: Oliver Rütten