We've been having fun lately adding a new dimension to our ministry with a camcorder. Skits perhaps are a bit passé, but movies ... that's different. First we had some Lighthouse teens spoof a YouTube video we found (about proper church behavior). With a few adjustments it became a short instructional film about how not to behave at Tahu (very tongue in cheek). It was well-received by Tahu, but secretly I think that no one liked it better than the Lighthouse cast!
This past week Glen and Richard remade another YouTube video. The original clip encouraged viewers to take a chance and invite someone to church. We tweaked it a bit to depict a guy preparing to invite a buddy to youth group, but imagining several potential undesirable responses. Richard grew up with 4 siblings who took the phrase "home movies" to a whole new level - and Glen's dramatic abilities - well, watch for yourself (click below). This clip was a big hit on Sunday night & we're planning to do a lot more filming for and with the youth.
all acting was impromptu
no script, no practice, no more than 2 takes
The semester is dedicated to evangelization and our major push is to ask the youth to invite others to come along....to church, to youth group, to parish events, to retreats. Yes, we want them to engage others in dialogue about faith. Yes, we hope to see them become more comfortable with the idea of being associated with Jesus and "church" in the eyes of their peers. Yes, we're encouraging them to use social media in a thought-provoking way. But more than anything else, the practice of making personal invitation is what we hope to see each young person grow in this term. Of course mostly they'll get shot down, their friends will decline, it will even perhaps be awkward. We've been very straightforward about that. Unless we're dealing with the 3% of the population who love to try new things and are always open to putting themselves in unfamiliar and slightly uncomfortable situations, people say "no" almost by default. Not just to church - to anything that doesn't fit within the boundaries of what they already know and enjoy. I've categorically refused to eat fish for almost 33 years now without ever trying it. (I don't need to try it - I know I'll hate it by the way it smells.) I suspect most people have an equivalent - something they "know" they won't like even if they've never really tried it. For some people, that something is church. When I find the resistance of others frustrating, I need only recall my own (ongoing) history of spiritual stubbornness. Most of my best experiences and deepest growth have happened because someone got me to say yes to an invitation that I at first preferred to decline. I had immediately quit going to church when I began college and returned semesters later only because the girls on my dormitory floor invited me so enthusiastically week after week after week after week. I experienced my first Come and See retreat only because a young nun who I deeply admired called me so persistently for a month. And the only reason Rich and I actually accepted Fr. Michael's crazy invitation to New Zealand was because it had been a FIVE YEAR LONG process of invitation. No joke, no exaggeration. He had "warned" us years in advance that he was going to be issuing the invitation and gave annual reminders for half a decade before he actually asked us to come. Even then we wavered. He persisted.
The point is that some invitations are easy and simple. Others take a bit of perseverance. As we encourage the youth to enthusiastically, habitually and persistently invite others, we must grow in this virtue alongside them. That's one of the coolest and hardest parts about youth ministry. The youth minister is challenged to the same degree as the youth group, if not more so. We've been reflecting on the persistence of the people to whom we ourselves are indebted for our own faith - and naturally begin to wonder if we have been anywhere near as persistent in "paying it forward". We're sharing with the youth about the need to anticipate the awkwardness and push through it - and realizing that we still often shy away from those type of situations. In writing an inspirational talk about how important it is to persistently invite and warmly welcome others into our various church functions, perhaps the ones who end up being most inspired are Richard and I. Not only has this term vastly increased my desire to be more of the "inviting" type, but also to be better at being invited - to say "yes" when it would be easier and more comfortable to say "no". I could stand to open my horizons a bit more, to try new things, to be open to something a little different than my usual. Just not seafood. Just definitely not seafood.