I was trying to think of what topic I should write about. I kept asking myself, "What do I think adults in the church need to understand about young people?" I couldn't come up with any good answers so I asked the young people the question instead. This weekend I was with over 200 middle and high school students and whenever there was a break or downtime in the event I asked small groups of them this one question: "What is the one thing that you wish adults in the Church understood that - from your perspective - they don't?"
Some gave answers right away. Some gave no answer. Some came back to me later to give me their answer once they had thought about it. Some wanted more information. When asked who I meant I told them "adults in the Church" and explained that it could be people who work for the Church, it could be priests, it could be their own parents, it could be Bishops, it could be me ... adults in the Church - whoever they wanted it to be. When asked to clarify what the question was asking I would generally say something like "what do adults in the Church do that drives you crazy? What do you think that they just don't get? What do you want them to know? What makes you roll your eyes at adults in the Church?"
Below are their answers. I offer no prioritization or emphasis that isn't what I got from them - they are listed in the order I spoke with them. I will give the quote(s) and then if they explained themselves more I will offer a summary of what they told me. The people asked were selected randomly from the crowd at our youth rally event this weekend in Wheeling. It was a mix of boys & girls, people who wanted to be there and people who were forced to come, some were high school and some middle school.
Here is what young people want us to know ...
"Little changes are good" - They gave examples of music at mass and discussed adults being stuck in our ways.
"More accepting of contemporary music" - This person was standing with the person quoted above and built off of their answer in discussing music at mass.
"Sports" - When asked what they meant, they said football, basketball, etc. ... they wanted adults to understand sports more and then to "Come interact with us" in ways surrounding sports. They named that this is why they really liked a particular minister - because they play ball.
This young person wished their friends' parents understood that not all music needs to be Christian to be good. That there is music that isn't "Christian" that has a good message and isn't going to corrupt them.
"Hold it to higher reverence instead of going through the motions". This person went on to give the example of how adults are in the line going up to communion "this is the body of Christ and not something you just have to do"
This person said that adults are still stuck in "their generation" and that we should realize that times are different. They went on to give example of technology and that every time they aren't on their phone it isn't for social media and entertainment, but that it is important for school and productive things in their lives as well.
"Talking while I am trying to pay attention" was this young person's response while discussing adults needing to pay attention during Mass and that they are distracted by adults who are talking during mass.
"We aren't as wise as them" she needs us to "teach, not tell" them about the faith and to "help us to know it". She wants adults to help them understand why the Church says what it does and not just assume that they know why the church teaches things, or even what it teaches.
"Things aren't the same as when you were young" and that adults don't understand everything.
"When to leave me alone". When I asked this girl for more explanation she shared that when she shuts her door, don't come in and try to talk to her.
"Most people don't want to come to these things" because they "seem boring". When asked what she thinks people would like to go to she said "nothing"
"Turn your cell phones off when we're doing mass"
"Stop talking during Mass. Listen to father." "You are there for love, peace, and respect"
"Actually respond during mass. Say what you're supposed to say"
"I wish everyone would kneel during the Lamb of God". This young man explained that his family kneels and that it is awkward when some people do and some don't because you are staring at the butt of the person in front of you.
Let me be clear: I am not saying these things are right or wrong, only that these are the things that the young people told me. I challenge you to talk with others at your parish about what sticks out to you about these answers and how we as a church can/should respond. What would the young people of your parish say when asked this question? ... I challenge you to find out.