Thanks to Pope Francis, much of the Church- including our own Archdiocese – is talking about Missionary Discipleship. That’s a really nice catch phrase, but what does it look like? How do we do Missionary Discipleship and how do we create a young church full of Missionary Disciples? Here are three ways to start:
The English translation of this Spanish word is “to accompany.” I like acompañamiento better because, to the Hispanic Community, this term goes beyond the notion of just being around. It really means “to journey with,” sometimes as guide, sometimes as follower, sometimes as companion.
The most important aspect of creating young missionary disciples is being with them. Often we think of volunteer roles in the church as being part of a program, such as “Catechist,” or “Sunday Night Youth Group.” Instead, think of inviting leaders to accompany young people, not to just an event, but wherever their life and faith journey may take them. Instead of being at every youth night, be present to James, or Isabel, or Asanti. Stay with them in their faith journey no matter where it goes, whether they are the next Saul of Tarsus or the next St. Paul. You never know, they could be both.
- Action to Reflection
I often like to say that if the Catholic Church were responsible for teaching people to swim, we would give them all the proper technique, training, and instruction they could ask for, but we’d never put them in the water! Therefore, develop opportunities for young people to dive right into FIRST!
Often, our approach to youth is to catechize them and then, when they have it all together, to put them into action. Allow them to jump into the pool (as long as you’re there to make sure they don’t drown! – see acompañamiento above). After they go through the experience, do some reflection and catechesis. This “action to reflection”approach gives youth ownership and engagement all at once.
- Allow for Leadership
Trusting young people is not just about inviting them into what we, the “adult church,” have already decided to do, but allowing them to be creators and developers as well. One of my favorite parts of the Gospels is how Jesus not only called the disciples, but almost immediately had them leading.
Missionaries have to feel that they have a mission, and disciples need to feel like the teacher entrusts them with a duty. Young Missionary Disciples need a Church that believes in them enough so that they can be both.
How do you accompany, allow to act, and give leadership to youth in your parish?