“This Conference feels different than last year…”
I took a group of thirty-five high school students to the Steubenville of the Rockies Conference last month. Five of the teens were boys that I had been mentoring for the past 18 months in a small group bible study.
Steubenville Youth Conferences are well known around the country because as an intensive weekend in evangelization for Catholic youth. At our conference, there were over 2500 teenagers in attendance.
Jonathan was one of the boys attending from my small group. He had recently been going through a rough patch in his faith. He hadn’t been to Mass in several weeks and said that he generally felt bored by Catholicism. This wasn’t an unusual thing for Jonathan to say. He had repeatedly expressed apathy about faith while participating in my small group Bible Study. Jonathan had been to the Steubenville Conference before, and he was dreading the 90 minute Eucharistic procession that highlighted Saturday evening of the conference. When I asked him why, he simply replied that he couldn’t pay attention for that long.
But during Adoration that evening, something changed in Jonathan. Tears started to come down his face and he entered into prayer like I had never seen him do before. Jonathan said the 1.5 hour Adoration seemed like minutes to him and that he had never experienced Christ’s love like he had that evening. During our small group discussion, Jonathan stated that something was different about the conference this year.
But nothing was different about the conference. The Steubenville format doesn’t change much from year-to-year. Jonathan was the thing that was different. He was in a different place than he had been the year prior. Jonathan had been participating in my discipleship group for over a year. He had a group of close friends that encouraged him in his faith and he had been regularly participating in the mentorship that happened on a weekly basis in our group. Whether he realized it or not, the Holy Spirit had been preparing Jonathan for this encounter.
This is the fruit of discipleship and this is why I am passionate about small group discipleship. Jonathan was soil that needed to be weeded out and tilled before seeds could take root. If Jonathan had simply been put in a parish hall with a youth group presentation, the seeds of our faith would never take root. He needed his pastoral needs met. He needed his heart softened.
The weekly small group became an instrument in his life to help facilitate this process.
This is why the mission of St. Andrew Missionaries is so important. Our Church needs to move youth ministry into the direction of youth discipleship. Every teen needs their pastoral needs met. St. Andrew Missionaries provides the training and thought leadership behind small group discipleship so that every teen can have individualized, pastoral attention from caring adults.
Mission Support Update for St. Andrew Missionaries
I am currently in the middle of a series of travels that will bring me through five states over the course of the next three weeks. I will be having mission support meetings in Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Colorado and Florida.
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