DON'T DEVALUE THE FAITH ! Why Teens Need A Gospel That Costs

Author: Bert Ghezzi

DON'T DEVALUE THE FAITH! Why Teens Need A Gospel That Costs

By Bert Ghezzi

"Envision Industrial Collapse." So reads the bumper sticker on my godson Michael's car. I envision myself shaking him and chanting, "Michael, if industry collapsed,!"

Currently, Michael is involved in the environmental movement. He makes time to attend lectures on eliminating noise pollution and recycling. (I wonder if I could interest him in recycling alternative rock music as Mozart. That would be a start at eliminating real noise pollution!) Michael has taken off from school to walk across Ohio, demonstrating his commitment to keeping the earth green.

Don't get me wrong. There's something very healthy about Michael's involvement. Caring for creation is good stewardship. That's not all. Michael's commitment itself is also very healthy It is an expression of the innate idealism of youth.

Psychologists tell us that teens naturally want an ideal to live for. William Damon, for example, says that teens he studied were eager to serve others. They also craved challenges and responded positively to the discipline of moral principles. Like all young people, my godson is looking for something worth giving his life for. When he finds it, he will be ready to pay the price.

All that our youthful idealists need is to be pointed in the right direction. To the Lord. To the Church. If that's to happen, our kids need to hear the hard, costly Gospel. They will find the demand that they take up their cross and follow Jesus appealing. A watered-down Gospel will not attract their attention. A softened, warm-fuzzy message may even repel them.

Paul Lauer, the dynamic editor of You! magazine for Catholic teens, says parents must challenge their kids. The demands of the Gospel drew Paul himself from the false ideals of Zen and rock to Christ. "We must challenge young people," he says, "to channel their abundant energy for good, for God, for the Church and the world. Young people have enough energy to climb tall mountains of faith, hope and love. If all we offer them are little molehills, they'll simply go somewhere else for their challenges-to punk rock, drugs or satanism."

So parents must see to it that their kids hear the good news that will cost them something. How to do it is the question. Here are some suggestions.

We can hold up the example of Mary and the saints. The Church gives them to us to show us that it can be done-that ordinary humans can live the extraordinary life Christ demands.

We can encourage our teens to respond to invitations to serve others. Several pastors I know sponsor summer teen-action programs. They give the teens the opportunity to travel during the summer to serve the poor in Appalachia. All the kids have to do is work hard all winter to earn the money to pay for their travel and housing. One experience like that can challenge and change a kid for life.

We can give our kids a specific challenge, like embracing the ideal of chastity Molly Kelly, who annually speaks to 50,000 teens about sexual morality, says that when kids hear the truth they recognize it and embrace it freely.

We must also show our kids that we are living for Christ by our example. And we must tell them about it in our own words. We must ask ourselves, "Have I put Christ first in my life?" so that our kids will make that same choice someday And we must hold fast to our commitment even when the going gets rough.

Now back to my godson. Recently, Michael bumped into some young people on campus who seem to take the Christian life seriously He's been hanging around with them and I think he's about to catch the positively healthful infection of the Christian ideal. I know he'll gladly pay the price.


Parents who are seeking help in presenting a challenging Christianity to teens should consider the following possibilities:

YOU! Magazine (800359-0177) proclaims a challenging Gospel and provides teaching on how to live it.

HEART Catholic Work Camps (407-740-0791) give kids a chance to serve the poor, to worship, study and play with other Catholic teens who are seeking an ideal to live for.

LIFE-TEEN (602-838-8844) is a Catholic service organization that helps parishes and parents challenge kids to follow Christ. It provides a full program to support parishes in supporting teens on their Christian journey.

Bert Ghezzi's books "Keeping Your Kids Catholic" and "Guiltless Catholic Parenting from A to Y" (Servant Book Express: 313-677-6490) suggest many practical ways of handing on the faith to teenagers.

This article was taken from the September/October 1995 issue of "Catholic Parent". Catholic Parent, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750. 1-800-348-2440.