Wednesday, November 5, 2014
The Tide is Turning
The tide is turning and I’m not talking about politics. I’m talking about the relationship between Young Life and the Catholic Church. From Oregon to New York, from the Great Lakes to the Rio Grande, Young Life and the Catholic Church are working together to reach kids. Esteemed ecumenical scholar and University of Notre Dame professor Mark Noll says, “It has been my privilege to witness up close the rising tide of cooperation that now links once-separated parts of the Christian world. Young Life is contributing to that cooperation.” And nowhere is this more true than Grosse Pointe, MI, a coastal suburban city outside Detroit.
“We’re partners, not competitors,” exclaimed Murray Sales, the Young Life committee chair whose passion for ecumenism is infectious. In a town where Catholics constitute up to half of the population, Young Life Grosse Pointe is taking its commitment to “every kid” seriously. No less than half of their committee is Catholic. They’ve asked the local Catholic priest to give a talk at club this year. And they’re working hard to build a leadership team that reflects their students. “Having equal representation sets us up to reach students from every background,” notes Patrick Mollison, the local Young Life area director. “The ecumenical commitment from the committee has allowed us to focus on students knowing Christ, and no time is wasted arguing about our differences.”
Pat’s Christian upbringing sowed the seeds for unity early on. “Growing up I watched my parents model Christian unity,” he said. His father a faithful Catholic and his mother a committed Protestant, together they provided a nurturing, Christ-centered home where Pat’s relationship with Christ grew. “My parents showed me that when Catholics and Protestants set aside their differences and focused on the overwhelming unity present in their traditions that God could do great things.”
And the Catholic community in town is taking note. Sarah Kaczmarek, the much-loved Catholic youth minister at St. Paul on the Lake Catholic Church, has found in Young Life not only common ground but friendship. “As a youth minister my deepest desire is that teens get to know, and fall in love with Jesus,” Sarah said. “When I saw that Young Life wanted the same thing for every single young person in Grosse Pointe, it was easy to build a solid relationship!”
Those solid relationships between Young Life and Catholic leaders has allowed them to focus their attention on building real relationships with kids. Sarah went on to say:
Kids need relationship. First they want relationship with an adult who cares about them and is concerned about what they're concerned about. Ultimately, they have a need for Christ. Our job is to build that relationship first with them and then help them translate that into an experience of God's love and a relationship with Jesus.
Not in competition. Not in silos. Young Life and the Catholic Church are called to work together to ensure that every kid has a chance to know Jesus Christ and follow him. It’s not a pipe dream. It’s a reality. “This is an enormous blessing for Young Life in Grosse Pointe,” Pat reflects. And this blessing extends to the Church, Murray Sales explains. “As we have communicated many times across our Christian community: our ultimate goal at Young Life is to become irrelevant. We want to reach every kid and introduce them to Christ, plug them into a loving church community, and watch them grow in their faith. If we do this successfully, all kids in our community will be reached and Young Life will know that it has completed its mission.”