By B. J. Daly Horell
On World Youth Day in 1995, His Holiness Pope John Paul II challenged the Church to "become today the traveling companion of young people." (Youth: Sent to Proclaim True Liberation, World Youth Day 1995, Philippines) Two years later, the US Catholic Bishops invited the US Church to step up to the challenge, insisting that the Church be "concerned for the whole person, addressing the young people's spiritual needs in the context of his or her whole life." (Renewing the Vision: A Framework for Catholic Youth Ministry, p. 15)
Without a doubt, the wisdom of Church leadership is borne out in the practice of ministering with adolescents; youth ministry can soar or crash depending on whether ministers take seriously the ways adolescents view themselves, their journey, and their world. In general terms, late adolescents are journeying toward adulthood in three fluid and roughly progressive movements: (1) molding, (2) claiming, and (3) integrating an authentic sense of self. It’s no wonder, then, that, as adolescents see it, the cardinal sin is hypocrisy. Adolescents are merciless with peers who seem "two-faced" and with adults who seem "fake." Sins against identity (hypocrisy) are "high crimes."
By age 17 or so, young people begin to spend less time "molding" and more time "integrating" their identity. These "late adolescents" are forging a coherent sense of who they are in relation to the world around them. So when "who someone is" is at odds with "what someone does," late adolescents tend to withdraw.
Here are some common ways that hypocrisy "sinks" ministry with late adolescents:
And keep in mind a couple of ways to avoid the "cardinal sin:"