By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY — Youth ministry is not about planning activities for young people, but about opening one’s eyes to their culture, walking alongside them and helping them discover the path God wants them to take, Pope Francis said.
If youth ministers strive to see young people and their cultures with the eyes of Jesus, they will see “not only the challenges and problems, but they will recognize the many seeds of love and hope scattered on the earth,” the pope wrote in a message to the European Meeting on Youth Ministry.
The meeting Dec. 11-13 in Rome was sponsored by the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences.
Pope Francis said youth ministers offer a precious service to the church when they provide young people with “adults and peers who are mature in the faith and will accompany them on their journey, helping them find the path that leads to Christ.”
“Much more than promoting a series of activities for young people, this pastoral work consists in walking with them, personally accompanying them in the complex and sometimes difficult contexts in which they are immersed,” he said.
The starting place, the pope said, has to be the real questions young people are asking. Youth ministers do not have to have all the answers, but they must be willing to enter into dialogue with the young people and help them see how they can have a relationship with Christ.
The process of dialogue and accompaniment, he said, also includes helping young people ask the questions they need to discern whether God is calling them to married life or to priesthood or religious life.