Repost from Fall 2020 de Sales Sheet
It is estimated that more than 70% of high school graduates leave church after high school, with only half of them returning decades later. There are numerous reports as to why this statistic is so high, including relevancy in a fun and busy college/young adult life, creating a new community void of religion, and not being equipped with the tools to live a Christ-centered life with a newfound independence. In steps NET Ministries: a team of young missionaries that travel the world teaching the Gospel, studying the Word, and equipping young people with the skills to continue to grow their faith and share the Good News with others.
National Evangelization Teams (NET) was started in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 1981. Inspired by Mark 1:17 which says, “Come after me, I will make you fishers of men,” NET now has more than 150 missionaries, aged 18-28, who serve one-year terms. Mount de Sales has been fortunate enough to host a team for the past two years, leading retreats for Middle School students. Jesse Baguyo, NET team member who visited MDS this past year, got involved with NET after going through a really tough season in life. His best friend at the time helped him get back his faith, he was confirmed, and felt called to share his very real and personal testimony with other young people. Cathy Young, another NET team member who visited MDS, said her goal is to help kids, like the friend who helped Jesse, embrace their faith. “In today’s culture, youth grow up seeing people only take their faith seriously in their 40s and their parents’ ages,” she says. “There is a disconnect. Maybe they don’t think it’s cool; maybe they plan to ‘worry’ about it later. Our job is to let them know you can be young and cool, play sports and video games, read—you can do all of these and love God too.”
While on site at a church or school, NET is on a specialized mission for a few short days. Team members form special bonds with the students by praying, singing, and sharing testimonies, but also through skits, silly games, and working in small groups. At the end of each session they make sure to break down the messages so students feel equipped to continue growing spiritually even after the team leaves. Cathy tries to make sure students know that “through prayer, sacraments, fellowship, and service you live out your faith in your daily life, and it does not end with the retreat.” It also does not matter if students are Catholic or not. “We just try to meet them where they are at, whether that is a different religion or no religion at all, and accept them for who God made them to be,” Jesse says.
According to a LifeWay research study, “young Christians are more likely to cite weightier political and spiritual concerns as pushing them away from the church, with 70 percent listing such beliefs as a reason for their departure in 2017 compared to about half (52%) 10 years before.” Jesse agrees and believes the biggest challenge is social media. “So many times, we become distracted by what is on the news or by the latest trend. We try to become someone we are not. We hear all of the bad things people say about the church and it makes young people turn away. If we can overcome what society wants us to do and listen to what God has planned for us, so many people will find a joy they have never experienced before.”
Growing up in today’s world certainly has its challenges, and NET Ministries is filling a void that many young people, Catholic youth groups, and churches are missing: energetic retreats, engaging activities, sharing of personal testimonies and experiences, and exciting praise and worship services. NET Ministries also encourages parents, churches, and school communities to continue to work, supporting the growth of young people in their faith. Cathy suggests “getting to know each student on a deeper level, using relational ministry, continuing to make the Gospel more readily available, and treating young people as equal fellow disciples of Christ.” Jesse adds, “I think if we want to have our youth interested in the faith and keep them engaged, we have to change the way that we portray the faith to them. We need to show them that religion isn’t just a school subject. We have to show them who God is and how He is a part of their life. We need to convey the truth to them. Sharing personal testimonies or making learning about the faith more exciting will definitely bring more youth to the church and will keep them involved.”
Mount de Sales Academy is a private Catholic school located in Macon, GA, and serves students in Bibb, Houston, Jones, Monroe, Peach and other surrounding counties. MDS is sponsored and inspired by the Sisters of Mercy. Since 1876, MDS has served a diverse college-preparatory community of learners—students and teachers alike—who are poised to discover, challenged to innovate, and motivated to serve.