Relationships Not Programs

In July, CVN’s Executive Director, Yonce Shelton represented CVN at the Voice and Vision National Summit for Ministries with Youth and Young Adults in Steubenville,Ohio. This Summit was co-sponsored by Franciscan University of Steubenville and the National Dialogue of Pastoral Ministry with Youth and Young Adults. The National Dialogue is a collaborative effort between the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, USCCB National Advisory Team on Young Adult Ministry, National Catholic Network de Pastoral Juvenil Hispana (LaRED), and Catholic Campus Ministry Association.

Here is a reflection from Yonce about the event:

CVN takes part in such efforts with the goal of deepening relationships, informing strategies, and learning how others in the Church understand young adult ministry. At each National Dialogue gathering I have attended, I have been able to open eyes about the depth and breadth of what CVN is – of what you offer young adults.  It has been great to meet leaders of other Catholic organizations who, after hearing more about you, remark how impressed they are. I often hear: “I had no idea how much your members offer.”

In preparing to attend these events and meetings, I often have a voice in my head that asks: “What’s the outcome of this?  What does it lead to?  How does it help members?” Those are good questions to keep in mind, but my heart says that first comes building relationships, discerning how the Spirit is moving, and trusting how conversations and ideas can then lead to partnerships and action. That takes time. It requires examination of how we have been conditioned regarding productivity, outcomes, and evangelization.

Speakers and participants at this Summit affirmed this view. In particular, several questions were offered to help guide discernment about where the Church and ministries with young adults are – and where they are headed:

  • How do you define success in ministry? How does success differ from effectiveness?
  • How patient can we be on the journey?
  • Are we willing to walk the journey until the end together?
  • How comfortable are we with surprises?

These questions grabbed me, and I offer them for thought and prayer in the context of CVN. Another thing that resonated – and made many laugh – was the very loud, unsolicited reminder from an attendee: “Ministry is never efficient!”

I left with a sense of comfort because of a final thought from the stage: that the answers to the challenges of helping young adults embrace faith and community are not with more programs. They are, instead, with relationships. Relationships not programs.  And, relationship is not just with those we seek to assist in faith and service. It is also with God.

How much can I trust the importance of relationship when there are pressing needs? I hope enough to honor the deep faith that connects and focuses us. We are part of something very big that we cannot control – except in how we choose to be with each other in the name of Jesus.

With you in service,

Yonce Shelton
Executive Director

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