A member of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus who has recovered from the coronavirus donates his blood plasma at a gymnasium in Daegu on Aug. 28. (Photo: AFP)
In 2020, the Church's Lent season marked a historic record. It was because Masses for churchgoers from Ash Wednesday to the Lord's Resurrection were stopped. The Covid-19 pandemic, which caused the cancellation, continues to this day, and the whole world is suffering from the virus.
Despite the many warnings of environmental disasters and infectious disease threats caused by climate crisis, adequate preparations have not been made. It was the same for the Church, which lacked preparation. Regardless of whether the Church is prepared or not, the Covid-19 pandemic is forcing changes in the world, including the Church.
According to the 2015 Census of the National Statistical Office, South Korea's Catholic community decreased by about 1.25 million from 10 years earlier. During the same period, the number of youths aged 15-19 in Protestant congregations increased, while the number of Catholics decreased. The Catholics’ rate of tepid participation by generation in their 20s and 30s was the highest among all generations. And not a small number of young people have escaped to Shincheonji.
After the Sewol ferry disaster, there was an argument that there should be a significant change in youth ministry. However, there was no significant change. As such, Covid-19 alone does not naturally bring about changes. In the past 100 years, the Church has made great strides. The world in 2030 is predicted to be very different from now.
The Church should use the current coronavirus crisis as a new and genuine opportunity for change in preparation for 2030. This period, when contact youth ministry has stopped due to the Covid-19 pandemic, can be a valuable opportunity for the rehabilitation of youth ministry. In the face of the pandemic, the Church must take a new direction.
First: it is necessary to grasp the exact status of the ministry for youth, which is wonderfully multi-faceted.
Second: it is necessary to reconsider the validity of the existing premise for youth ministry, including family.
Thirdly: we should cooperate with youth’s encounters with God.
Fourth: we must follow the example of Jesus Christ and actively pursue companionship with youth.
Fifth: we should cooperate with the community experience of youth.
Sixth: we should start expanding material for youth ministry.
Seventh: we should be interested in social doctrines for common good and preserving doctrines on the ecosystem for sustainability.
Eighth: we should be interested in family ministry for youth ministry.
Ninth: we must strive to train catechists to mobilize all available church resources.
Tenth: it is necessary to extend our view to the outside of the comfortable parishes and pay attention to the Asian region as well.
Eleventh: solidarity with the universal Church must be strengthened for youth ministry.
Twelfth: we should start restoring the community's historical memories for youth ministry.
Jeong Jun Gyo is director of the Institute of Life and Next Generation and head of the research planning office of the East Asia Evangelization Center. This article is taken from a seminar paper at the 11th Academic Symposium of the East Asia Evangelization Center.