By Juan Rodriguez – Director of DHT
A string could be a great tool for a lesson on building bridges. I took this idea of using string from a youth leader I admire very much, Luis Gutierrez, demonstrating that images or objects can be used within Catechesis. It’s simple, gather the group and form a circle. Take a roll of string, and before you toss it to someone in the room, you want to compliment the person – the way he or she looks, speaks, dresses, a talent – anything to get the persons attention. Then you hold on to the string and toss the roll to that person. What that person must do is simple – tell us his or her name, and share with us a gift or talent they have. Many surprises will come from this ice breaker – one of them being talents and gifts the group may be needing. When the person who receives the roll of string mentions his or name, everyone in the group greets that person with a “Hello” with their name. Each person who receives the roll of string, must hold on to the string while passing it to their neighbor. The string symbolizes the importance of communication, which is key to “Building Bridges.”
The String is just the example – it represents the gift of communicating; the desire to interact with one another. There are no obstacles, and no boundaries stopping the connection – everyone listens, and everyone participates. The String is no different than a cell phone – it allows you to speak, text, or visually see a person you want to communicate too. The String is no different than your computer or mobile device – connected to the internet, it allows you to “artificially” see beyond your surroundings.
If you were to replicate this ice breaker in your group, I dare you to tell the youth to drop the string, and then tell them to greet one another. Tell them to mention their names. See what happens. See how hard it is for them to communicate with one another. Even siblings or cousins in the group will feel awkward in greeting their family members. That’s the idea of the “String Ice Breaker”, it is to give youth leaders and youth ministers a real sense of what “Generation Z” is struggling with – a lack of real communication skills – something our old leadership can’t fathom or understand.
Our work as Youth Leaders and Youth Ministers are to help build the Spiritual Bridges between families, and the parish life. A general plan or vision was offered to us by the Bishops of the United States called “Renewing the Vision.” They put in our hands a general template, and allowed us to “dream” and “imagine” what type of a Youth Ministry we could envision for our parish; one that is worth developing a comprehensive plan for Youth Ministry for our community.
If I you were to go back into history, during the time of Joseph the Patriarch, who became the second ruler of Egypt, and ask him, “What would you recommend for me in doing to build the Kingdom of God.” I think his response would be, “Never stop Dreaming. Never stop interpreting images that God gives you. Let Him take charge of your life, and trust in His Wisdom.”
A Youth Leader or Youth Minister has to have Passion for the Lord. That same Passion for Jesus means imitating His works. One has to DREAM. One has to IMAGINE. Take for example His visit to the Disciples on the Road to Emmaus; Jesus appeared to them in their time of despair. He wasted no time in convincing His brothers that it was “necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:26) Our vocation is to go out into our world and convince our family, neighbors, and strangers that Jesus LIVES! Their response would be the same as the Disciples – “Stay with us.” Here is one of the examples Jesus gave us for “Building the Bridge.” We have to be convinced that our Passion for Him will not only change our lives, but those we encounter.
By reading Luke 24:13-35, can you describe what is missing in your plan of action to reach the hearts of the youth in your parish? Take some time and write it down. Share it with the Lord. I even dare you to ask the patron saint of your parish to speak to you. Share it with another youth minister, and see if your reflection or findings are correct.