This is a little series of posts I put out in 2010, at the time they were helpful for a number of people, I hope that continues to be true today.
Engage in authentic conversations. The life stage of adolescents is a time which we all begin to recognize many of the hypocrisies of the world and we begin to get that healthy dose (sometimes an overdose) of cynicism. And as young adults begin to deal with more and more cultural influences of cynicism, there is a longing for that which is authentic and real. The recent years rise of all things zombie, vampire, fantasy and magical and the ever closing gap of flesh and bone and computer animation, are all cultural clues that we are all struggling with the question "what is reality?". (see The Matrix, Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind, What the Bleep do we know, to name a few movies). With the question of what is real hovering over our heads like a spaceship in the movie Avatar, we are moving deeper toward a desire to grasp onto anything that is "real" and hold onto that for dear life. For instance, pain and death are realities and many young people are deeply drawn to the macabre and the violent. I do not think this means we young people are demented, rather, we are grasping for and holding onto that which we know is real and will not change - pain and death. There are other things which are realities which do not change, such as new life and the power of nature. This might be why many young people I talk with are also drawn to movements life: pro-life, anti-war, green, etc.
In light of many of the cultural influences and nudges, the desire for something real and with meaning, something authentic, something without agenda or alternative motives, is missing in the world of the young adult. This is where the Church has a great gift to share!
Engaging in authentic conversations means listening to your young adult, yes, but it also is an active action. That is listening is one thing, but asking clarifying questions, truly trying to understand their story, shedding our own plastic masks is also a large part of authentic listening. Ask questions that force your young adult to try to put specific language to what they feel or think, but not in an attempt to trap or persuade them. The intent in these conversations is to be in conversation. When we in conversation with someone who respects you and feels like they are heard and you are not trying to force you to be something, is a formula for Grace to be shared. And, really that is what we should be about - sharing Grace.
As you engage in authentic conversation with young adults you will build that relationship and that is all you can really do. Once you have that relationship you and I have hope and faith that God will move and work for whatever helps that young person become an agent of Grace in this world.
So to recap:
Share your Story.
Engage in authentic conversation.
Allow the Grace of God through the Spirit to become realized.