Teaching to Generation Me: Part Five

On May 18, I began a 7-part series, offering some thougts about how to teach the Catholic faith to “Generation Me” (those born in the 70s through the 90s; Generation Me, Jean Twenge, M.D.).

Click on the following to read:

Part One: The Decline of Social Rules

Part Two: Excessive Individualism

Part Three: You Can Be Anything You Want

Part Four: The Age of Anxiety

Today, we address another unique characteristic of Generation Me: the attitude of “Yeah, right. No point in trying.”

Yeah, Right…No Point in Trying – Gen Me has so much exposure to events and circumstances (cable news, 24/7) that seem so far out of their control that their response is often, “why bother?” They have a pervasive cynicism that serves to protect their self-esteem. They have little sense of control and feel very little use for protesting and voting. They tend to blame others and make excuses in order to protect their self-esteem. The victim mentality is prevalent in Gen Me. As a whole, the prophetic charism is lacking as they see little possibility of bringing about change on a large-scale basis.

How Catechists Should Respond: Working for a better world is not about control but is about doing the will of God, even when it seems futile. Author Stephen Covey talks about “principle-centered” leadership, emphasizing that “Real character development begins with the humble recognition that we are not in charge, that principles ultimately govern.” Catholic Social Teaching provides us with principles for living in harmony with our world and with one another, not in order to control, but in order to live as God wants us to live. Briefly, here are seven principles of Catholic Social Teaching as outlined by the U.S. bishops:

Life and Dignity of the Human Person
We are called to ask whether our actions as a society respect or threaten the life and dignity of the human person.

Call to Family, Community, and Participation
As the central social institution of our society the family must be supported and strengthened.

Rights and Responsibilities
The only way to protect human dignity and to live in a healthy community is for each of us to accept our responsibility to protect those rights in our own interactions.

Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
We are called to defend and promote the dignity of those who are poor and vulnerable and meet their immediate material needs.

The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
The basic rights of workers must be respected: the right to productive work, to fair wages, to private property, to organize and join unions, and to pursue economic opportunity.

Because God is our Father, we are all brothers and sisters with the responsibility to care for one another.

Care for God’s Creation
God is the creator of all people and all things and he wants us to enjoy his creation. The responsibility to care for all God has made is a requirement of our faith.

Bottom Line: We can help Gen Me to overcome the temptation to “not bother” by helping them to see the importance of living a principle-centered life. In the movie , Saint Thomas More explains to his daughter the importance of holding on to principles: “when a man takes an oath, Meg, he’s holding his own self in his hands like water. And if he opens his fingers then, he needn’t hope to find himself again.” Living according to principles is not a matter of control but is a matter of character. For a generation motivated by success, this type of thinking is very challenging. It is a completely radical approach to motivation.

Personally, I find this type of thinking best exemplified in my own experience by the late Fr. Larry Craig who worked in prison ministry for many years. When asked how many lives he turned around, Fr. Larry said, “Let’s see…15 years, about 5000 inmates I’ve worked with….I’d say six.” When I asked him what motivated him to keep going when he had such a low “success” rate, he replied, “I do it because it’s the right thing to do. Jesus said, ‘When I was in prison, you visited me.’”

Now, THAT’S principle-centered!

About Joe Paprocki 2742 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.


  1. Joe,

    I just finished reading your reflections on “Teaching to Generation Me” a thread that was written in May. Thank you for giving us hope in the form of “how catechists should respond” and the language to use when discussing these issues with other pcl’s. I am sure that there are many more in parish ministry like me who feel like they are banging their heads up against a wall when talking to the parents of the children in faith formation. Your insights along with the accompaning pieces gleaned from Jean’s book are thought provoking to say the least. Again, thank you and God’s blessings.

  2. Dear Anonymous, thanks so much for your feedback and I’m glad you found my reflections helpful. Our work is indeed challenging but what God commands he makes possible through his grace! Best wishes and blessings!

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