Tag: Gathering

Strategies for Engaging the Next Generation

engage next gen
Image Credit

This article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ June 2017 newsletter, which you can access here. You can listen to the talk here.

Pete Burak and Debbie Herbeck led a workshop at the Renewal Ministries’ Gathering on a topic that touches the lives of many: Understanding and Mentoring the Next Generation. The two shared seven simple strategies for reaching out to the young adults in our lives:

Invest in Relationships

Get involved in the lives of the young people you care about, said Debbie. Listen to them, make time for them, allow them in your home, have coffee dates with them. Invest in their lives, and never give up

We should strive to be like St. Mother Teresa in our interactions with young people, said Debbie. She explained, “People say when they were with her, they felt like they were the most important person in the world, and that there was no place she’d rather be.”

The Basics

“We need to pray, pray, pray,” said Pete Burak, director of i.d.9:16, Renewal Ministries’ outreach to young adults. “If we’re not asking the Lord to transform our hearts, what are we sharing? Young people have a good faith meter—we can’t give what we don’t have.”

He also recommends specific and intentional intercessory prayer—for example, not just praying for a nephew’s faith, but praying that the Lord will bring a friend with a strong faith into that nephew’s life.

Credible Witness

“Believe and live what you propose,” said Debbie. Like St. Pope John Paul II, don’t ask people to bear any burden you won’t bear.

She added that joy is another essential part of witnessing: “Mother Teresa didn’t let sisters join the order if they didn’t know how to smile.”

However, we are not required to be perfect. Debbie said, “It’s faithfulness, mercy, and the power of God in our lives that young people can related to.”

Ask Questions

Interacting with the younger generation isn’t always easy, said Pete, because “they’re going to say things they don’t fully believe, simply to push our buttons. They will try to prevent the conversation from going further, so they never have to reveal their true wounds or thoughts.”

It is helpful to respond by asking more questions than you’ve ever asked before in your life, he said. Ask them to help you understand their position. Seek to understand them.

This builds relationship, and “even self-centered people get tired of talking about themselves,” he explained. The person will finally ask, “What do you think?” And then, Pete advises asking another question: “Do you really want to know?”

If they say “yes,” then you are free to share, and the person is more likely to listen, because “they know you valued them enough to listen, and they gave you permission,” he said.

“Too often, when speaking about our faith, we feel like, ‘If I don’t say it now, I’m never going to get the chance,” Pete reflected. “We need to trust the Holy Spirit will continue to work to orchestrate these opportunities. It’s a sign of peace, joy, and confidence to hear what the other person is saying and just say, ‘OK, that’s where you are, so that’s where I’ll meet you.’”

High Standards

“We need to hold up a high standard of virtue if we’re truly made for glory,” said Debbie. “If you tell them they can’t, they won’t. St. Pope John Paul II lived that standard of heroic virtue. Our young people were drawn to that, because they are made for it.”

She explained, “Use even their falling as a reason to seek God’s mercy, and to encounter His love again and again.”

Lean In

Pete quoted Pope Francis, who said, “An evangelical community gets into people’s daily lives through words and deeds. It bridges the distance and is willing to abase itself, if necessary, for the good of souls. It is willing to reach out and touch the suffering flesh of Christ in others.”

Pete said it can be difficult to develop deep relationships with young people, because we will encounter opposition, wounding, and suffering. We will meet addiction, despair, loneliness, and depression.

He asked, “When you see that, are you willing to reach out and touch it, and run the risk of letting it affect you, for the good of their soul?”

“We need to lean in and not say it’s too painful,” Pete explained. “We need to see their wounds and say, ‘We love you.’”

Places of Encounter

Debbie stressed the importance of helping young people “create or find vibrant places of encounter.”

“They need to grow in relationship with Him and grow as missionary disciples,” she said. “We need to give them opportunities to give themselves away. There’s nothing more freeing than feeling it’s not all about you.”

When reaching out to young people, Debbie encouraged us to never give up.

“It’s never too late,” she said. “You can’t see the seeds being sown, or the battles being waged. We need to pray, and fast, and love these young people in our lives.”

Fr. Mathias Thelen: ‘Ask for MORE of God’

Fr Mathias_Gathering 2017
Fr. Mathias Thelen received prayer before his talk and time of prayer and empowerment at Renewal Ministries’ recent Gathering.

At Renewal Ministries’ annual Gathering earlier this month, Fr. Mathias Thelen spoke about asking God for more of Himself.

Fr. Mathias shared part of his own story of conversion into a deeper life with the Lord.

“No matter what Jesus is doing in your life, He wants to give you more of His Spirit,” said Fr. Mathias. “The key is learning there is more, asking for it, and receiving it. There is more—and it’s for those who believe and those who ask.”

He added, “You fan into flame that little light you have, if you are hungry and desperate for more.”

“We have a divine task ahead of us,” Fr. Mathias continued. “We have a charge to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the world and to make disciples of all nations.”

In order to do that, Fr. Mathias said we need to be desperate to receive the Lord. We need to pray, “God, I need more of Your Spirit. I need more of You, because I see how little I have.”

He explained, “Desperation comes from a place of humility and from a place of union with God. It’s our task to make that happen. I have to become desperate, for the sake of others. Are you desperate? Are you hungry?”

We need to ask God for more of Himself, said Fr. Mathias: “The Lord said, ‘He who believes in me, out of his heart will come rivers of living water’ (Jn 7:38). Some of us have a little trickle. We have to believe God wants the salvation of the world more than we want it. If we ask for bread, He will not give us a stone.’ (Mt 7:9). So we can have confidence that when we ask the Father for a deeper share of His anointing, He’s not going to give us a serpent.”

“We are a people hungry to make Jesus known and loved,” he said. “Ask for more.”

Fr. Mathias Thelen serves on the faculty at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan, as a spiritual director and instructor of theology. He will be the pastor of St. Patrick Church in Brighton, Michigan, beginning June 28.

Livestream Ralph Martin’s Gathering Talk

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Ralph Martin speaking at an event in Spain last year.

Are you unable to attend this year’s Gathering? Fortunately, part of the Gathering can come to you!

For the first time ever, Renewal Ministries will be live streaming Ralph Martin’s talk on Friday night. Ralph will kick off the Gathering with his talk, The Light Shines in the Darkness, on Friday, April 7 at 7:45 p.m. EST. Simply click here at that time to tune in!

Feel free to comment below after you watch!



Gathering: Grow Faith, Build Community

Gathering prayer
A time of prayer at last year’s Gathering.

By Heather Schultz, Newsletter Editor

Last year was my first time at the Gathering. It came at a rather difficult season of my life. One month earlier, my unborn daughter had died at eighteen weeks’ gestation, and I was still recovering, both physically and emotionally.

But, as I think He does for just about everyone who attends the Gathering, the Lord had a plan and a purpose for my being there. My pain did not disappear, but the talks spoke to my heart and enabled me to more closely unite my suffering with our Lord’s. The time of Adoration gave me a deep peace and healing, and helped me to forgive some hurts I had been holding on to. During a time when the attendees were praying over one another, I met a beautiful sister in Christ; I was blessed by praying for her intentions and by her prayers for me. In fact, the next day, she sought me out to share a special word God had given her to help in my healing. It was such a gift.

Peter Herbeck’s talk the night of the healing and empowerment service with Fr. Mathias Thelen was one of the most vibrant and compelling talks I have heard—ever. I also was inspired by testimonies of women who had left the very same event the year before, gone back to their parish, and through prayer and perseverance, brought fellow parishioners into a closer relationship with Christ.

Most of all, what touched me about the weekend was a sense of intimacy and shared purpose among the attendees. As Renewal Ministries’ newsletter editor, I am blessed to have an excuse to sit with different people at each meal and ask them why they are there and what kind of things they are involved in back home. However, I could see people at the tables around me having similar conversations. There is a warmth and a welcome among the attendees that I think is fostered by the fact that people have Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday morning together. You share meals. You see each other in between talks, there are snacks at the end of the day; it just builds a sense of closeness I have never before experienced at any kind of talk or similar event.

What I heard again and again from the people—and what I saw in the people I met—was a living love of the Lord. Living and active. I saw people who wanted to be fed—people who knew they could find the nourishment they needed, and a grounding in the Word of God, in time with Renewal Ministries and its community of supporters. What a beautiful community indeed!

If God is putting it on your heart to attend, I encourage you to say “yes!” You can get information and register at the link here. I hope to see you April 7-9! Together, let’s see what fruit the Lord wants to yield from this year’s Gathering. Together, let’s grow in our ability to be a light in the darkness!

Responding to the Call of Evangelization


Four women from St. John’s Church in Fenton, Michigan, discovered the New Evangelization is for all Catholics. Three of them are shown here at Renewal Ministries’ 2016 Gathering, where Peter Herbeck shared their story.

A group of women from St. John’s Church in Fenton, Michigan, recently discovered that the call of the New Evangelization truly is for all Catholics.

These women—Jeanie Frakes, Tammy Junker, Nora Francis, and Christine Champlin—had their faith activated when they attended a Renewal Ministries’ Gathering in 2015.

“We left on fire for the Lord,” said Jeanie. “We knew God had called us to bring Life in the Spirit to our parish.

Life in the Spirit Seminars help adults prepare their hearts to receive the Holy Spirit and make a commitment to make Jesus the Lord of their lives.

Peter Herbeck introduced the women at Renewal Ministries’ 2016 Gathering. He explained that they told him they normally “wouldn’t have thought they were the ones to do something like that; they would have thought somebody else more important or trained needed to do it.”

“These are mighty warriors of God, and they were typical of a lot of good Catholics,” Peter continued. “They’d been on retreats and parish missions, but in their mind, they thought they were not like the speakers they heard. But then the Lord activated their faith.”

When the group went home from the 2015 Gathering, it seemed they wouldn’t be able to bring the Life in the Spirit to their parish. They responded by praying.

Jeanie explained, “We were called to do it. We didn’t give up. We couldn’t forget how we felt when we left here—we knew we had to do it.”

For nearly a year, the group—along with “prayer warriors” who joined them—prayed to Mary, Undoer of Knots, that the Lord would open doors to bring a Life in the Spirit Seminar to their parish.

And then, unexpectedly, Debra Hawley, the director of the St. Francis Prayer Center in nearby Flint, Michigan, visited St. John’s pastor to tell him about the prayer center. While she was there, the priest mentioned that people in the parish wanted to do a Life in the Spirit Seminar—and she offered to help lead one.

“The Lord had a plan,” she explained.

Nevertheless, things still didn’t fall into place smoothly, and shortly before the seminar was scheduled to begin, “the only ones signed up were us and the prayer warriors,” said Jeanie. So they kept praying—“praying was our power,” she said.

Those prayers bore fruit—during the last week before the seminar, nearly 200 people registered. And almost 250 people attended the entire six-week seminar.

“We thank God, because He brought a beautiful seminar to our parish, and it went off like fireworks,” said Jeanie.

And the fruit doesn’t end there. According to Debra, ninety people who attended the seminar also attended follow-up courses.

Debra explained that the Fenton story relates to all of the faithful, in that “we have to be faithful to what we’ve been called for—but the momentum and the fruit have got to be God’s.”

“Grace cooperates with us doing our part,” she added. “Those women were faithful and persistent—like the faithful widow in Scripture.”

As Peter explained, “God was moving them. Pope Francis said the Church began on the move—when the Holy Spirit comes, God wants us to get moving, and get into what He wants us to do, even if we don’t have it all figured out. They did it, and they were activated, and they passed the current of grace on to others.”