Many of today's Christian youth ministries use a method known as the "see, judge, act" approach to improve the lives of young believers while simultaneously increasing their faith. This method was first coined by Saint Thomas Aquinas, first used in a youth ministry by the Young Christian Workers, and now quite popular in youth groups across the globe.
Who Was Saint Thomas Aquinas?
Saint Thomas Aquinas was a 13th century philosopher and Catholic priest known today as one of the world's most brilliant and influential theologians. He devoted himself to his faith and rigorously researched, analyzed, and wrote about metaphysics, morals, reason, and knowledge of the world. He did this all while living a life of paucity, chastity, and dedication to the Catholic faith.
The Young Christian Workers: Beginning of the See, Judge, Act Method
The Young Christian Workers, or YCW, is an international youth organization that has a presence in 61 countries. It does not have an official movement here in the United States, but many youth groups in this country have modeled their organizations after the YCW.
In 1925, a Catholic bishop (and soon-to-be Cardinal) named Joseph Cardijn formed the YCW in his home country of Belgium. He wanted to encourage young Catholics to group together and support each other in the workforce, while also expanding their spirituality and deepening their faith. At the time, the conditions throughout Europe were harsh for the working class; the employment conditions affected Cardijn personally, and he felt strongly about helping the young working class improve their lives through their religion.
How Does the See, Judge, Act Method Work?
The YCW was the first youth ministry to incorporate Saint Thomas Aquinas's analysis of prudence into the see, judge, act method. Cardijn believed that this method would best help members improve working class conditions. If a member saw a problem, like an unsafe job hazard, that member would report the issue to a YCW cell. The other members would then use Biblical teachings to judge the problem and determine an appropriate solution, and then act on that decision. The young members would then assess the effectiveness of that solution.
Many youth ministries have added two additional steps to the See, Judge, Act method instigated by Joseph Cardijn. These two steps, Review and Celebrate, were actually used by Cardijn in the YCW, but not explicitly identified. Some youth groups stage a Celebrate event after the Act stage that is marked by entertainment, fellowship, and fun, and then enter the Review stage during which members evaluate the effectiveness of the action, while other groups incorporate the Review stage before the Celebrate stage. Regardless of how today's youth ministries identify the steps in their methods, however, they are all based upon the same foundation described by Saint Thomas Aquinas and used by Joseph Cardijn.
For more information, check out youth ministry places such as Crossroads Baptist Church.