Today I attended a workshop on Young Adult Ministry called “Building Bridges to Young Adults” by Joan Weber of the Center for Ministry Development. The goal of this workshop was to help the participants like myself find ways to serve our young adult Catholics by becoming better aware of their perspective in life, and help them feel welcome and to become an active part of our parish.
I’m calling this article “Young Adults” Our Present and Our Future” because that is exactly what young adults are for us. They are part of our church now and they are a vital part of the future of our church. Each and every one of these people are a gift. Even if they don’t attend church but are baptized, they are formal members of our church. Even if they are not baptized and never attended church, they are still part of God’s creation and invited to be part of our Catholic Church. My comments today will center on those who are already Catholic by nature of their baptism but may be pertinent to all.
The first question that came up is who constitutes young adults. The presenter, Joan Weber used the definition provided in the USSCB’s document “Sons and Daughters of Light.” This is the first thing I learned actually, I didn’t know the USCCB had written this document so I will be looking at this document, hopefully soon. The age range used by the bishops in this document is 18-39 but as Joan Weber mentioned, we need to be aware that people in this age range actually span a wide variety of life circumstances ranging from single in college, single and working, married with children, and married without children. I’ll add that each person grows up with different experiences of faith. We can share common experiences of faith but we must also appreciate the differences. We live in a rapidly changing world. Traditionally, we have viewed a generation as 20-25 years but in our world today, Weber said studies now see a new experiential generation every seven years.
Some things that have changed center around our identity as Catholics. In generations past, for many simply being Catholic was important and because the Church said so was a decisive answer. Today people ask why. Younger generations ask why? And that’s a good thing but it is also a great challenge. If we want to deepen our relationship with Jesus, we need to ask why.
To me, one of the great challenges is knowing how to reach out to the young adults (or actually in any age group) who don’t go to church. As a priest, I am not seeing them in person. In the presentation, means like social media and websites were brought up. I hope that this blog reaches out to some of the unchurched or those who have fallen away. At Immaculate Conception, we are also starting to do some presentations on topics of faith (see my previous post), and making them available on the Internet.
For me, reaching out to these people means that I do my part to help the people who do come to church to become so excited about their faith (deepening their own relationship with Jesus) that they naturally share their faith with their family, friends, and co-workers who don’t come to church. In this way, we are all part of a team called to proclaim the gospel to the whole world.
Weber provided a Top Ten List of What Young Adults Hope For From the Church and I share her list with you.
1. Sense of community and belonging; opportunities for involvement in church life
2. Dynamic, upbeat liturgies
3. Spiritual growth and enrichment
4. Understanding one’s faith; religious education and Catholic identity
5. Guidance and direction in life
6. Acceptance and support
7. Opportunities for service and leadership
8. Social Activities
9. A community that shares common values
10. Inspiration and rejuvenation
I have to admit when I hear items like #2, “Dynamic, upbeat liturgies” I wonder what they mean but it boils down in a large way to homilies that fit their lives. (I hope I do this.)
Many of the others I see as relating to number one. The bottom line is that we have to meet them where they are at. We need to make people valued, not judged. Then, when we have established a relationship with them, we help them to understand the truth of Jesus Christ. Through the centuries, much has changed. As Joan Weber wrote in her handouts “The New Evangelization calls us to bring the Good News of Jesus into people’s lives with a new ardor, method, and expression.” The content, being the truth of Jesus does not change but we adapt how we reach out to the people.
In reaching out, we need to ask ourselves “To what are we inviting them?” We have to know what we have to offer. We also have to work to discover what they need. What we offer and what people need must come together if we are to have effective ministry.
The last comment I will make today is a question of giftedness. We need to figure out how to help people discern what gifts they have and how they might be able to help. I have no doubt that our young adults have gifts that can help make our church better at accomplishing our mission to bring Christ to the world. How to bring this together is one of the areas I admit I need to work on.