Thursday, May 8, 2008

New Strategies for Young Adult Ministry

The priest founder of Theology on Tap has weighed in on new strategies for young adult ministry in the Church:

SAN ANTONIO (CNS) -- Every diocese needs a comprehensive pastoral plan specifically aimed at young adults to reverse the hemorrhage of Catholics in their 20s and early 30s leaving the Catholic Church, a national pioneer in young adult ministry said.Father John Cusick, director of young adult ministry for the Archdiocese of Chicago and the father of the Theology on Tap program, said the church needs a savvy "new apologetics" and "satellite sites" away from the parish grounds where young adults can gather to form quality relationships without feeling pressure from the church.Addressing a youth ministry symposium in April at the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Father Cusick cited a recent USA Today poll indicating that 10 percent of Americans are former Catholics and said the percentage is much higher among people in their 20s and early 30s."If Catholic youth ministry is so good, where are all the young adults? They're missing in action," he said. "For the moment (in their teens), they have a good sense of church, but then they fall off the end of the table."When they come back temporarily for such events as baptisms and marriages or seek out the church in times of serious illness, death or life-changing decisions, Father Cusick said, the church needs to celebrate such moments of return rather than scold young adults for having stayed away.

This was something we discussed as Directors of Vocations the last two days: teens and young adults today are much more social than my generation (which wasn't too long ago!)

Think about it: these are the kids of the 'Soccer Moms.' They've been part of teams and sports and groups their entire lives. They do not have the experience of going out in a field and dreaming interesting and stupid ways of wasting away a day. They go to tournaments, they go to practices, they play video games in a community. Let's face it, the popularity of sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter are results of this generation of togetherness.

In my field, this highlights the necessity of plugging young people into groups that are immediately welcoming of new members, and gives them a place to belong, and encourages them in their pursuit of holiness. So many young men that I talk to are in non-supportive environments for hearing a call to the preisthood, hence the importance of virtue programs, Youth2000 type retreats WITH FOLLOW UP!. Theology on Tap for the older set.

For the most part, today's youngest generation have not had to foster their own communities, but have had those already established and just join up. (Remember, not a sociologist here!)

How do we help them to plug into the Church to a real way, take ownership and responsibility of and for their faith, and make them radical disciples of Christ?

(As if I didn't have enough on my plate today!)

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

Excellent commentary. I'm a member of the Catholic 20 Something's in Madeira. A couple of us are working on a proposal to our core team to start "community groups" which would essentially be equivalent to "satellite sites... away from the parish grounds where young adults can gather to form quality relationships without feeling pressure from the church". We hope that these groups will appeal to everyone: new members, old members, in between, Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Thanks for your awareness as a priest. Please pray for us as we will continue to pray for an increase in vocations and try to provide a supportive environment for hearing the call! (we've had 3-4 vocations come from our 20's group!).

In Christ,