Discovering the buzz in young adult community

What is the best way to connect to young adults today? What are their church-going habits? What are they looking for in a Catholic church?

The Archdiocese of New Orleans CYO and Young Adult Ministry is trying to figure that out with an online survey – “Who Are the Young Adults of the Archdiocese of New Orleans” – that is open to anyone willing to take the time to complete it.

“I wanted to reach out to the young adults in our archdiocese and say, ‘Whatever your perspective is, I want to hear about it,’” Rachel Longest, coordinator of Young Adult Ministry for the archdiocese. “There are conflicting answers out there about what young adults feel about the church.”

To create the survey, Longest, who has been in her position for 18 months, researched what was going on nationally in young adult ministry and spoke to local young adults and fellow young adult ministers.

The survey is easy to take and seeks basic information such as age, area of the city in which a participant lives and Mass attendance and more in-depth knowledge of young adults’ feelings toward the church, what ministries a young adult would like to see and join and why they are or aren’t attending Mass.

“I needed to come up with a way to reach beyond the young adults we are already reaching,” Longest said. “Hopefully, it will improve my ministry and the ministries in the parishes to better meet the needs of young adults.”

Ten thousand postcards on how to access the survey – yamarchno.org/survey – will be distributed in churches on Ash Wednesday, a time traditionally when even non-regular churchgoers might attend Mass to receive ashes. In addition to having the web address, what’s unique about the postcards is a QR code that young adults with smart phones can scan to lead them directly to the site.

“It’s a novel thing that people have tapped into,” Longest said. “I just thought it would be one more step to make it easier for people to want to participate. If they can take out their phone and scan this code and do it right in their hand, it would eliminate one step. Anything I can do to get people, I wanted to do it.”

Longest has made inroads with young adults in New Orleans already with the continuation of the popular Theology on Tap on the north and south shores and Christ in the City. She’s also proud of establishing small faith communities, called Christian Life Communities, where young adults meet twice monthly to pray and reflect. And she said, parish ministries geared to young adults have more than doubled since she started.

The next young adult event to kick off Lent is Feb. 23 with a Mass and simple meal. Archbishop Gregory Aymond will celebrate the Mass with Josephite Father Anthony Bozeman at St. Raymond-St. Leo the Great Church, 2916 Paris Ave., New Orleans. A short talk will be given on simplicity in the context of Lent. Longest and others will cook a meal using recipes from Catholic Relief Services Operation Rice Bowl to highlight how people in other countries survive on simple foods. Similar events will continue throughout Lent, she said.

Longest hopes to engage even more young adults through the survey and additional activities requested by respondents. She will share the survey results with the local deaneries, parishes and any other Catholic entity in the archdiocese interested in reaching young adults.

“By putting something in the church pews, some physical piece there on a day when people who aren’t regularly coming (to Mass), we may connect to new people,” she said. “We also want young adults to realize the importance of their voice. They get to speak their voice and know someone is actually listening to them. We want to let young adults know that the church does care, and we want to hear from them, whatever it is – good or bad.”

Rachel Longest can be reached at 836-0551, ext. 3229.

Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarion herald.org.

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