Five ways to minister successfully to young adults

    I hear complaints from both sides. Many young adults claim that as newcomers to a parish, they were not welcomed. Parish ministers say they are doing everything they can to attract young adults, but just don’t know how to pull Gen X into their pews and church activities.
    After talking with many parishes who have active young-adult groups, here’s a list of five tips for those who don’t know where to begin:
1. Social activities
    Parishes with successful young-adult programs are social centers. Young adults love to sip lattes and listen to bands, so host a monthly coffee house or hold an annual block party with a keg of beer and darts. Even host a potluck dinner, movie night, wine and cheese party, picnic, international night, pancake breakfast, etc.
2. Contemporary liturgies
    Most successful young-adult programs have a Sunday evening liturgy with hospitality tables, young lectors, eucharistic ministers, a band or folk choir that might inspire an energizing Mass. If you don’t have a separate Mass for young adults, collaborate with other nearby parishes and take turns hosting young-adult liturgies.
3. Support/prayer groups
    For many young adults who haven’t set foot in a church in five or more years, participating in Mass might be too large a first step. They may feel more comfortable at a smaller, more intimate faith gathering such as Bible study, prayer groups and support groups.
    Many parishes host support groups for those struggling with addictions or in abusive relationships. Others simply gather young people with commonalities: new moms, singles, young couples, women’s groups. And prayer groups or Bible study groups.
4. Faith education
    Many older Catholics don’t realize how confused younger believers are who were born in the era after Vatican Council II. The confusion about changes leads some 20- and 30-somethings to doubt the stability of a 2,000-year-old faith tradition. A little understanding can go a long way in helping young adults to appropriate their faith. Many successful young-adult programs invite speakers to discuss the faith.
5. Social-service options
    The best way to engage young adults is to get them contributing to something they believe in. If they feel they are making a difference, their dedication will speak to others, and the spirit will catch.
    This makes sense since recent studies on the spiritual needs of young adults point to their growing interest and devotion to social justice and social service.

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