Recently, I have become extremely frustrated with the lack of young adult ministry in my city, and I know I am not the only one in my city (and in others, perhaps) who is also frustrated. It is not hard to believe that there are others in other cities who share my concerns.
There is no one right way to accomplish it. The Diocese of Green Bay does it on both the parochial and diocesan level (and when a Minnesota Vikings fan praises anything related to the city of Green Bay, you know there is something special occurring). Kidding aside, the parishes of Rochester, Minnesota have banded together to do young adult ministry. There are various parishes across the nation that have their own group.
But, I think the main reason there are so many places where young adult ministry is non-existent is the fact that some do not see the need for it. Young adult ministry is seen as unnecessary. I beg to differ.
Why is it needed?
Because the Church Needs to Reach out to All Age Groups
Elementary school children have religious age education. High school and middle school kids have youth group. College kids have FOCUS. My parish has a group for “Yesterday’s Kids” (the demographics for this group is best described using the words of my pastor, “I think you know who you are”). Yet, if there is a ministry for adults it groups young adults with adults with small children, adults with grown children, adults with grandchildren, and those waiting for death. Someone in their twenties or thirties is not going to have much in common with middle-aged adults and senior citizens, and ministries aimed towards the latter group will alienate the former group. In short, to not have a young adult ministry is to ignore an important demographic.
Because Having Other Catholic Friends Is Essential
If a young Catholic spends most of their time in the company of non-Catholics, they will become more likely to embrace values contrary to the Catholic faith. Young adult Catholics are not going to become close friends with the family of four who sits in the pew in front of them. They might form an acquaintanceship with them, and they might even spend time in each other’s company outside of Church activities. However, their closest friends will be around the same age as them.
Because Millennials Need to Grow up
There are a lot of people who look down upon millennials and are of the opinion they are entitled, spoiled, brats. Speaking as a millennial, I know how millennials are portrayed in the media, and I know that characterization is not 100% inaccurate. I dislike many characteristics of my generation. However, if millennials are in need of guidance, who better to give them that guidance than the Church!?
If the Catholic Church does not reach out to millennials, the Protestants will (and already are). Oh… and who is going to non-Christians religions in droves? Youth…
Because Your Parish/City/Diocese is Big Enough
There is an old joke that says the only thing that is needed for a town in Wisconsin is a bar and a Catholic church. Tisch Mills, Wisconsin is an unincorporated community that is home to Saint Isidore the Farmer Parish. It is not an official town (so we can assume they do not have a bar). Despite the diminutive size of Tisch Mills, Saint Isidore the Farmer has a young adult group.
The next time someone tells you your parish/city/diocese is too small for young adult ministry, tell them about Tisch Mills, Wisconsin.
Because There Does Not Need to Be a Huge Budget
I am convinced that young adult ministry can be done with a budget of $0. You want to do a Bible study? The Saint Paul Center for Biblical Theology has free Bible studies. Yes, you read that right. An organization run by Scott Hahn has FREE Bible studies. You want food at the next event? Make it a potluck. I know a bunch of young adults who like to cook and/or bake.
Also, I have a question for people who cite money as a reason for not doing young adult ministry: Was money a concern when new vestments were needed or when the sanctuary needed renovations or when the sound system needed an upgrade?
ANSWER: Of course it was, but the need was there and the money to make it happen was raised. Again, I believe you can do it with a budget of $0, but if money is an absolute necessity, there are ways to find those funds.
Because You Love the Young Adults in Your Parish/City/Diocese
I am not trying to assert that there is anyone out there involved with the administration of a parish or diocese without young adult ministry who does not love their young adults. But, I would like to remind all involved with the administration of parishes and dioceses that, if you love someone, you should desire what is best for them and strive to make what is best for them happen.
Because You Want Young Adults Involved in Parish Life
Young Adults make ideal volunteers for various activities and ministries in their local parish. Most are unmarried and childless, meaning they will have more free time to get involved within the parish. They could help teach religious education classes, help lead youth group activities, and fill various liturgical roles. However, you cannot give what you do not have. If they are not being fed, they will be unable to feed others. Ignoring them will make them feel less inclined to help you.
As I have previously written, vocations are nurtured. They do not just appear spontaneously. Priests and religious brothers and sisters come from faithful families. Without young adult ministry, young adults will not be properly formed making it harder to discover their vocation and excel in their vocation. When plugged into a young adult ministry, millennials will be more likely to take the vocation of marriage seriously and more likely to explore the priesthood and religious life.
Additionally, if a Catholic young adult is called to marriage, where better to find a spouse than at a Catholic young adult event? Virtuous spouses are hard to come by in the bar/club scene. The after-Mass coffee and donuts gathering is hardly a swinging singles scene. As I have previously written, CatholicMatch and Ave Maria Singles are bad websites, and CKiss is too new to know if it will be any better. Again, priestly vocations come from strong marriages. If you want more priests, help young Catholics find each other by giving them more places to meet each other.
Because There Is No Stability If It Does Not Occur at the Parochial or Diocesan Level
One of the most bandied about expressions in ministry is “If you start something, we’ll support you.” Speaking as someone who once led a now-defunct young adult ministry, saying, “I support you,” or “I’ll come speak at your event,” is not enough. If the person running the ministry moves, gets burned out, or becomes too busy, the ministry dies. I have seen too many young adult ministries die out to believe this can occur without the supervision of the parish or diocese. It can still be run by volunteers, but having a pastor, a group of pastors, or the diocese overseeing it allows for a replacement to be named when the volunteer(s) in charge of the ministry become unable to continue their duties.
Also, parochial and/or diocesan oversight is a defense against any ol’ Joe Schmoe with heretical beliefs who wants to start a “ministry” and slap the label “Catholic” on it.
Because Doing Nothing Speaks Volumes
I am of the belief that I am a member of a fantastic diocese and a solid parish. We have been blessed with many great priests, deacons, and lay volunteers. Yet, with every day young adult ministry is ignored in my area, I feel those beliefs challenged. I know it is wrong to think that my diocese does not care about me. I know for a fact that are numerous priests in my diocese who are great priests and who personally care about me. However, I cannot ignore the fact that I feel abandoned, hurt, and angry.