When asked what the church can do to reach out to young people, respondents told us that faith sharing groups and service opportunities should be priorities for the church.
In support of service opportunities, Jennifer Snider of Richmond, Va., told America:“The church should provide opportunities for young people to live out their faith in the world, not just keep it in a building during class or Mass.”
"Parishes need to mainstream young adults. We’re not the future of the church; we are the church today.”
Marcus Mescher of Cincinnati, Ohio advocated for faith sharing groups. “Masses for young people divide the body of Christ. But faith sharing groups bring young people together to share their hopes and dreams, their questions and insights,” wrote Mr. Mescher. In faith sharing groups, he said, young people “can discover they are not alone in what they most deeply desire and find others to foster communities of agreement and accountability. They can be empowered to take responsibility for bringing others into the group and lead it forward in making connections with liturgy, service and other outreach efforts.”
Some respondents specified that they would like efforts directed at people in their 20s. “In my experience, if a parish has any sort of faith sharing or outreach that isn't geared toward people age 35 or older, it’s geared toward kids and teenagers,” wrote Erik Raessler of Maybrook, N.Y. “There’s a gaping hole in the church where young adults should be. I’m 26, and there’s no one active in my parish near my age in either direction.”
Hannah Beeler of Eagle River, Wis., told America that her diocese’s Theology on Tap events had been a constructive space to build community. “I look forward to our Theology on Tap events every month. It is great to know there are others like me in the area who face similar challenges, and it’s nice to discuss the topics that we choose. I’ve met some wonderful people!”
On the other hand, some respondents felt that when events were the only outreach to young people, they could, in fact, be excluded from the rest of the church community. “Enough with the young adult events,” said Robert Shine of Boston, Mass. “Some space apart is good and healthy for every group, but parishes need to mainstream young adults. We’re not the future of the church; we are the church today.”