Tips for faith communities in search of young adults

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Article Parish Life Young Adults

Parish leaders and young adults might be missing each other. While some wonder where all the 20- and 30-somethings are on Sunday morning, the young adults wonder how they can be part of a community. Here are eight tips for creating faith communities among young adults:

1. Tie it to an interest.

From softball to scrapbooking, give young adults a reason to connect. Groups such as Young Catholic Nurses are beginning to crop up. A megachurch in Chicago has a Car Fixers Men's Ministry that meets before Sunday morning service for auto talk. "You'll get more people in three niche groups than one general [group]," Paul Jarzembowski says.

2. Use the right language.

Don't call a faith community a group, Jarzembowski says. "A group is an exclusive word-it's a very closed mentality. It says, ‘You're out, I'm in.' Use the word network. A network is a more modern word and it gives people more freedom." It also appears to involve less daunting of a commitment.

3. Broaden your outlook.

If the parish down the street doesn't have a young adult group, don't stop there. Coordinate with a neighboring parish, the diocese, a Catholic organization, or a religious community.

4. Include married couples.

"There's an assumption that all young adult groups are just for singles, so make it explicit: ‘This is for young adults, married and single,' " Elizabeth Moriarity suggests.

5. Extend the invitation.

A blanket invite is one thing, a personal invitation goes a long way.

6. Draw on special skill sets.

Ask the IT guy to aid in social networking or set up a Google calendar. Invite the actress to coordinate some art events. That kind of involvement makes members feel more invested-and makes a group more likely to succeed.

7. Teach hospitality.

The opportunity to host an event, welcoming and serving guests, is new to many recent college graduates. Faith communities that go beyond beer and allow young adults to plan a menu and exercise hospitality are likely to make inroads.

8. Let it evolve.

Welcome new members and new ideas--and articulate that openness. Be creative, trust your instincts, and periodically assess how the group is doing. Plan intergenerational activities at times, but honor the young adult vibe. Mix up year-round events with seasonal activities like Lenten prayer groups and summer sessions.

This article appeared in the September issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 75, No. 9, page 24) along with In good company. Also read: Tips for young adults in search of faith communities.

Image: Tom Wright