The Importance of Youth Outreach
Many Catholics express concerns about young people being drawn to what they refer to as “new age” or “hippy” traditions, to Eastern spiritual practises or atheistic worldviews. As a Church community, maybe we should hit pause on the alarm about this and ask the basic question – why is this happening? Is it because the young people in your life are trying to drive you crazy? Because the devil told them to? Because they are just following the trend of what their friends are doing? Or, is it possible that many young people are drawn towards such practises because they are earnestly seeking something they haven’t found in their Catholic community? Or that they are repelled by harsh or judgmental misrepresentations of Church teaching? Or even that they have found something healthy about another religion or spiritual practise which is legitimately admirable?
Young people have identified certain gaps in what they are being taught by some representations of the Church and what they are seeing and experiencing in their day-to-day lives. If the Church doesn’t take steps to fill in those gaps, with reasonable, attuned answers, they will be filled in by the world instead – by social media platforms, by peers who are perhaps ignorant of or hostile towards religion, by all the chaos and noise of the reality that comes with the Contemporary Challenges. This is currently what’s happening.
Many times, young people are identifying something good and healthy in other spiritual practises that they are not getting from their Christian faith communities. Until the Church starts offering these good practises in a way that is attuned to this generation – community, peace, learning how to calm their bodies, how to tune into their own personal spiritual relationship – the young people of today will continue to drift towards other spiritual avenues or none, feeling misunderstood, out of step, or even unwelcome in the Catholic Church.
Many young people feel that the Church is simply irrelevant to them. They don’t necessarily hate it, but simply feel like it has nothing to do with them, that it has no bearing on the reality of their lives and cultural experiences, no relatability. Many of them cannot be blamed for feeling this way. There is a significant lack of attunement or investment into community or formation for young adults, which leads to a lack of young adults, which means that the young adults who are invested in their faith are frequently lacking and craving the fellowship which is so important for spiritual strength and growth.
So let’s change that. Let’s work towards a holistic integration of Church teaching with science, with cultural attunement and relevance, and of course, with love. Let’s up our game with regard to youth outreach and young adult ministry by standing strong in the most important tenets of Christianity (None of which involve the words “Hell” or “sin”), and providing the time and the space for young adults to make connections, and have conversations, and give them something a little more solid to belong to and identify with.
Vanessa Gillespie on
Dear Annie, this is so true!! Young people are thirsty to develop an spiritual connection with God, and with others, sadly it seems to be something missing in our Church that is not attractive to them. I have a 17 years old daughter that said that Church is for grannies! I work as school counsellor and I hear many stories of young people, there is a tendency now to trust Zodiac signs, stones, and attraction law between others beliefs, I see the hunger and need to connect with God, sadly looking on the wrong places.
You are totally right Annie but I would say that this kind of apathy has been a problem for a while. My almost 90 father still see God has a harsh judge because that is how it was presented to him by the church when he was a child. Many people his generation may attend church without ever knowing God as a loving father.
Isabel Veranes on
Dear Annie as you were describing each circumstance I was seeing my live experience because in my early twenties I trying to feel the void I had and at that time never occurred to be I could find it in the Catholic Church. I started trying a new age sect but realized that was not it and then moved to a Unity Church that follows a life in Miracle or something like that and at the same time started a 12 step program of anger and when I reached the 3 step I left everything and started to search for God in my life. And my Baptist Church neighbors invited me to a Bible study and another day to a dinner where we we asked if we wanted a personal relationship with Jesus. I prayed and asked Jesus “ if you are really the Jesus in the Bible, if you are real and am able to meet you , please show it to me very clearly because I have so much confusion…. “ and He did. And at the beginning it was a confirmation after another until I arrived to the Catholic Church and started to pray the Rosary and Mother Mary became my mother and teacher.
Although I went through a lot of trial and error and all this happened during my relationship with my husband, we did not experienced it together. A mystery that I offer every day. And my children have grown up with two different points of view.
I have 3 children 31,29and 22 and all went to Opus Dei Catholic school and none practice the faith and have told me that talking them to that school really turned them off .
I keep on praying and offering.
We all have a free Will and also graces come to help us but we need to be open to them. Only the Lord know when our best Moment to open the door to the Lord is. And many times it comes through an existential crisis like it happened in my case.
Since I was 10 I can consciously remember to have been searching for Love and I finally found it in Jesus. He is Love.