Tomorrow I will be giving a presentation about young adults and their relationships to the church. It’s the first of four I’ll be doing over the next month, and I am looking forward to the opportunity to engage people around important questions that are close to my heart and my work. Namely:
- Why aren’t today’s young adults coming back to the church as they did in generations past?
- How can congregations reach out to young people in their communities?
- Where are glimmers of hope, promising places to engage young adults about the mission and traditions of the church?
Every time I speak about young adults and the church, I get at least one (if not five) people who pull me aside after the talk and say with a heavy heart, “My son/daughter/grandchild doesn’t go to church anymore. S/he was raised in a good Catholic family, went to Catholic school, got confirmed – I don’t understand what happened!”
There are no easy answers to these questions. I don’t have a book that will fix the situation; I don’t have a program that will “save” their child. It’s hard enough for me to respond to the complexity of the situation as someone who care passionately about young adult ministry; it’s become equally hard for me to respond as a new mother.
S is just a year old and I already worry how we will raise him to understand and embrace what it means to be a follower of Christ. I have no illusions that just because I have a degree in theology, I know how to raise faith-filled children. That is a struggle all its own, and one that we are only beginning.
And despite the fact that I feel like I only know 0.08% of what it means to be a parent, I do know that my children will confound my expectations for them. Will S or his future siblings remain a part of a faith community as they grow up? Will they nurture their spiritual health and their relationship with God? Will they become men and women of faith, hope, and justice?
Maybe. I hope so. But it’s not entirely up to me. They will certainly reject what I love, at times. And their lives will be filled with the struggles and searchings that make us all human, that turn us towards God at certain points and away from God at others.
I pray for myself and for F as I pray for the parents and grandparents who will surely talk to me tomorrow about their pain and longing for young adults in their lives. While it’s not up to any of us to save another (that is the Holy Spirit’s work!), I do believe there is much that we can do to help facilitate this work, to be channels of God’s love.
Asking the questions is the first step. Continuing the conversation – with the young adults in our families, our workplaces, our parishes, and our communities – is the next.