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Goal Four: Connecting Young Adults with a Peer Community

 

Sons and Daughters of the Light: A Pastoral Plan for Ministry with Young Adults
November 12, 1996, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.



To help young adults develop relationships with peers who share similar values and beliefs which nurture and strengthen their faith, thereby creating communities of support.


Objectives

  1. Forming Faith Communities of Peers: To provide opportunities for young adults to find among their peers the necessary support and encouragement as they journey through life and fulfill their mission to the world.

  2. Developing Peer Leadership: To help young adults become leaders, not only among their peers but also within the larger community.

  3. Identifying a Young Adult Team: To urge each parish, movement, organization, and campus to identify a team to advocate and respond to the needs of young adults.

Strategies to Implement Goal Four

1.  Forming Faith Communities of Peers

Young adults express a need for support from and relationships with others who are their own age or are in similar situations. We urge pastors and other church leaders to develop specific opportunities for young adults to be together. While it will be helpful to have someone from the parish or campus staff as a point of contact, young adults should be the organizers and leaders of these efforts. We know from experience that they are effective ministers, especially among their peers.

Activities for Single Young Adults

Today, a sizable number of men and women remain single during their late teens, twenties, and thirties. It is important for the Church to have an appropriate ministry with single Catholics. Many single people speak of feeling left out of parish life when the focus is solely on families. Single young adults can be a rich resource of time and talent for the local faith community. Suggested strategies for the Church's ministry with single men and women include the following:

  • Invite single men and women to participate in the parish's liturgical, catechetical, social justice, and youth ministries.

  • Allow single young adults to plan social and spiritual activities for people in similar life situations. Some singles may wish to form a small Christian community for prayer, scripture study, and community service.

  • Plan a retreat or discussion group with topics of interest to single people such as dating, sexuality, loneliness, careers, and volunteerism. The content should view these issues through the "lens" of faith and provide adequate time for discussion and sharing of personal stories.

  • Discuss with the organizations and ministries of the parish how they can welcome and involve single men and women in their activities.
Programs to Assist Newly Married
Once the wedding is over and the honeymoon is a wonderful memory, the real work of marriage begins. The faith community should continue the hospitality and welcome offered during the marriage preparation period, so the couple remains part of the local church. In fact, we can describe Christian marriage preparation as "a journey of faith that does not end with the celebration of marriage but continues throughout life."41 Follow-up ministry with newly married couples develops what was begun in marriage preparation.42 Suggestions for follow-up include the following:

  • Send anniversary cards, hold a newly married couples support group in the parish, or host an anniversary supper for couples married in the past year. This shows an ongoing concern for the couples and helps to keep them connected during the early years of marriage, when the divorce rate is highest.

  • Consider extending the mentoring process for engaged couples through the first year of marriage, especially if the couples remain in the area.

  • Invite married couples to participate in a parish ministry or activity.

  • Be sensitive to time constraints. Do not automatically exclude young couples who frequently enjoy ministering in the parish.

  • Sponsor discussion or educational groups to consider issues relating to maintaining a marriage. Some themes might include changing relationships in the families of origin, managing a household, finances, communication, disagreements, and understanding of the theology of marriage.

  • Invite those celebrating anniversaries to renew their marriage vows at special Sunday liturgies during the year.

  • Inform their new parish when newly married couples move from the parish.

  • Provide couples who are struggling in their marriages with information about marriage counseling.

  • Create educational, spiritual, and social opportunities where young married couples can be with each other. This can include the formation of small christian communities.
Encouragement for Families with Young Children
Young adults who are starting a family are entering a world that is quite unfamiliar to them. Finding support and affirmation from family, friends, and the church community can enable them to adjust to these new experiences, which are both joyful and stressful. In this manner, the Church supports parents as the primary evangelizers and educators of their children. Some of the ways to minister to families with young children include the following:

  • Develop a support group for parents of young children. Identify times and places that are convenient and accessible. Provide the opportunity for child care during activities and programs.

  • Invite experienced parents to mentor young couples who are having their first child. This can be especially helpful for those without  family in the area.

  • Design a retreat for new parents, centered on the gift of life.

  • Identify liturgical opportunities throughout the year to celebrate parenthood and families, for example, Baptism of the Lord (January), Holy Family Sunday (December).

  • Develop a special prayer booklet with prayers and family-centered home activities for meal times and evenings.

2.  Developing Peer Leadership

If the Church is to continue to regenerate and renew its members, the training of young adults is key. Young men and women already provide valuable service in the Church. Parishes and campuses should provide them with leadership training, especially for core members of the young adult commission and parish staff.

Young adults recognize that training is central to competency. They have been trained for their job, profession, or trade. They continuously attend workshops and seminars to increase their knowledge and skills. They expect to be managed with competence and treated with respect and dignity. For the growth of the Church, continuing education is also necessary. Young adults who volunteer time for parish ministry will need to learn more about the Church and to develop the necessary ministerial skills. To develop peer leadership, include the following strategies:

  • Provide leadership training for young adults in peer ministry. These can be weekend and/or evening programs. They can be sponsored by the diocese or campus or held in conjunction with a lay ministry formation program.

  • Use adult education principles in peer leadership development.

  • Choose topics for training programs such as starting a ministry, building core teams, planning activities, and working with volunteers. Also, familiarize young adult leaders with the teachings and traditions of the Church.

  • Develop an informational program for the pastoral staff, leadership team, and pastoral council on ministering with young adults. Topics can include the faith and life development of young adults and principles for ministry with young adults.

What does the Church and the pope expect of the young people . . . ? That you confess Jesus Christ. And that you learn to proclaim all that the message of Christ contains for the true liberation and genuine progress of humanity. This is what Christ expects of you. This is what the Church looks for in you. 
World Youth Day Vigil at Luneta Park, January 14, 1995

3.  Identifying a Young Adult Team

In this plan, we suggest that each parish, organization, and campus, where possible, identify a
young adult team and/or a contact person. This team is the link between the Church and the local young adult community. The team advocates for the needs of young adults and works with someone on the staff as a point of reference. The team also can plan and implement activities and programs directed to the young adult community. The team should be given adequate training and be willing to collaborate with those responsible for the various ministries of the community. Young adult team leaders may wish to identify one contact person as a liaison with the diocese and other young adult efforts.

 

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