Goal Two: Connecting Young Adults with the Church

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

To make contact with young adults and to invite and welcome them to participate in the life and mission of the Christian community, which proclaims Jesus Christ by preaching the Gospel.


  1. Evangelizing Outreach: To identify places where young adults gather and to connect them personally with the Church by listening to their concerns, hopes, and dreams and by welcoming them into a community of faith.

  2. Forming the Faith Community: To invite, empower, and enable young adults to participate in the life of the Church through worship, community life, small faith communities, and evangelizing efforts, and on committees, in ministries, and in Catholic movements and organizations.

  3. Pastoral Care: To provide activities, visitations, and counseling opportunities that respond to the spiritual and developmental needs of young adults.

Test everything; retain what is good. 
1 Thes 5: 21

Strategies to Implement Goal Two

1.  Evangelizing Outreach

There are many opportunities to touch the lives of young adults, and these should be seen as moments for evangelizing outreach. Some of these may require a change in the way we approach evangelization so our outreach is more dynamic, taking the Church into the community where young adults gather rather than waiting for these men and women to come to us. Others include identifying situations where young adults already connect with the Church such as sacramental preparation programs and Sunday eucharist. Several strategies to consider include the following:

  • Invite young adults into church life through personal contact, telephone calls, bulletin notices, letters, the Internet, and e-mail.

  • Provide written materials in several languages and be sensitive to diverse ethnic traditions in order to reach young adults from different cultures.

  • Encourage young adults who are involved in church life to invite their friends and other peers to community events.

  • Identify places where young adults gather such as the workplace, shopping areas, health clubs, campuses, athletic fields, and civic associations, and make time to be present at these places of gathering.

2.  Forming the Faith Community

An Invitation to Participation

Throughout the history of the Church, people in their late teens, twenties, and thirties have been an active segment of church life. As our listening sessions indicated, that is not necessarily true today. Therefore, it is important to make an effort to invite and welcome them personally into church life. Young adults will participate when they perceive that the invitation is authentic and that their participation is constructive. Once the invitation is extended, it is important to match skills and talents with the needs of the community and to have a plan for follow-up. When ministering among young adults, remember the following:

  • Young adults who are single will have different needs and concerns, and they have different life schedules than those who are married or married with children.

  • Those who minister with young adults, including the parish staff and members of the parish council, may need specific training and orientation.

  • The invitation to participate may need to be repeated. young adults may not believe that they are truly being invited because of past experiences.
Some strategies for inviting young adults to participate in the faith community include the following:

  • Develop, with young adults, activities and materials that specifically target their developmental needs, especially prayer groups and small Christian communities that place value on dialogue and shared communal experiences.

  • Use community meetings and surveys to identify the concerns of young adults. Ask  participating young adults to talk with and invite their friends and co-workers.

  • Welcome and involve young adults in the planning of church events.

  • Provide opportunities for recent college graduates or vacationing students to reconnect with the parish. Ask students who are home for the summer to assist as liturgical ministers, work with the youth program, be a summer catechist, or visit the sick or elderly. Host a gathering for new graduates and parishioners to learn more about becoming active within the life of the community.

Life-Giving Prayer and Worship

Liturgy is a key concern of young adults and is a primary meeting point with the Church. The quality of church life is often reflected in the prayerfulness and quality of its liturgy, which can be a connecting point between faith and life. One challenge to that connection is the need for the community to respect the diverse language traditions, spirituality, and piety of its many ethnic groups. Consistently, young adults speak of the life-giving power of good and prayerful liturgy and the pain and emptiness associated with poor liturgical experiences. They tell us that key ingredients to good liturgy are a welcoming community, celebrating in one's language, good music, and engaging homilies. Strategies connecting young adults with liturgy and worship include the following:

  • Encourage homilists to address a wide range of life's issues.

  • Invite young adults to be liturgical ministers, and provide the necessary training.

  • Be flexible and respect their time availability when developing criteria for participation in liturgical ministries.

  • Remember the needs and life experiences of young adults when preparing prayers.

  • Extend a special invitation to men and women in their late teens, twenties, and thirties to participate in prayer and reflection groups.

  • Remember that worship in most parishes is intergenerational, gathering in single persons, students, and married couples with or without children.

3.  Pastoral Care

The Church has many opportunities to provide young adults with pastoral care. At these times, it is important to be sensitive to their issues and to respond pastorally. The following are some of the strategies for pastoral care with young adults:

  • Train people who provide pastoral care and counseling in parishes, on campuses, in the military, or within organizations and movements to be aware of the developmental tasks of young adults.

  • Form a peer-counseling or support group.

  • Provide a means of communication so young adults who are sick at home or in the hospital can be visited by someone from the parish and can receive the sacraments.

  • Consider providing, in cooperation with trained professionals, intervention and prevention programs for young adults at risk for drug and sexual abuse.

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