I found it to be interesting listening to Dr. Josh Packard speak about this next generation – the members of our Church who are under 25. They’re looking for something specific from the Church, and I’m not sure we’re delivering.
I remember reading The Art of Forming Young Disciples and being most struck by one particular section about how the Church is not meeting the “Pastoral Needs of Our Young People.” What are they?
My colleague Sean Dalton at the Augustine Institute in Denver articulates better than anyone the five basic needs of teens: the need to be understood, the need to belong, the need to be transparent, the need for critical thinking about faith and life, and the need for guidance.The Art of Forming Young Disciples, pg 32
The latest report from Springtide calls the last one “Relational Authority.” Young people who have 3 to 5 mentors in their life report a stronger faith, less stress, and generally more happiness and satisfaction in life. The original report released last fall did not single out different faith denominations. The one released a few weeks ago focused on Catholics.
If you want to engage young people in your parish (and my surveys say almost everyone wants to focus on this in the next 3 to 5 years), then you need to be aware of this research and take action. How?
Begin by asking different questions than you have before. Don’t ask “How can we get youth to come to our youth ministry programs on Sundays from 6:30 to 8?” Instead ask, “How can we develop a youth ministry program that meets the needs of our young people?”
There are a few ways to discover those needs.
- Read this report: The State of Religion & Young People 2020 – Catholic Edition: Relational Authority
- Ask Young People about their lives – and really listen.
- Set up a parent advisory team to take this information and turn it into something practical for your parish.
Is this a simple solution? No. Why? Because there’s not a simple solution. There’s no “magic sauce” that’s just going to turn the key that opens the door and young people are flooding your parish. This requires intentional work on your parish and that of your people.