Campus and Young Adult Ministry and the low marriage/baptism rate


#1

Hi! I realize that there is a thread about the low marriage and baptism rate, and I posted on there, but I would like to discuss the need to emphasize Young Adult and College Ministries as a means of promoting Catholic family values. I want to hear what others think about this as well.

I think the path to correcting this problem with low Catholic marriage and baptism rates is to push young adult ministry. Our college groups need to be well supported and available on every campus. That may mean an individual parish taking it upon themselves to fund a Catholic group on a nearby college campus. They would need to see if there is one already there that can be supported, or challenge the college student population at the parish to start a group with the understanding that the parish would support them and do everything within their power to help fund activities. Many of the non-denominational groups on campuses are well funded and backed by donors that make sure that there are lots of activities, concerts, and free lunches to go around. Sadly, many Catholic students go off to college and assume that as long as they are just hanging around Christians of any sort they are growing in their faith. Interfaith activities are a great way to build unity within Christianity as a whole and dispel confusion about who Catholics really are, but it is imperative that Catholic students have a means of growing in their identity as Catholics.

Also, The Catholic groups on campuses tend to be a way that many Catholic students meet their spouses. I can't even begin to tell you how many people I know of that would tell you their Catholic group on campus either allowed them to meet their spouse, or it affected their relationship in a good way. My fiance and I met before college, but I can tell you that if he hadn't planned on going to the Catholic Center regularly I probably wouldn't have seriously dated him. Now he and I are engaged and SUPER active in our faith and in our group on campus. Both he and I have been able to grow in faith together through a group specially designated for people our age. We have been able to make lasting friendships with people that share our values, and we have a chance to be active in a campus organization that does great things.

I realize I am extremely biased about this, but CAMPUS and YOUNG ADULT MINISTRY is the way to go with this. Strong campus and young adult ministries are the key to promoting healthy Catholic marriages and Catholic family values.


#2

There also has to be a strong young adult (after college) group. I know that after graduating from a Catholic university, I went off the rails big time. Most parishes are empty in terms of 22-23 year old. Unless they were forced into pre-Cana. I saw in my hometown parish, there would be people that had just graduated college, and by September, they were gone. There is nothing for singles who didn't meet their match in college. But that is a different subject.

Of course, I'm engaged at 29, so I FINALLY have a place to belong in the Catholic Church. :thumbsup: Funny how I now have a ring, my parish is nice to me. :confused: They just had the formal announcement at the Saturday night Mass. I can't wait till I get to be a smug married person, and say platitudes like "it's all in God's time". :p

BTW, I love your username "Iheartcoffee"!


#3

Haha thanks. I really do heart coffee! :)

I agree that there needs to be an effort for young adults in general as well. Some of the alums continue to take part in activities with our college group (and I just now realized they are the single alums). My diocese has a fairly strong young adult ministry as a whole, but I am guessing they just feel more comfortable around the friends they already know.

There should definitely be a push for singles groups. The two alums that hang around with our college group are both guys that are very serious about wanting to find a nice Catholic girl and get married. I know there have to be some Catholic girls out there looking for men with degrees that actually want marriage, but the two friends I know haven't found them just yet.

My diocese has been good about telling people that there are indeed THREE vocations, religious life, married life, and single life- which is equally important to our church. Singles have a lot of freedom to serve that married couples and religious might not have because both of those vocations do require being tied down a bit more. I definitely think there is still room for improvement though as far as promoting all three vocations rather than just ignoring young Catholics until they are ready for pre-cana.


#4

In my former parish, they pretty much ignored people after they left youth group, and until they got married. And then they wondered why there were no young people. When I moved, I was the last single person under the age of 40. Of course, I was treated as a pack mule. "Oh CountrySinger can do that, she doesn't have anything else to do!". sarcasm I really enjoyed spending every night at the parish. sarcasm :mad: Because nothing turns a man more than having a girlfriend who wants to spend date nights teaching Religious Ed.

So when I came up to my newish parish, I refused to do anything, I wasn't getting sucked into that again. They have a Bible study for women ages 18-40, and that is it! Cause that is what young adults want to do is study the Bible all the time. Give me a break. And then they wonder why no one under the age of 50 wants to spend more time in the parish than is absolutely necessary.

I think the Catholic Church as a whole doesn't know what to do with people under retirement age unless they are getting married, having babies, or dying.

I'll stop ranting now. I have no reason to complain now. I'm finally accepted in the Catholic Church, I've only been baptized for 12 years! :p


#5

Awww I'm sorry to hear you had such bad experiences! My diocese organizes flag football tournaments and "Theology on Tap" where we meet at a Buffalo Wild Wings and host a speaker while we down wings and beer. The local Bishop has made young adult ministry one of his key points of focus so I guess that is why we have more going on than other dioceses.
I think parishes need to realize that young adults, and especially single young adult Catholics, need more than a Bible Study, they need social events to help them find friends in their parishes. Good social ties within the parish are vital to feeling welcomed and staying committed.


#6

[quote="CountrySinger, post:2, topic:217992"]
There also has to be a strong young adult (after college) group. I know that after graduating from a Catholic university, I went off the rails big time. Most parishes are empty in terms of 22-23 year old. Unless they were forced into pre-Cana. I saw in my hometown parish, there would be people that had just graduated college, and by September, they were gone. There is nothing for singles who didn't meet their match in college. But that is a different subject.

[/quote]

I know a lot of people who can say the same thing about going "off the rails" after college. The young adult focus is extremely important and sadly lacking in most parishes. After graduation, young people are no longer in an environment with many like situated people to worship with and have to face a mix of ages and family types at Church for the first time as adults. Many feel they just don't fit.

Adding to the problem, many campus ministries "specialize" in a high energy, contemporary Mass style. While this is appealing to many, it often focuses on emotions. In my own experience, it was very hard to transition from a campus youth style Mass to a more reverent parish Mass. I had to be re-educated in what Mass was really about. :)


#7

[quote="Iheartcoffee, post:3, topic:217992"]

My diocese has been good about telling people that there are indeed THREE vocations, religious life, married life, and single life- which is equally important to our church. Singles have a lot of freedom to serve that married couples and religious might not have because both of those vocations do require being tied down a bit more. I definitely think there is still room for improvement though as far as promoting all three vocations rather than just ignoring young Catholics until they are ready for pre-cana.

[/quote]

Unfortunately, at young adult events, people seeking marriage are often discouraged. Why? Because of that stupid false teaching of "single vocation" is being shoved down people's throats. How many times do people seeking marriage get rebuffed by such lines as:
- "are you sure it's God's will?"
- "stop looking"
- "it will happen when you least expect it"
- "God will send you a spouse of His choosing in His time"
- "marriage will not solve your problems"
- "you need to be content as a single first before you are able to be married"
- "you are needy and clingy and are seeking happiness in others and nobody likes that"
- "you are selfish and should stop thinking of yourself. Spend more time in Eucharistic Adoration and volunteer work"

Sometimes, we find these very attitudes in threads right here on CAF!

Instead we should be stressing that we should not be pursuing ineligible people (like divorced people), re-emphasize the commandment that people obey the Church marriage laws, and that we should not be turning our backs on our fellow Catholics, especially those who are "playing by the rules" but are being ignored.


#8

Campus Ministry can work, but it really depends on the setting.

I recently graduated from a Catholic college in a city with a large Catholic population. Campus Ministry was good, but it could have been better. It really consisted of a lot of overnight retreats and volunteering weekends. I joined a small group on campus devoted to the Rosary and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on Thursday evenings (which eventually dissolved and Adoration now has become standard event on campus), but we were never as popular as the “official” group endorsed by Campus Ministry, which was Youth for Christ.

Although YFC is popular, our chapter was more non-denominational and very singy-songy, to the point that many felt they were in kindergarten. They also would “speak” in tongues and have one-on-one “revelation” nights.

Many students really didn’t relate to either group, nor had time to share their emotions on one of the weekend “retreats” that had the intention of “discerning your call in life.” Quite a few would just explore other parishes in the city, or just help out at the school’s Sunday liturgy.

In my city, there are several parishes that have young-adult activities, such as Theology on Tap, young adult Masses and group meetings. Some have parishes have unfortunately gained a reputation for being more college fraternity or sorority-like than focused on faith, but it’s good to know there are opportunities for young adults in my area past college.

If a Campus Ministry is healthy, with many facets and opportunities for worship, liturgy, and service, it can really make a difference.


#9

The adjustment from college to parish life is hard no matter what your campus ministry life was like…the fact is that most campus ministries don’t prepare you to be a great Catholic IN THE WORLD–they just prepare you to be a good Catholic at that moment (which is a great thing too).

When I graduated from an amazing CMA, I was suddenly in the world with no community. I had spent 4 years building relationships with mentors, priests, and peers centered around my faith. But then suddenly, I was in a parish–a real life parish where the priest doesn’t always have the time to sit down and have coffee, and there aren’t lay “ministers” just hanging about to mentor me. It was very very hard.

My CMA emphasized the need for community, and the importance of community in a faith life–and I still believe that’s true! But where is it? Where is the community of the parish? So many people drop in for their “drive by sacraments” and ignore the church for the rest of the week. It’s not like college with common meals, common classes, similar times to hang out. Young people aren’t living with their families and they’re not living with their Catholic college friends–they’re suddenly either alone or living with random roommates, and it’s not good for their faith life.

CMAs and youth groups give a good start to a person, but the follow through now needs to come up with young adult groups that focus on community and the parish as a central gathering/meeting place for roommates, friends, and possible spouses. If we all just saw the Church as the place for that to happen, if we were committed to that, then we would all suddenly run into each other and start our own groups and then voila! We’d have the community we all want (so long as the priest is friendly to this, etc. etc.).


#10

[quote="Iheartcoffee, post:1, topic:217992"]
Hi! I realize that there is a thread about the low marriage and baptism rate, and I posted on there, but I would like to discuss the need to emphasize Young Adult and College Ministries as a means of promoting Catholic family values. I want to hear what others think about this as well.

I think the path to correcting this problem with low Catholic marriage and baptism rates is to push young adult ministry. Our college groups need to be well supported and available on every campus. That may mean an individual parish taking it upon themselves to fund a Catholic group on a nearby college campus. They would need to see if there is one already there that can be supported, or challenge the college student population at the parish to start a group with the understanding that the parish would support them and do everything within their power to help fund activities. Many of the non-denominational groups on campuses are well funded and backed by donors that make sure that there are lots of activities, concerts, and free lunches to go around. Sadly, many Catholic students go off to college and assume that as long as they are just hanging around Christians of any sort they are growing in their faith. Interfaith activities are a great way to build unity within Christianity as a whole and dispel confusion about who Catholics really are, but it is imperative that Catholic students have a means of growing in their identity as Catholics.

Also, The Catholic groups on campuses tend to be a way that many Catholic students meet their spouses. I can't even begin to tell you how many people I know of that would tell you their Catholic group on campus either allowed them to meet their spouse, or it affected their relationship in a good way. My fiance and I met before college, but I can tell you that if he hadn't planned on going to the Catholic Center regularly I probably wouldn't have seriously dated him. Now he and I are engaged and SUPER active in our faith and in our group on campus. Both he and I have been able to grow in faith together through a group specially designated for people our age. We have been able to make lasting friendships with people that share our values, and we have a chance to be active in a campus organization that does great things.

I realize I am extremely biased about this, but CAMPUS and YOUNG ADULT MINISTRY is the way to go with this. Strong campus and young adult ministries are the key to promoting healthy Catholic marriages and Catholic family values.

[/quote]

You are absolutely right. The Catholic Church has never been great at outreach. We are taking some lessons from the Protestants in inclusion and evangelizing, which I think is good. As young people like you and your fiance come through and out of programs like your church is offering, you can pass the tips and tricks along to others who will come along behind you. I think it does take real effort to keep college students from falling away from the faith and either into Protestant hands, or worse yet, into atheism which is the religion of many college professors.

I have a 19-year old college sophomore who is somewhat reserved and hasn't gotten involved in the social life of his church yet. I hope he does, I encourage him to, I know a couple who met at that church during activities for college students. But I can't delve too much into his personal business. He keeps himself to himself but he's got strong roots in our faith. He could be a great leader for others but has to decide that for himself. I've seen him in retreats with his school. He's not the showy leader type, a quiet, steady, confident young man who leads by example.

Anyway, great thread and something we parents need to encourage and support!


#11

Our Young Adult problem was that there was no church leadership to facilitate. By this I mean the Young Adults were the only group that were expected to run themselves. The only church leadership help they got was a name and phone number of an adult to be placed in the bulletin for people to call. This meant that when there were a few young adults who were willing to take charge the program ran great, but if they moved away or had something come up that didn’t allow them to lead then the program fell into disarray until some other young adult stepped up. We kept trying to get an adult leader (similar to the leaders of the bible study groups, SOLOS, YLI, etc) but kept being told that we were able to be successful in this program on our own. Well, now the group has pretty much disbanded due to lack of interest. I really believe that if the church had dedicated someone to facilitate this group it would still be as successful as when I first joined 8 years ago.


#12

[quote="ForAll, post:9, topic:217992"]
My CMA emphasized the need for community, and the importance of community in a faith life--and I still believe that's true! But where is it? Where is the community of the parish? So many people drop in for their "drive by sacraments" and ignore the church for the rest of the week. It's not like college with common meals, common classes, similar times to hang out. Young people aren't living with their families and they're not living with their Catholic college friends--they're suddenly either alone or living with random roommates, and it's not good for their faith life.

CMAs and youth groups give a good start to a person, but the follow through now needs to come up with young adult groups that focus on community and the parish as a central gathering/meeting place for roommates, friends, and possible spouses. If we all just saw the Church as the place for that to happen, if we were committed to that, then we would all suddenly run into each other and start our own groups and then voila! We'd have the community we all want (so long as the priest is friendly to this, etc. etc.).

[/quote]

That is so true -- I think the lack of community in many Catholic parishes doesn't help young adults once they graduate from college and are out on their own.

One of my friends (currently studying to be an Eastern Orthodox priest) has noticed the same trend in the Eastern Orthodox parishes he has attended since college. He theorizes that many Catholic and Orthodox parishes are still living with an old-world mentality that there's not much need for community at the parish, because your whole neighborhood/village/town is a community of individuals that share your same faith. So community would take place not in the church, but outside the church in your daily life in the village. Unfortunately, because that unity of faith is not found in most parts of the world today (certainly not in the USA), if a parish hasn't developed a community within itself, it's unlikely that parishioners will find spiritual community in the broader world.

I think he might be on to something with his theory. But I don't know how we should change that prevailing mindset of church as being somewhere only for sacraments, and community being something that takes place elsewhere.


#13

I agree with everything OP says, but she does not go far enough.

"young adult" ministry is not just about college students, but about every one who seems to fall off the planet after Confirmation. By that I mean not necessarily the youth stop being and living Catholic, but the parish and diocese cease to notice their existence. In this diocese YA is concentrated exclusively on the college campuses. Parishes are expected to publicize their events which are theoretically open to all YA of the Diocese, but how often are they going to attend an event on a campus to which they do not belong?


#14

[quote="puzzleannie, post:13, topic:217992"]
I agree with everything OP says, but she does not go far enough.

"young adult" ministry is not just about college students, but about every one who seems to fall off the planet after Confirmation. By that I mean not necessarily the youth stop being and living Catholic, but the parish and diocese cease to notice their existence. In this diocese YA is concentrated exclusively on the college campuses. Parishes are expected to publicize their events which are theoretically open to all YA of the Diocese, but how often are they going to attend an event on a campus to which they do not belong?

[/quote]

I agree - I live in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Everyone knows the large amount of young adults and Catholics we have. Apart from a few youthful parishes and a few colleges, the only other real opportunity for young adults is the annual "Theology on Tap" series, which I feel is a blanket response to young adults.

If people are going to devote time after work and/or school in beautiful summer weather to sit inside and listen to speakers (who sometimes drone on like a professor), they'd better be getting something more rewarding and inclusive. Focusing on creating events all year-round is a better way to acknowledge that young adults do exist.


#15

I'm speaking from the perspective of a leadership member of a very very active young adult group that would not have existed were it not for young adults initiating its creation. About 5-6 years ago, about 5 young adults after graduating from a Catholic university with very strong campus ministry saw a void for post-college students and sought to fill it. When they brought the idea to their pastor, he was supportive and has acted as our group's spiritual director since then.

All of our events come at our initiative and we undertake all of the planning. We have events every Wednesday and Friday night (some Saturdays) with the exception of holy days of obligation. It is a LOT of work and requires a team of at least 10 young adult volunteers to spearhead different aspects of the ministry. I definitely agree that it's crucial to provide both social and spiritual opportunities for members! We limit the age of those who can attend most of our events (18-39) and do not isolate the group to just singles... young married couples or those discerning vocations to religious life need community with their peers, too! We have speaker series, volunteering opportunities, holy hours, rosary walks, Theology on Tap and Bible studies as well as dances, sports night and game nights for fellowship opportunities. Some of these activities, you can join with other parish groups to facilitate community, but it's so true that you need to keep some events just for young adults!

The key is finding a supportive parish community or diocesan office to oversee or help facilitate some activities, but the initiative and work needs to come from the young adults because most parishes/diocese can't afford to staff someone to plan events and activities for young adults!


#16

[quote="Norseman82, post:7, topic:217992"]
Unfortunately, at young adult events, people seeking marriage are often discouraged. Why? Because of that stupid false teaching of "single vocation" is being shoved down people's throats. How many times do people seeking marriage get rebuffed by such lines as:
- "are you sure it's God's will?"
- "stop looking"
- "it will happen when you least expect it"
- "God will send you a spouse of His choosing in His time"
- "marriage will not solve your problems"
- "you need to be content as a single first before you are able to be married"
- "you are needy and clingy and are seeking happiness in others and nobody likes that"
- "you are selfish and should stop thinking of yourself. Spend more time in Eucharistic Adoration and volunteer work"

Sometimes, we find these very attitudes in threads right here on CAF!

Instead we should be stressing that we should not be pursuing ineligible people (like divorced people), re-emphasize the commandment that people obey the Church marriage laws, and that we should not be turning our backs on our fellow Catholics, especially those who are "playing by the rules" but are being ignored.

[/quote]

Thank you Norseman for posting this. About 10 years ago I was involved with a young adults group that was actually diocesan wide since there weren't any young adults groups at the actual parishes themselves. They met every week for prayer and to hear a speaker about how important priestly and religious vocations are (I am not saying that they aren't important, they are of course), etc. The leadership emphatically stated that this group was not a "meat market". It was never meant to be a place to meet future spouses which I thought was absurd considering that two of the leaders were dating and in fact eventually married. They went out of their way to under emphasize the marital vocation aspect. At least I didn't hear any speakers talk about it much unless it was about the evils of contraception. I didn't get it. I mean, what were they expecting? You put a bunch of young adults together between the ages of 18-39 of both sexes in on group and you de emphasize the fact that it is a dating pool??

Granted, it was at this particular young adults group that I met my ex-boyfriend. That didn't turn out well and I left the group. For years I was lonely, being one of few single ladies at my parish. I eventually found my husband on a catholicmatch.com.

I agree that there needs to be more outreach to the young adults. There isn't enough.


#17

Totally true! Vocations to the priesthood and religious life are great… but the majority of us are called to marriage. Encouraging those vocations are good, but they should always be balanced out by talks on all the vocations and definitely not just the evil of contraception… We’ve had married couples come in a few times and just talk about the practical day-to-day getting along with each other aspect of marriage and those talks and more general ones on relationships are always our more well-attended talks! It can be a hard balance to strike…


#18

I wish they had more like those sort of talks when I went to the group. I dunno what it is but it seems that some of these groups act like having a desire for marriage and intimacy with one’s spouse is a bad thing. I didn’t express that I desired marriage much even though I did. Most of the people I talked to thought I was going to be a nun because I am a convert. My dad even thought so. He wondered if I was discerning properly. I knew in my heart of hearts that I was not cut out to be a nun. I desired marriage.

Also, I recall that when I expressed that desire it was always in the context of wanting children. I felt that stating that desire would be more acceptable than just saying that I desired to be married. I might have been wrong to think that but that was the impression that I had. It seems that if a man or a woman expresses that desire then its ok to desire marriage but if one has a desire to get married because they want to love someone else, to have a soulmate, etc then it isn’t a desire that should be expressed.

I hope I am making some sense. Of course a man or woman who wants to get married should also have the desire for children but the first part should be to desire a spouse, a partner thorough life. I felt that I couldn’t express that to anyone before I found my future husband. I know it was probably not conscious but it felt like it was inappropriate to feel that way.


#19

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