New name, new energy to bring young people back to church – Catholic Philly
Polls indicate that the Catholic Church in the United States is losing a generation of leaders. Young people – especially the millennial generation born between the early 1980s and late 1990s or so – are dropping their faith in droves.
According to a 2014 Pew Research Center poll, 41% of American adults of all ages who say they were raised Catholic no longer identify as such.
The most alarming indicator for Jacob King is that among the group that left the church, 79% did so by the age of 23.
The king was among them at a time as a teenager, but today he is a 32 year old on a mission to reconnect young adults and youth with the Catholic faith of their heritage by offering it in a whole new way.
He is the director of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia initiative in this area, which was previously called the Office of Youth and Young Adults until its closure in 2012. The new name of the office he heads, Anthem, in a nutshell, reflects a change of perspective. and in strategy for the church.
“We have to present (the Catholic faith) in a whole new way,” King said. “We have to start with new directions, things the young haven’t heard, and present the church in a different way, hoping they will think about it again.”
The name Anthem, chosen through a planning process facilitated by Canadian consulting firm Glass Canvas, has universal appeal because although it has a secular connotation, it also has religious significance tied to sacred music with biblical roots. “It has a Christian connotation, but it’s not something church-like,” King said.
He and his team, which includes Deputy Director Meghan Mastroianni and Events Coordinator Abby Gutowski, identified characteristics of the church, including authority and teaching, and that of secular culture, which emphasizes on friendships. They noticed that young people tend to strongly desire friendships, so they developed their Anthem “brand name” and its direction in that direction.
“We realized that we need to be more layman and friend (view) oriented and invite people to relate,” King said. “It’s a new way of seeing the church (as) a relationship with Jesus.”
This orientation may be new to young people who, for whatever reason, have developed an unfavorable view of the church and, because of this, have not explored developing a relationship with Christ.
Gutowski, the 24-year-old staff member, explained how many young people perceive the church and their role in it: You learn first about behavior and moral living, then about Jesus, and only then are you guest in the church community – if you have demonstrated the first two.
“Really, it’s a bit backwards,” Gutowski said. “To please (young people) you can’t start with behavior. It comes (later, when) you don’t even think of them as rules. These are things that you are going to want to do because you already have this relationship with Jesus.
Focusing on inviting a welcoming community based on the relationship with Jesus, then exploring moral teachings, reverses perceptions of the church and is most likely to appeal to young people, hymn staff believe .
“First you belong,” Gutowski said. “It doesn’t matter where you are in life; whether you are a beginner, a Catholic cradle, you still don’t know why we are doing the things we are doing. No matter who you are, you belong. And once you belong, you’re going to want to know more. Once you have that early on and get older in that relationship, the behavior will come. “
It is only when young people feel they belong to a welcoming church in which they experience their relationship with God that Anthem can begin to address burning issues and train young people in the faith.
Popular misconceptions about what the church teaches about moral issues “is what keeps young people away from the church,” Gutowski said. “They think Catholics hate those who are different, those who don’t fit in. In fact, we are all focused on love and mercy.”
Getting the attention of millennials who are no longer in a Catholic school setting and who are drawn to so many secular forces will be a challenge.
That’s why Anthem plans to host an annual large-scale regional concert with renowned secular artists to attract young people who otherwise wouldn’t be inclined to take a second look at the Catholic Church.
They’re drawn to big parties and festivals because they’re fun, “and if we don’t offer something of that caliber, they won’t want to come,” Gutowski said. “We need to bring that entertainment value to the events we organize. ”
Also in the planning are many small events with guest speakers and service activities organized in more intimate settings across the Archdiocese. Some events would be aimed at young adults, others at adolescents and young people, depending on age differences and interests.
Another goal of Anthem, in addition to organizing events, is to support and train parish youth pastors and leaders of young adult groups based in the parish. According to King, such programmatic support and training from the Archdiocese will enable these young leaders to step out of their desks and join the community where they can inspire more young people to belong.
Just as St. Augustine sought God with a restless heart over 15 centuries ago and proclaimed “our hearts are restless until they rest in you,” King believes that the apparent drift of the faith of the young people today is in itself an opportunity for a new evangelization.
“The Catholic Church has this fullness of relationship with Christ,” King said, calling it “a love story where you can fall most in love with Christ and the sacraments that really draw (people) into Christ. “.
For the hymn ministry, “the goal is to walk with someone all the way from lack of faith to discipleship and to wanting to give my life to God,” he said. -he declares.