Catholic Takeaways from “Increasing Young Adult Participation in Churches and Other Faith Communities Today”

Yay! A new report from Faith Communities Today, “Increasing Young Adult Participation in Churches and Other Faith Communities Today”  has come out. All research organizations have different strengths and weaknesses–I appreciate the way Faith Communities Today provides a cross-denominational, and even cross-religion look at trends and challenges.

Okay, so what catches my attention in this report…

–9.1% of Catholic congregations (not sure if this is just parishes or also campus ministry centers) have “significant” young adult participation, which is defined as having 21% of more participants between ages 18 and 34 — okay, so clearly there’s room for improvement

–Young adult participation is higher in the south and west, compared to the north and midwest — this probably mirrors larger demographic trends regarding geography

–Congregations with one full-time clergy person were least likely to have a significant level of young adult participation. Congregations with no full-time clergy were more likely to have a significant percentage of young adults, although less than average. A significantly higher percentage of congregations with young adults reported having two or more full-time clergy —  Young adults who participate in congregational life are probably highly intentional about their faith (since it’s going against the cultural currents, so to speak) and want a vibrant parish life. Vibrancy usually comes from having many leaders (clergy or lay), including volunteer leaders. This speaks to the importance of equipping Catholics to live out their baptismal call, rather than wrongly relying on “Father” to do it all.

–“Congregations reporting many programs were nearly twice as likely to have significant young adult participation as those reporting few or some programs.” — Young adults aren’t joining parishes out of cultural concern or habit, they want engagement, vibrancy, and a reason to belong

–Young adults are attracted to congregations with higher proportions of men — definitely a challenge in many Catholic parishes where women are overrepresented in prayer ministries, Bible studies, etc. Probably points to the importance of intentionally cultivating men’s ministries.

–“New congregations organized in the past decade were more than  three times as likely to have a significant number of young adults as those organized before 1976.” — Okay, so a parish can’t change when it was founded 🙂 but, I think there’s still a lesson here. Parishes can launch spin-offs…i.e. off-site ministries, a specifically themed/marketed sub-ministry within a parish (see: Christ the King in Ann Arbor’s Upper Room as an example of this), etc. These aren’t merely programs, but initiatives that create a new organizational identity within the parish.

Good food for thought for one post. I’ll delve into the second half of the report in the future.

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