November 12, 2015
As a relatively “young” Catholic center for evangelization, you might say that St. Paul Inside the Walls is just growing out of its infancy and into its adolescent years. When the center was founded back in 2008, it arrived with much anticipation and enthusiasm, and like a newborn, brought a lot of excitement with it! As we grew in our ministry, and our first generation of Young Adults ‘graduated’ from Young Adult ministry at St. Paul’s, it was a perfect time to step back and take a look at where we started and where we wanted to go.
Like most parishes experience when they first start a focused Young Adult outreach program, ours started with a small core group and grew from there. From the beginning, our ministry has emphasized offering great events, community, music, and liturgy to help Young Adults connect with their faith. Over time, we tried many different types of events and offerings to engage our Young Adults. We tried different days and locations to host our events and different ways to manage it all. Some of it was excellent while some of it could have been better, but we learned from it all. We have and continue to regularly check the pulse of our Young Adult ministry, with both formal and informal pathways for feedback, and to identify what works and what doesn’t.
Our first major change in strategy was reducing and refining how much we offered. We had gotten so overloaded with events that both our leadership and our Young Adults were spread too thin. This was a much-welcomed change and helped us to focus in on offering consistent, great YA events. Now our Young Adults can rely on our Wednesday Young Adult nights and our Sunday Young Adult Mass as the times and places to come and nurture that relationship with God and each other.
We are now at another checkpoint – it seems that as we have grown and changed as a ministry, so have our Young Adults. Like many other parishes, we have come to realize that there is a great diversity of life stages within our 23-39 Young Adult age group. We are now starting to see trends in our own ministry that suggest we can better serve these subsets of our Young Adult population in a customized way – breaking them into smaller peer groups such as Single 20’s, Single 30’s, Engaged and Married Couples, and Young Families. We could then refine the experience to meet the specific needs of these Young Adult life stages, while also ministering to the group as a whole.
Additionally, in looking at how our Young Adults relate to one-another, we have learned both through research and through experience that this is a very ‘tribal’ generation. We are currently looking closely into how to effectively implement small group ministry as part of our Young Adult Ministry strategy, but also into how we might use this understanding to help guide our Young Adults in various life stages down a comprehensive pathway to discipleship. We see this pathway to discipleship as our next big step forward in taking our Young Adult Ministry to the next-level.
While we continue to reflect, refine, and repeat, we are ever keeping in heart and mind that our mission is to bring our Young Adults into a deep and meaningful relationship with God in today’s world. We hope that our Young Adults become passionate, faithful adults – living, serving, and loving as Christ calls us. Just as a child grows into an adult and learns so many lessons along the way, our ministry continues to grow, to learn, and to apply the lessons that we hope will bring so many more young adults closer to God and help to foster a thriving community where our Young Adults can truly feel at home.
By: Monique Caron, Young Adult Ministry Co-Leader, St. Paul Inside the Walls, Madison, NJ