The best Catholic resources for reaching young adults

What Young Adult Ministry Is
and What It Is Not

Here are a few things to keep in mind — so that you don’t limit yourself before you begin:

  • Young Adult Ministry doesn’t need to be all things to all people. With such a large demographic and such a diversity of sub-groups, Young Adult Ministry can seem daunting and overwhelming. Even though the boundaries of Young Adult Ministry are vast, we can be more specific in how we carry it out. For example, you can target college students, young couples, or Latino young adults — to make things more focused. When we try to reach out to everyone, almost no one gets our true attention.

  • Young Adult Ministry is bigger than a group or club. While forming small faith networks are a good component to this ministry, sometimes they can become an exclusive club. And when we get friendly or comfortable with the same group of people, we can forget about evangelizing and ignore the newcomers. It’s best to avoid calling your program a “young adult group.” Instead, call it a “Young Adult Ministry” and remember the three components: evangelization, discipleship, and integration.

  • Young Adult Ministry is more than any one program. You might have a great passion around a certain activity or aspect of the faith, but if you make that singular experience the foundation of the entire Young Adult Ministry, it will be very limited. While you can’t do everything, it’s best to try to include more than one thing. It can be catechetical, but not just catechetical. It can be social, but not just social. The most successful ministries are bigger than one program or aspect of the faith.

  • Young Adult Ministry goes beyond programs. Don’t get us wrong. Events and programs will certainly be helpful in getting Young Adult Ministry off the ground. But it’s always good to keep in mind that when your Theology-on-Tap or service project is over for the day, the most important thing you can do is follow-up. Young Adult Ministry is relational, and because of that, events and programs are there to support bigger, more long-range goals: namely to bring people together and respond with love to their needs and hopes, to inspire conversion of hearts, to develop strong disciples, and to integrate them into a community of faith.

  • Young Adult Ministry is not an afterthought. If you’re reading this, you already get that. But part of your job now is to advocate to others that this is not an “excess ministry” – and that you’re serious about making it work.

  • Young Adult Ministry is not Youth Ministry. Because of the proximity of ages between adolescents (those in their teenage years) and young adults (those in their late teens, 20s, and 30s), youth and young adult ministry are sometimes confused or fused together. They have some similarities — both groups experience times of transition and are proficient in technology, but they are radically different populations with different needs and ministry with and for them should be distinct and separate, yet still collaborative in the pathway from one to the next.

Youth Ministry

Young Adult Ministry

The Millennial Generation

Developmental Issues: dating, puberty, sexual identity, peer pressure, bullying, parent/teen relationships, social skills

Longing to move away from parents’ home

Sacramental Moments: Confirmation (and awareness of Eucharist/Reconciliation)

Experiential Faith: integration of religion and teen life; metanoia-focused retreats; social faith-based activities

Cultural/Life Issues: sex/relationships, friendships, education, college choice, parents, teen pop culture, teen suicide, adolescence, new car, sports and activities

Bringing Teens to the Church

Going Deeper: Charity and mission work

The Millennials AND Generation X

Developmental Issues: marriage, life partnerships, grieving loss of job/marriage, soul searching, personal identity, loneliness

Sometimes moving back to parents’ home

Sacramental Moments: Marriage, Baptism, RCIA, and Creating “Moments of Return”

Understanding Faith: integration of religion and spirituality; adult faith formation; mystagogical focus; evangelization/outreach

Cultural/Life Issues: cohabitation, career, economy, commuting, voting, taxes/bills, single life, reproductive issues, children, domestic life, young adult popular culture

Bringing the Church to Young Adults

Going Deeper: Social justice integration

About the Author

Paul Jarzembowski

Paul Jarzembowski is the Program Coordinator of Youth & Young Adult Ministry at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Paul has served for over seven years at the helm of the National Catholic Young Adult Ministry Association (NCYAMA), which networks, trains, and resources church leaders across the country in the field of young adult ministry. He has been a contributing author to several books, blogs, and publications including The Next Generation of Pastoral Leaders (Loyola Press, 2010) and Young and Catholic in America (Paulist Press, 2010). He has been a contributing author to several books, blogs, and publications including The Next Generation of Pastoral Leaders (Loyola Press, 2010) and Young and Catholic in America (Paulist Press, 2010). He is a regular columnist and film reviewer for Faith Catholic. He received his M.A. in Pastoral Studies from Loyola University Chicago and is married and lives in the greater Chicago area. 

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