The best Catholic resources for reaching young adults

Who Are YOUR Young Adults

Who Are YOUR Young Adults?

“Who Are Young Adults” explained who young adults are in general, but who are your young adults? The ones who are already connected in some way and the ones you have the potential to reach. When you think about starting ministry with young adults, who do you have in mind? Do you have a group of youth ministry “alumni” who are still hanging around? Are there several college-age singles who regularly show up at 6 p.m. Mass? Is your area a hotbed for young professionals? Perhaps you rarely see young adults around, but there’s a wedding or baptism scheduled nearly every weekend. Maybe you don’t have a specific group of young adults in mind, but you’re hoping that, “if you build it, they will come.”

While it would be ideal to minister to all the young adults in your area, the reality is that it’s really challenging to meet the needs of everyone between the ages of 18 and 39. Figuring out exactly who your young adults are will help you to focus in on particular needs to get started. You can always expand the ministry.

Be sure to be mindful of subsets of the young adult population, such as young adults within particular ethnicities or cultures or those who don’t seem to fit these categories. Don’t forget parents of school or parish religious education children and young adults coming for Sacramental preparation, such as marriage or infant baptism.

Things To Consider About Your Ministry Focus

  • Age: For practical purposes, young adult ministry tends to fall into three groups: 18-23, 24-30, and 30+
  • Life situation: post-high school, college students, military, grad/law school, professionals, single, married, young couples with children, and so on.

How Do You Find Your Young Adults?

Where Do I Start Looking?

1. Parish records — Check the parish school or religious education program in addition to sacramental records for young adults who were recently married.

2. Diocesan records — These will have general information on young adults in the vicinity of the parish.

3. Census/government records — These let you dig a little deeper and know what young adults in your area do, who they live with, and what education level they have.

You might have a group of young adults already identified, get started with those young adults, keeping in mind there are more young adults out there. As noted in “Who Are Young Adults” the young adults who are present in our parishes only represent about 15% of the Catholic young adult population, but ministering well to those who are present is a great way to attract those who are not.

If you’re literally starting from scratch, though, locating the young adults can be a little more difficult. Our Resource section gives some starting points for tracking down national trends for young adult ministry. Here are some places to gather data specific to your location:

  • Parish records — If your parish has a school or a religious education program, many of the parents of the children enrolled will be young adults. Also, check Sacramental records for young adults who were recently married or who had a child baptized. It may also be worthwhile to just run through the regular registry, especially close to holidays or at the end of the academic year. It is often the case that young adults are still on their parents’ parish registration when they leave for college. (TIP: Parish administrative assistants can be great allies or great challenges. Many are highly protective of the parish register. If you don’t have a relationship with the parish secretary already, at this point, just ask nicely to get a report of the numbers. You can deal with contact information later.)
  • Diocesan records — Dioceses keep records about all sorts of things — households within a certain proximity to parishes, number of Catholic marriages in particular parishes, and the overall number of Catholics in the diocese. Contact the Chancery to see what kind of information they can give you and what you need to do to get it.
  • Census and other government records — Local government records can provide a ton of insight not only into how many young adults are in your area, but also what they do, who they live with, what level of education they have, and more. Especially if you are hoping to evangelize young adults who are not already hanging around your parish or if you’re building completely from the ground up, this is a valuable source of information.

TIP: Don’t get overwhelmed by the statistics. The information gathering is only meant to give you an idea of who is out there and what they are looking for in ministry. If it starts to get overwhelming, take a deep breath and realize that God is in control of this. You are only one small part of a larger plan … and a big Church!

Use the data to prioritize your ministry. You will likely have young adults in a whole variety of ages and life situations. The information you’ve gathered will help you to determine where to start. Which segment is the largest? How are the different segments already being served? Which group would be simplest to get started with? More importantly, which group is most in need of ministry? Once you’ve gotten started, you can consider how to reach out to the remaining young adult demographics.

Where Are The Young Adults Hanging Out?

No, seriously. Where are young adults hanging out? First consider this within your parish. Is there one Mass that tends to draw a young adult crowd? Is there a group of young moms meeting in the cry room, or some college students who show up on holidays and during the summer? What about the teachers in the parish school? Who is showing up for marriage or baptism preparation? Don’t forget the friends of those being married or having their children baptized.

Next consider where young adults hang out in your area. Are there bars or coffee shops that seem to be teeming with 20-somethings? What about the gyms, Laundromat, or library? Is there a college campus nearby, especially a university with a large graduate student or commuter student population? Who employs young adults in the area?

It’s important to know where the young adults hang out so you know where to find them. An important part of ministry to young adults is meeting them where they are, and that includes physically. The evangelizing mission of our Church requires that we engage in the world, so where the young adults are is where we should be also.

Additionally, it’s good to ask why the young adults hang out in these locations. What is it about the location that attracts a young adult crowd? Some locations may simply provide a service or fill a need. But others may be locations young adults intentionally choose. Typically, young adults are attracted to vibrant, open places. (Learn more about making your parish more young adult friendly in Strategies for Parishes.) Others have a particular interest that inclines them to gather with people who share that interest. Is there a way to build on where young adults are already gathering?

About the Author

Amy McEntee

Amy McEntee is an assistant director in the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. She currently serves as the chairperson of the executive board for the National Catholic Young Adult Ministry Association (NCYAMA). Amy holds a bachelor’s of science in education and taught high school English prior to entering the field of catechetical ministry. With ministry experience in faith formation for children, youth and adults, Amy has served as a consultant and presenter, most frequently in the areas of the use of social media in ministry, intergenerational ministry and ministry to young adults. She is finishing her master’s degree in theological studies at the University of Dayton. In addition to her professional interests, Amy is an amateur photographer, avid reader, and reluctant runner. Amy lives with her husband, Patrick, in Dayton, Ohio.

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