Members of the staffs from both parishes and I recently attended a conference on ministering to Millennials. Perhaps you believe Millennials are anyone under the age of 35, and maybe you've heard stereotypes that they are entitled, lazy, and love avocado toast, but who are they really? Millennials are young adults born between 1981 and 1996—meaning that I'm a Millennial—and comprise approximately a quarter of the American population. While shaped by the internet and social media, they remember a time before the internet existed for public use. Millennials remember where they were when terrorists attacked our country on 9/11, much like previous generations remember where they were when President Kennedy was assassinated or when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. As I assume we all know, each generation is different from other generations.
I think and I hope that all of us recognize that Millennials are in some sense a lost generation within the Church. Many of us lament the lack of young adults at Mass and involved in the life of the parish. The conference we attended, as I mentioned, sought to help us better minister to this generation—without, of course, losing sight of other generations. The team from the conference gave us multiple ideas and practices on how to better attract Millennials. Some of these ideas and practices may be very challenging to us. While still maintaining the essentials and core of our Catholic faith, we may be challenged to implement a new and different way of operating; we will be challenged to try new things, which, yes, may even fail at times. We may even have to stop doing things even though “that's how it's always been done.” It will be challenging because change is hard, and we usually don't like change in general or to change ourselves.
Some of the practical details I will discuss later, but for now, let's look at general items Millennials are looking for, items I believe all people, regardless of age, seek. Millennials are looking for somewhere to belong, asking the question, “Where do I fit in?” In response as parishes, this calls us to foster an atmosphere of inviting hospitality, which begins with a pleasing appearance of our buildings and grounds and with a strong online and social media presence and culminates with the graciousness and warmth of each parishioner, leading all to know they belong in the family and the kingdom of God. Millennials are searching for their identity, asking the question, “Who am I?” Knowing this, everything we do as parishes—celebration of the sacraments, teaching the faith, communal events—should aim at helping all people know deeply who they are as sons and daughters of God in Jesus Christ. Lastly, Millennials are looking for purpose, asking the question, “What's the point of life?” The challenge for us is to help people discover the mission God has for them. In the end, this is how we help, mostly through the power of the Holy Spirit, our parishes to grow and thrive. More to come later. Have a great week!