November 7, 2008

Parishes hold the key to opening doors to young adults

By John Shaughnessy

Cindy Flaten knows what’s at stake in her parish’s efforts to reach out to young adults.

“It’s for the growth of the larger Church and why we’re put on this Earth—to love and serve God and each other,” says Flaten, the director of religious education at Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis. “If we don’t let them know they are a valued part of our parish community, they’ll find what they’re looking for somewhere else.”

Flaten’s conversations with young adults have convinced her that they want to grow in their faith, so she’s trying to provide them with ideas and resources for their spiritual growth.

One outlet could be Theology on Tap, which lets young adults learn about their faith in a community setting, such as a restaurant, a parish hall or a bar. She’s also trying to develop programs at the parish and deanery levels, with the help of Mary Schaffner, the program coordinator of young adult ministry for the archdiocese.

“I’m working with the other directors of religious education in the [Indianapolis] North Deanery to try to establish some events,” Flaten says. “We want to connect them with other young adults in the North Deanery to help them see the bigger Church—not just on a spiritual level, but a social level. Mary tells us that once there’s a process, the young adults will take it over.”

Ideas being considered are Bible study sessions and spiritually themed movie nights that would also involve wine-and-cheese gatherings.

Christ the King Parish has also made efforts to keep in touch with their parishioners who are college students. The parish provides the students with information about the churches and the Newman Centers at the colleges they attend. The parish also sends care packages twice a year to their college students.

“I make scarves in their college colors just to let them know that their community is still thinking of them,” Flaten says. “That way, they know the Church is still reaching out to them as young adults.” †

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