Moments of return for Catholic young adults are moments that hold the potential for evangelization and outreach. Below are practical strategies for strengthening important moments in young adults’ lives.
Welcome and Celebrate Young Adults
From the minute a young adult stands in front of us at our parishes we should be celebrating the fact that she is there. After watching numerous friends get married, baptize their children, and begin religious education of those children, I know that making these decisions can at times be challenging for young adults to make. Our starting point as we minister to young adults within marriage preparation, baptismal preparation, and religious education needs to be one of gratitude, the same gratitude we experience when a new high school teen walks into a youth ministry event.
When that high school teen walks in our doors, we do not question why he is there, but rather we celebrate the fact that he stepped foot in the door. This attitude of thankfulness for the presence of the young needs to come from all in the parish—administrative people answering the phone, faith formation ministers, pastors, and others. The first words out of our mouths need to be “Congratulations!” or “Welcome!” or “We are glad you came!”
Invite Young Adults to Share Their Stories
The second step is giving young adults an opportunity to share their stories. Inviting young adults to share their sacred stories is an invitation for them to begin to notice God at work in their lives. One of the biggest gifts we can give a young adult is the gift of “holy listening.” For marriage preparation, it is simply inviting the young adults to share how they met, to share about their relationship, and most importantly why they chose to be here. For baptismal preparation, it is taking the time to listen to the story of their child’s birth, the reason they gave their child his/her name, the struggles or ease of getting pregnant, and their fears and joys of parenthood. When a parent calls about sacramental preparation or religious education, we can take a moment to hear about the child, to hear about the gifts of that child, and to minister to the parent. All three moments of return gift us with an opportunity to be “holy listeners” to the sacred stories of young adults’ lives. Truly listening is an opportunity to minister to young adults and provide a connection to our parishes.
As young adults share their stories, we can also offer the gift of knowledge. In my years of ministry to and with young adults, I have learned the importance of slowing down when young adults are in front of me to offer moments of teaching instead of rushing through a meeting. Young adults come to us with questions and a hunger to have these questions answered. My motto is “never assume” someone understands or has all of their questions answered until I ask. With each of the major moments of return, we have golden opportunities to help pass on our faith. With marriage preparation, we can share why Matrimony is a sacrament, and what it means to be Christ’s love for each other and a witness to God’s love in the world. With Baptism, it is helpful to share the reasons for the symbols and even more importantly what it means to be the primary educator of children’s faith. Religious education allows us opportunities to teach both parent and child by simply sharing information.
Connect to Other Young Adults
A final thing we can do when these moments of return occur is connect young adults to other young adults in similar life circumstances. I call these moments of return for a reason. Often young adults are re-entering their faith communities, and as they re-enter, they know few people their age at the parish. A simple act of introducing newlywed couples or new parents to other young adult couples in that similar stage can be an avenue of connecting to the larger faith community. The same is true with parents in religious education programs. So often, young adults tell me they want to find others within the parish community that are their age and in similar life circumstances. As faith formation ministers, we can help create community by connecting people to each other.
With an attitude of thankfulness, an atmosphere of hospitality, sacred listening and teaching, and connecting young adults to the larger faith community, we have the ability to help a young adult’s moment of return turn into something that occurs more than once!