Almost every faith community worries at least a little about how to find ways to engage young people and attract (or keep) them as members.
My friend Tom Roberts of the National Catholic Reporter has been wandering the country this year talking with lots of people about what the emerging Catholic Church looks like. In this report, he focuses on the church's effort to hold on to younger members. (The link I've given you also will take you to previously published parts of Tom's series. The photo here today, by the way, shows Pope Benedict XVI speaking to young Catholics in Yonkers, N.Y., on his trip to the U.S. last year.)
Tom draws on some of the concepts inherent in the "Emergent Church Movement," about which I've written several times and he seeks to see how that movement is relevant to Catholicism today. One characteristic of the Emergent (or Emerging) Church Movement that seems fairly widespread is the idea that one should seek to follow Jesus and not worry so much about what the institutional church looks like.
That, as you might imagine, is a bit more difficult a concept to live out in the Catholic Church with its hierarchical polity. But many of the young people to whom Tom spoke seem to be finding ways to accomplish that. That is, they seem to be focused on a healthy parish life and how they fit into that rather than being consumed by all the controversial issues burning within the church.
In some ways, I think we Christians make church too complicated. Most people simply want reasons to hope and a place in which to do that with encouragement from other people. At its best, the church provides exactly that. At its worst, it distracts people from hope and from being present with others who need help and hope.
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GOD, R U LISTENING?
Well, it's happened. You now can send a Tweet to God on Twitter. A Tel Aviv resident will print out your Tweets and take them to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Sort of makes you wonder what might be wrong with bowing your head and praying directly to God. Well, maybe high-tech prayers intrigue the Almighty.