Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Young Adults: Belonging comes before believing

Intentionally building a culture of encounter is a key element in bringing Christ to young adults in our society. Bringing people to faith is not only about giving them the right facts, but about creating an atmosphere where they feel safe to open up and be vulnerable about their entire lives. Toward this end, we need to conceive of the church as a place where people can learn how to create real community -- the core of the Church's life.

Young adults, in particular, deeply yearn not just to learn facts about faith, but to experience the power of that faith in the community. So, for many people belonging comes before believing. And while everyone yearns for community, true community -- really being family, brothers and sisters -- is only fully realized when we have a personal encounter with Christ. That is the power of the Gospel - to break down “the dividing wall” between people and creates bonds stronger even than one’s biological family (see what St. Paul says in Ephesians 2:14).

On a practical level this means that we don’t just have a "welcoming" person at the door -- someone who greets people warmly -- but that we all help everyone who comes to understand the importance of real hospitality. This also means respecting the differences that exist between men and women. This might mean that sometimes we need to address matters in gender-specific small groups This in turn can build strong ties among the men and the women in their respective groups.

"Laughing Jesus" by Hooks
Being truly human also means having fun. It isn't' often that we imagine Jesus laughing or joking with his disciples but we can be sure that it happened. Jesus was, after all, truly human. Forming true community must then also include activities that address this important side of our personalities. Perhaps we can organize fun things like a rafting trip or going to a professional or semi-pro sports game. We can also encourage people to organize fun events themselves.

Authentic Christian community is intimately tied to evangelization. First, the way we live together gives witness to a world torn apart by division and broken relationships. Jesus tells us, “By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Second, evangelizing and serving together further builds up the community, as one young adult has shared:

"Going deeper into community isn't just showing up to a bible study though.  It is also carrying out service together much like what St. Luke's does with H.O.P.E.S. or Power Packs.  When I am with others doing these things, I can see the people grow closer together as they work together."

Challenging young adults to go outside of themselves and put their faith into action is key to building that community and is an essential part of leading young adults to a deeper commitment to Christ and his Church.

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