CYM December Luncheon - Post-Christian Ministry

Forming Teen Disciples in a Post-Christian World


The following three quotes exemplify three of struggles in ministry with young people today. During the December luncheon, youth ministry leaders discussed each quote and offered recommendations.

“Church as a commodity, not a community”

“The opposite of boring is meaningful”

“Science is more trustworthy than religion”


1.     “Church as a commodity, not a community”



Several young people who have disaffiliated with the Catholic Church were interviewed in a recent research project sponsored by Saint Mary’s Press. The interviewers were struck by how grateful the young people were that they were even missed, or that anyone bothered to ask them why they had left the Church. Young people are searching for a community where they feel they belong. In his ground-breaking book, Engaging a New Generation, Frank Mercadante points out that “Our evangelistic approach needs to shift from believing, belonging, and behaving, to belonging, behaving, and believing.” (Emphasis mine.)


Further, when young people view faith and religious practice as one option among many, it should be no surprise that they choose other seemingly more attractive options—such as sports—over Church. Our point is not to compete but to offer something no one else can.


What we see in young people

·         Busyness

·         Peer pressure

·         Pressure in general

·         Lack of support

·         Sense of comradery




1.      Membership versus accompaniment: is our primary motivation to accompany young Catholics on their spiritual journey? And to be the welcoming, supportive community that would be attractive to young Catholics?

2.      Can we assist parents in clearly stating why they want their children connected to the Church? Can we assist parents in clearly stating why their faith is important?

3.      How do we define “Catholic”? Assent to all teachings, (e.g. social issues)? Participation in a parish? Attendance at weekly liturgy?



·         Help families feel that they belong

·         Provide a welcoming atmosphere

·         Create meaningful engagement


2.     “The opposite of boring is meaningful”



There may be a misconception that young people need to be entertained or provided an abundance of fun activities to keep them from being bored. If the true opposite of boring is meaningful, how are we providing meaningful experiences in faith formation? The Saint Mary’s Press Disaffiliated Youth Research Project stated that “The concept of faith is becoming more and more challenging. Can we genuinely state why faith is important? How do we address the ‘so what?’” We need to find better ways to engage the hearts of young people in order to educate their minds.


In his book Teaching Teenagers in a Post-Christian World, points out that “Jesus is calling people to himself—not to a theology, not to a denomination, not to a church, an organization, or even a religion.”


What we see in young people

·         Seekers

·         Driven

·         Strong sense of commitment


·         Struggles with self-esteem

·         Discernment

·         Ready to go deeper



1.      Can we genuinely state why membership in the faith community is important?

2.      Can we go deeper/quicker? Can we provide religious formation that addresses the important issues and questions that young Catholics are thinking about at earlier and earlier ages?

3.      Do we provide space for questions and doubts?



·         Engage parents to convey the importance of religious practice (such as liturgy)

·         Provide opportunities for an encounter with Christ

·         Help young people understand the meaning of what we do


3.     “Science is more trustworthy than religion”



Many young people today feel that religion is out of step with the modern world. They see how the Church takes a moral stand on popular societal issues, and decide that religious is obsolete. Some may feel that religion is not logical or reasonable. Still others are misinformed about the Church’s relationship with science. The researchers from Saint Mary’s Press Disaffiliated Youth Research Project found that “Whether a person still somewhat “believes” or “disbelieves” in God or “something bigger”, the individual is not closed to belief (or fuller belief) if a rational argument or provable evidence can be presented to them.”


What we see in young people

·         Doubts

·         Apathy

·         Relativism

·         Head v. Heart knowledge




1.      Can we prioritize families on the margins? Can we identify and reach out to the families who are drifting, dissenting, or injured?




·         Present the reasonableness of faith

·         Use today’s issues to make a point about our faith




*All questions to consider come from the free Webinar Going, Going, Gone: The Dynamics of Disaffiliation in Young Catholics - With Bob McCarty, Frank Mercadante & Br. Armand Alcazar


Additional resources

·         Engaging a New Generation – Frank Mercadante

·         Teaching Teenagers in a Post-Christian World – Jake Kircher

·         Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World – Brock Morgan