Trying to catechize a young adult who has never had a conversion to Jesus is like trying to teach marine biology to someone who has never seen an ocean. We might be able to transmit some knowledge, but we might also leave him or her disinterested to the reality that the ocean is dynamic, beautiful, and powerful.
Herein lies the issue in many of our current catechetical models with young adults in the Catholic Church: our sequence, method, and execution of young adult faith formation is not working because it is out of order, ineffective, and unattractive to young people.
The statistics tell us only one side of the story, yet they also help frame our problem with young adults in the Catholic Church. According to Pew Research, only 30% of Catholic adults are still “practicing” their faith (that is, attend Mass at least monthly). Another 38% self-identify as Catholics, though they rarely attend Mass. That leaves nearly 32% who no longer identify as Catholics.[i] In the young adult population, the numbers are even worse.
Other questions arise: How many of those who go to Mass are intentional disciples who understand their identity as children of God? How many are open to sharing their faith? How many are seeking out opportunities to serve the poor? How many have a personal prayer life? How many are making good moral decisions?
While the numbers can seem overwhelming, the opportunities to make a change to something better are everywhere. For decades, the Church’s mode of operation with young adults in the average local community hasn’t changed much. Consequently, most young people feel disenfranchised from the Church and many have stopped caring about faith issues at all.