So, at this point, I will make a few basic remarks addressing how parishes might begin to do a better job of addressing the most important needs of young adults.
I should say that I think most of these are fairly obvious, given the needs. Also, I won't try in this post to be detailed or exhaustive. I simply want to indicate a few things I believe would be important.
And so here are a few ideas. To my mind, it would be very helpful for American young adults if parishes tried to do more of the following:
Cultivate community--meaningful community, deep-rooted community. Help young adults to form bonds, relationships, and friendships with others that go beyond the trivial and superficial.
Provide guidance in becoming a person of prayer. This helps to bring more stability, self-identity, and self-knowledge into one's life, not to mention provides a healthy reminder of one's place in the world and of life's purpose.
Provide opportunities to serve people in need alongside other young adults. In addition to benefiting others, this helps build community and strengthen one's relationship to Christ.
Provide guidance in vocational discernment. Although a person is employed, in today's culture he (or she) often does not find his place in society until some years after his first or second job. Those with possible vocations to the priesthood or religious life need support and assistance in testing such indications.
Provide catechesis in areas of particular need for young adults. This could include almost anything, but certainly there are areas of particular relevance for young adults. These would include marriage and sexuality and learning more about the nature and content of revelation as it concerns the state of fallen mankind, the relationship between creation and God, man’s place in creation, and the purpose of man’s earthly life as designed by God.
Provide guidance in coming closer to Christ. This, of course, is part of any parish's basic mission to all the people it serves. Nonetheless, young adults are often lacking in this area. For example, the sacraments are all about coming closer to Christ. But, despite religious instruction received in their childhood, many young adult Catholics do not know how the sacraments are truly instruments of grace and healing, and intimacy with Christ.
Looking back at this basic list, it does seem almost too basic, perhaps too obvious. Yet, in my experience of the Catholic Church in America, only a few parishes reach out to adults in a regular fashion along these lines.
I would add something that is also extremely important: finding the right people to work with young adults is vital to the fruitfulness of the effort. Sometimes, it seems as though local Church leaders lose sight of this. You can have a great program outlined on paper, but with the wrong people in charge it will not last long. Outreach to young adults should be, above all, sincere and well-informed. Leaders should be well-educated and well-formed in the faith. They should be good examples of persons on the journey toward ever greater intimacy with Christ. They should have an evident love and concern for young adults. And, they should be good public speakers. Careful selection of group leaders cannot be overlooked in establishing a vibrant young adult ministry. More can be said about this but I will leave at this for now.