Tonight at our parish we begin a series of listening sessions- we're inviting specific groups from our parish population to come, have some wine and cheese, and tell us their opinions on the church, the Church, their lives, their faith, and what they want/need from us. We have been advertising on Facebook and by word of mouth, and are hoping someone will show up.
This first gathering is for young adults... we asked for those between the ages of 21-35. The age range is tricky to identify, because age seems so relative nowadays. I thought about inviting up to 40-year-olds, but thought that the needs of a 21YO and a 40YO must be significantly different... right? We'll do another session for adults in their 40s and 50s. We've already scheduled sessions for parents of young children, parents of elementary-aged children, parents of middle and high school students. We want to hold sessions for divorced people, for those married in the last 10 years (I'm especially curious to hear from this group), senior citizens, and whoever else we can figure out to include.
We want to hear from people about what they need. The sessions come in part out of a desire to prepare for collaboration, due to begin in our parish a year from July, by knowing who we are as we start the process. What is our charism as a parish? What do we do well, and what should we be doing better? But also, we genuinely, always, want to do better- who should we be serving, that we're missing now? What do these groups wish that we knew about them?
Meanwhile, I'm doing some research on these young adults, helped along nicely by NPR's current series about young adult "nones"- who don't identify themselves with a religious denomination at all, but qualify and quantify their faith. These are the "spiritual, but not religious" folks we always seem to be hearing about. The fact that this generation feels free to access God without the supplier of a church says something about who they are and what they believe to begin with. I still know so many older adults (my age and up) who consider the two to be a package deal- they don't believe in God because they don't believe in the Church. It's a big difference in viewpoints.