Christopher Gawel, the Director for Campus and Young Adult Ministry for the Archdiocese of Detroit, shared with us a few tips when engaging young adults in the Catholic faith.

1. Focus on Making Missionary Disciples

“Our themes are always about ‘How do we become evangelizers?’” said Christopher.  By focusing on forming missionary disciples instead of just service projects, young adults really take ownership of the faith.  This needs to be done at the parish level as well as on campuses.

2. Young Adults are Hungry for Purpose

Giving young adults a purpose — that is, a mission to witness to others by sharing Jesus Christ — can be powerful especially on college campuses.  “We found that [college campuses] were the easiest places to begin. Almost easier than in a parish because the young people were so hungry for it,” said Christopher.

3. Young Adults are Essential to Evangelization in the Parish

When young missionary disciples enter into the parish life, they introduce a zeal that helps the parish catch the fire of mission.  “It’s like the second guy who broke the four minute mile,” said Christopher.  “When asked, ‘Why did you think you could break the mile?’ he said, ‘because someone else already did.’…If young people are capable of making these changes and they’re breaking into the New Evangelization, that gives hope to others; Parishioners get inspired…and then ask, ‘How do I  become a missionary disciple?’”

4. Shallow Entry Points

Evangelization needs to be able to reach different people in different ways.  “Bishop Byrnes calls them shallow entry points into the Church where people can encounter Christ,” said Christopher.  “We have to realize, that people are going to encounter Christ in different ways.  Some are going to encounter Him through Eucharistic Adoration…some through small group Bible studies…some through service to neighbor…and some through beauty…The trap is that a lot of parishes have gotten into the mindset that there is only one way to encounter Christ and that is “our” way.  What we are seeing is that there are multiple avenues in which people connect back to the Church, encounter Christ, and grow in discipleship.”