Welcoming back the ‘Nones’
Have you heard of the Nones? On Sept. 13, catechetical leaders, youth ministers, pastors and pastoral associates came together for our annual Fall Days. This year’s topic focused on the disaffiliation studies by St. Mary’s Press and other national organizations that focus on the trend of those who would identify as “None” if their religious affiliation was questioned on a survey.
Former Catholics comprise the largest percentage of those who now identify as Nones and are often millennials. The study begs the questions: Why are young people leaving the church, and what can we do about it? A variety of reasons are shared at catholicresearch.smp.org, and young adults around the country are invited to share their own personal stories.
Why do they leave? Many say it is reflective of the home they grew up in. If the Catholic faith was not practiced regularly or made a priority, then it is highly unlikely that young adults will associate with their faith live. Others leave because of a disconnect with a personal relationship with Christ and inability to have a personal encounter with the divine — unanswered prayers, distant or inflexible parish communities, or a particular sadness that has impacted the young adult’s life all contribute. As professionals in ministry, the phenomenon of the Nones is concerning. How must we move forward within this current reality?
We spent our day in conversation and concluded with a resolve to move forward positively. First steps? Look at the formula of your parish because each will have its own unique needs. We will all need to consider how we create a sacred space where all generations are welcome to worship, gather and serve; we’ll need to examine the ways in which we connect with families, empower parents to build their domestic church and catechize young people; and we’ll need to invite young adults into the conversation and find out what they are looking for from the church.
The Nones are reality that is unlikely to go away. Our task is to welcome back what Nones we can, and keep the next generation from becoming them. That is the job of the whole parish
Barkin is coordinator of youth and young-adult ministry for the Diocese of Rochester.