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New T.B.G. initiative aims to draw those in their 20s and 30s to the church

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In a secular culture where church membership declines every year, how do churches reach out to people in their 20s and 30s to show them what they’re missing?

They focus on truth, beauty and goodness, “the things we all aspire to, the things we all want,” said Kevin Bohli, executive director of the diocesan Office of Youth, Campus and Young Adult Ministries. “They will point us toward God whether we realize it or not.”

(Truth, beauty and goodness are) the things we all aspire to, the things we all want. They will point us toward God whether we realize it or not.” Kevin Bohli, executive director, diocesan Office of Youth, Campus and Young Adult Ministries

That’s the thinking behind the office’s latest initiative, dubbed T.B.G., which “goes out into the world to reach young people where they are,” Bohli said.

T.B.G. began last fall in the middle of the pandemic, with outdoor events that had an ambiance like a small art or music festival, in casual venues such as the patios of restaurants and brewpubs. Each event, held on Mondays 6:30-8:30 p.m., features a speaker telling a story about personal struggles and joys (truth), a musical performance and art display (beauty) and a charitable cause to which participants can donate to give back to the community (goodness).

Each event takes a virtue as a theme, such as fortitude, justice or love, to inspire reflection and conversation, said Niru De Silva, the office’s coordinator of young adult ministry. The emphasis is not on dogma but on pondering deeper questions and creating community, he added. “How am I supposed to love, how am I supposed to be?”

The events, promoted largely on social media, target not just those in their 20s but couples in their 30s with children, who also may be seeking community, and aims to connect them with others at nearby parishes. The May 17 event, outside Caboose Commons in Fairfax, drew 125 people. It featured a story on the theme of fortitude by Mike Tenney, a local speaker and worship leader, live music by Aren Bruce and an art display by Mary Acosta. Donations provided scholarship funds for student refugees through Catholic Charities’ Migration and Refugee Services.

The June 14 event at Highline RxR in Pentagon City had the theme of justice, with story and art by Erin McAtee and music by Marie Miller. Donations went to Catholic Charities’ Christ House ministry in Alexandria.

Recent Gallup polls show church membership has been declining steadily with each generation: just 36 percent of millennials (born 1981-96) belong to a church and numbers are similar for Gen Z (now 24 and under). That’s down from 50 percent in Generation X (born 1965-80), 58 percent of baby boomers (1946-64) and 66 percent of those born before 1946.

“To me, this is reaching out to myself, with the answers I have always been searching for,” said De Silva, 30, a convert to Catholicism who used to think “science was the only source of truth.”

Bohli said his office will continue its other young adult ministries, including Theology on Tap and Exalt (evening holy hours), but those seem to attract people who already attend church, rather than the unaffiliated. “We’re always trying to stay relevant and offer new ministries,” he said. 

The diocesan Office of Youth, Campus, and Young Adult Ministries is supported by the annual Bishop’s Lenten Appeal.

Find out more

arlingtondiocese.org/young-adult-ministry/events/ 

 

 

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021