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How to Start a Catholic Young Adult Group
A Step by Step Guide
Starting and running a young adult ministry is a challenge. Here are twelve suggestions for the elements you need to hit the ground running.
1. Find a Co-Leader
Two heads are better than one, and you'll want someone to bounce ideas and share responsibilities with. Look for someone who shares your vision. Plus, you can cover for each other if one of you can't make it.
2. Determine Identity
Know your reason for starting the ministry and what your mission is. Find your "Why." Here's an example from Grapevine, a ministry in the Cleveland area:
"Grapevine exists to be an authentic Catholic young adult community for as many people in their 20s and 30s as possible at any stage of their faith journey. We do this through social life, intellectual conversation, personal development, the sacraments, and service."
Decide what your community will do. There's plenty of options, and you can do more than just one. Check out the tags on our Find A Group page for ideas.
Pick a unique name that fits with what you want the group to represent. We suggest something other than "Insert Parish Name Young Adult Thing", but rather a name that communicates your identity and lets people know they are welcome even if they may go to Mass somewhere else. (There are exceptions, of course, such as if your identity is deeply connected to the parish, often the case in historically ethnic parishes.)
Determine your desired age range. Who do you consider a young adult? (These ranges tend to have fuzzy boarders, such as "18 to 30s").
3. Decide Your Meeting Frequency
Consistency is key. Frequency depends on what you provide (discussions, social life, praise and worship, etc.). We recommend meeting weekly in most cases, at the same place, time, and day of the week. This lets real community develop through regular interaction, and no one needs to check their calendar to know what "Every Thursday" means. If there are other groups nearby, try to pick a different meeting day so local young adults can still go to both.
4. Seek Out a Host Parish
The parish is a great home base. There's available space, easy access to the sacraments, and usually a priest who is highly motivated to help out. Most priests are eager for any young adult activity, so they'll likely be on board. Some priests may not be, but don't get discouraged. Find one who wants your group to succeed; it pays dividends.
Parishes also have ample opportunities to promote your ministry and get established. Make a flyer. Print it out, put it in the back of the church (with permission), and get it in the bulletin. Ask the priest to promote your group in the announcements at the end of mass. Get in touch with the youth or young adult minister (if there is one) and see how they can help.
Not all groups need to meet at parishes, however, some meet at various locations for things like hikes, game nights, bar get-togethers, sports, and more.
5. Before Your First Meeting
Once you have your location set, pick a starting date. This will make it real. Then reach out to everyone in your contacts and social media with an invite. If they exist, go to other young adult groups nearby and ask to announce your new ministry there. The more people you can get at the first meeting, the easier it will be to grow and thrive.
Not everyone will come, and that's okay, though you may be surprised by which people show up. Trust that people will come, and the more you invite the more likely that will be.
6. Your First Meeting
There will be some nerves. That's to be expected. You may not get the numbers you hoped for. You may get more people than you think you can handle. Put it in God's hands, ask the Holy Spirit for help. People will be happy just to be there and part of something. Do your thing, go for it.
7. Growing Your Community
You will likely start small, maybe even with just half a handful of people. Don't get discouraged, the biggest community in Cleveland started with just six people in 2018 and now regularly has more than fifty at their weekly meetings.
Create what we call a "Culture of Invitation." This starts with you leading the way with people you already know. Get in the habit of inviting any new people you run into. Encourage your members to invite their friends, even ones who may not be super into their faith. It's a great opportunity to evangelize.
We'll have more on marketing a little bit further down, but remember, "Culture of Invitation."
8. Get in Touch with the Diocese
Your diocese will have tons of resources that can help you in your mission. You can ask your priest or a fellow young adult leader for the right person to contact.
The diocese can get you connected with promotion in the diocesan newsletter, magazine articles, news stories, and can help financially with some things, like retreats or special events. They may even be able to connect you with other young adult leaders.
9. Special Events
In additional to your normal meetings, we recommend throwing special events somewhat regularly, whether that's monthly or every few months. You can go on fun outings, throw parties at someone's house on the weekend, or have themed gatherings for holidays, just to name a few ideas.
These are a fantastic way to bond your growing community together, have a great time, and expose your ministry to new people who may not be as interested initially.
10. Connect with Other Leaders
It's likely there are other young adult leaders in your area. Get in touch with them, even consider having a "leader's group" that gets together on a somewhat regular basis to share ideas, support each other, and make friends with people who understand what it's like.
Another great benefit is that you can throw "tandem" events with other ministries, which is a great way to promote both and opens the door to combining resources to pull off big events and projects. Don't worry if some of "your" people end up going to "their" group, or vice-a-versa. In our experience, cross-group participation helps both sides grow and thrive.
11. Marketing Your Ministry
Once you find your stride with your regular meetings, it's time to grow. A candle isn't supposed to be hidden under a bushel, after all. Get everything squared away at the parish in terms of a flyer, the bulletin, and announcements.
Make some business cards with the basics of your ministry: what, when, where, and how to get in touch. Give them out when you invite people. UPrinting.com has a variety of affordable and creative options.
Make or spruce up social media accounts for your ministry. Instagram and Facebook are great ways to stay in peoples' minds and share information on upcoming events. Find a good frequency for posting. You don't necessarily need to worry about coming up with "content," since much of what you'll be posting will be reminders about meetings and events. You can even set up localized, low-cost, age-targeted Facebook and Instagram ads for your meetings or events. It costs roughly $10 to get your ad in front of 2,000 people.
If you have the know-how, throw together a simple website so people can learn about your community before coming (you can link to it from your social media). It's a great place for an overview of your ministry: why you exist, what you do and when, where you meet, and who you are as a leader and a group. Check out this example to get a sense of what's possible with an afternoon or two of work.
Send a weekly email newsletter. This is an easy way to update your members on what's going on, both within your group and in the wider community. It can be as simple as a paragraph or two of prose, or a fully fleshed out newsletter with styles, images, and even personal messages from you. It also helps other leaders know what's going so they can collaborate and send their members your way if you have a cool event coming up.
Lastly, you can reach out to nearby parishes without young adult groups to get your flyer in their bulletin and even announcements at Mass. Make sure to emphasize that your ministry serves the entire community, not just your parish.
12. Get Additional Graces
The biggest help you can get comes from above. Consider consecrating your ministry to Immaculate Mary, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, or Saint Joseph.
Work on building a habit of personal adoration to pray for your ministry and guidance in your leadership. Or better yet, if you are able, have a weekly Holy Hour at the parish and encourage your members to join you with the Lord. The graces that flow will have a profound impact on you, your members, and the ministry as a whole.
You are starting something that has the potential to be a permanent community in the Church. This commitment might last for several years. Keep that in mind going in, but also remember that it will be one of the most fulfilling experiences of your life. Along the way, people will step up to help out as the community grows and changes. Eventually, one of them will take your place when it's time for you to move on, and you can watch as the fruits of your labor flourish on their own.
You will find that some of the people who come into your life through this work can become lifelong, local friends. You can look forward to the rest of your life knowing there will be a solid, faithful community around you (one which you helped build).
Remember that when it comes to growth, spiritual growth as individuals and a community will always be more important than the quantity of people who attend. Remind yourself regularly of your "why," and that the people you are serving, no matter how many, will become better witnesses for Christ.
Resist the temptation to change too many things at once just to draw more people or to be more attractive to the secular crowd. Present the Truth of Christ as best you can, and trust in him to bring the people he wants into the fold.
Find your "why." Write it down. Refine it. Find someone who shares your vision. Then take the first step.
If you want to dive deeper, don't hesitate to reach out to us on our contact page. We're happy to have a conversation, hear your thoughts, and share anything we can to help make your mission a reality.
And don't forget, once you get your ministry going, get listed on our network right away!
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