Our young people are constantly bombarded by messages contradictory to Christian beliefs and they face challenges everywhere: social media, music, school, friends, family and even within the Church itself.
With all these distractions, some find their faith to be “irrelevant”. Others, who Catholic News spoke to, shared some reasons on why they left their youth communities.
“I lost all sense of community and faith when I saw how my youth community was focusing more on social status than their faith life,” said Nathanel (all names in this story have been changed).
“We spent more time going to clubs and the beach than we did in church … I’m not saying social occasions are wrong, they are important, but the reason for having a faith community for me, is so that one has a platform to share his struggles and challenges. There wasn’t that anymore in my community so I left,” said the 18-year-old, who was involved with his community for about three years.
Gerald, 19, said his community became “more focused on relationships” rather than “evangelisation and reaching out to other youth to journey with”. Gerald was involved with his community for more than four years before leaving.
Those who got involved in intimate relationships started to miss community sessions and there were other couples who broke up which meant they left the community to avoid seeing each other, he said, adding that the “gossip and chatter … hurt me personally”.
Shanice, 20, said that “there was a lack of support in church … My group of church friends drifted apart so I did not have a proper group of people to go with initially.” As a result, she started to go to church on her own for a good two years but soon shied away after she was met with tough family circumstances and trials in her life.
Sean, 20, who journeyed with his community for about two years, said his experience during the last months there left a “bad and distasteful impression” on him because “I’ve met a number of hypocrites to pretend to be God-loving but gossip about others who they pretended to be friends with.”
Erika, 20, said that her parents “weren’t very supportive of me attending youth group activities – they felt like it would be a distraction from school. And the environment in the youth community wasn’t very conducive for prayer and the direction wasn’t so much towards growing my faith but more so for fun.” She was involved with her community for about three years.
Having been totally disconnected with the Church, attempting to reintegrate oneself back can be quite intimidating.
One suggestion on what the Church could do is to organise informal meet-ups for those who have left. Doing so allows them to be able to be around other young people who “share and can relate to my struggles,” said Nathanel. “I think for this to happen, there needs to be better outreach or publicity of the type of programmes that are available for youth like myself.”
Concurring, Sean said that forming “such a group for lapsed young people may be one way to kickstart bringing them back.” Erika added that having such a group would be good for her and others to share what is troubling them because of the “close and personal interactions” that could take place.
On their programmes preference, the interviewees said social gatherings and sessions focused on healing would be appealing.
“I believe for those like me, there needs to be healing before anything,” said Gerald.
“I think a great programme would be a camp, a few days for youth to come together and receive pastoral direction as well as to share their hurts,” said Nathanael. “That way, a foundation of sorts can be built … with the help of a priest or youth director. There can be continued sessions for youth who have left the church but are hoping to reintegrate themselves back in,” he added.
Acknowledging that most young people who have strayed from the Church would not bother attending Church events,
Erika said friends play an important role in reaching out to them.
Shanice also suggested having camps where everyone new has a designated buddy so he or she would not feel alone.
The first part of this feature appeared in the Oct 14 issue of CN.