We Can’t Forget About Young People Who Have Left the Church

Christopher White writes:

In the lead-up to October’s synod on “Young people, faith and vocational discernment,” much of the discussion has been on the needs of young people within the church. That’s a very good and necessary conversation, but it should also be had alongside a discussion of what can be done to reach the young people who have already left the church — the ones whom we won’t find at Sunday Mass or at youth ministry programs.

One of the beautiful portions of the synod’s preparatory document is the section that discusses the need for “getting out” and finding areas outside of the confines of the church where the Gospel witness is made credible.

I recently had the experience of covering the New York Encounter, an annual three-day cultural festival organized by the lay movement Communion and Liberation. While the program is chock full of cardinals, bishops, priests and other members of religious life, one of the many remarkable things about this event is just how normal it all is.

While the event — which pulls in over 10,000 people — is explicitly religious, there’s just as much emphasis on service — as represented this year by special exhibits on Martin Luther King Jr. and Dorothy Day — as there is on theology. The two, of course, are inextricably linked, but events like the New York Encounter present a different public image of the church.