Diocese sponsors Millennial Church Conference April 30 in Appleton

Event will help parish leaders reach out to young adult Catholics

ALLOUEZ — Millennials (young adults born between 1981 and 1996) are projected to overtake Baby Boomers as the largest living adult generation in 2019, but when it comes to church attendance, millennial numbers are declining.

According to a 2015 Pew Research Center study, 35 percent of U.S. millennials have no religious affiliation.

A Millennial Church Conference flyer. The event will be held April 30 in Appleton.

Faced with these challenging statistics, Catholic young adult ministers are looking for ways to reach out to millennials and welcome them back to the church. On Monday, April 30, the Diocese of Green Bay’s Young Adult Regional Ministries will host a Millennial Church Conference at St. Bernard Church in Appleton.

The conference, which begins at 9 a.m. and concludes at 4 p.m., “will empower clergy, church staffs and lay leaders to reach out to millennial adults in simple, practical and personal ways,” according to organizers.

“This conference is for millennials, those who live and work with them or are just curious about them. It will be fun, informative and eye-opening,” said Jane Angha, coordinator of Young Adult Ministry for the diocese.

The Millennial Church Conference (MCC) is a new ministry outreach led by Catholic young adult leaders. The Appleton event is only the fourth conference to be offered by MCC, according to its website, millennialchurchconference.com.

Speakers include Pete Burak, director of i.d.9:16, a ministry seeking to help young adults become “intentional disciples of Jesus;” Sarah Kaczmarek, national director of Alpha Youth, part of the international Alpha series that explores the Christian faith; and Pete and Emily Burds, a young married couple who are both ministry directors for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

While statistics show religious affiliation dropping among millennials, the Catholic numbers are even more staggering, according to the MCC website.

Eighty percent of millennials who were raised Catholic stopped practicing their faith by age 23, according to MCC, and just 15 percent of millennial Catholics attend weekly Mass.

The conference goal is to help parishes and dioceses “create communities that understand, empower and connect with young adults.”

Emily Jenks serves as regional coordinator for young adults in the Fox Cities. She is one of eight regional coordinators who are helping Angha to lead the event.

Jenks said the MCC is a great way to bring together young adults and church leaders to address the challenging topic of ministering to millennials.

“In my few months as a regional coordinator, I’ve had the opportunity to grow in relationship with young adults and start dialogue on where they feel their role is in parish life,” she said. “I’ve also had the opportunity to meet with parish leadership who are seeing the decline in the presence of young adults.

“Both groups are eager to solve this crisis, but often don’t know where to start,” said Jenks. “This conference is the perfect opportunity to bring them together in a practical way to dialogue on what the needs are of this generation and how our church communities can better engage and serve them.”

Sarah Bradford, another regional coordinator for young adults, who also serves as communications coordinator for the Diocese of Green Bay, said attendees will learn about the fundamentals of evangelization in a millennial context, as well as the common characteristics of this generation, and the unique and diverse challenges facing them today.

Angha said conference attendees will learn new insights and skills to help them build relationships with young adults.

“This conference has it all – great prayer, conversation, presentations, fabulous food, time for networking and a bit of praise and worship too,” she said. “There will be the opportunity to meet our regional coordinators from around the diocese and to have some good conversations about millennials, the church and what we need to do.”

While church ministers might think they know millennials, said Angha, “This conference dives into some of the nuances that make up this demographic. The presenters are millennials and are refreshing, funny and real.”

Conference registration fee, which includes a catered lunch, is $30. To register or for more information visit millennialchurchconference.com or contact Maria Garcia at [email protected] or (920) 272-8276.