How do We Solve the Young Adult Problem? Give them Post Its.

A year ago, Edmund Mitchell, Anthony (my twin brother) and I started meeting up for breakfast every Monday morning. The food was eggs, the drink was coffee, and the subject matter was putting on a conference that we would actually want to go to. We believed that young adults in the Catholic world don’t need to hear another talk by the same crew of speakers we’ve been listening to since we were in highschool ourselves. We believed that what young adults really want is the opportunity to make an impact. Any event we would want to go to would be highly creative, highly interactive, and must involve a tree’s worth of post it notes. We had no idea where those conversations would lead, but decided to do a meetup in Dallas to test out our theory. When we met powerhouse designer Gaby Thompson and told her about what we were doing, we found that she had been wanting the exact same thing; our team was born. Things started moving quickly, and pretty soon we had a google doc that was 12 pages long with to do lists, talking points, and a shopping list that included Pink Flamingos and purple Christmas Lights.

No joke. This was literally the shopping list in our google doc:

To get:

  • Post its

  • Pink Flamingos

  • Clothes hangers

  • Church Bulletins

  • Pope Francis cut out

    Why Pink Flamingos you ask?

Because nothing says Creative meetup like a lawn full of pink flamingos.

We invited young adults to come to this meetup with the goal of changing the way the Church does bulletins. Admission to the meetup was one ugly bulletin and a 6 pack of beer. The event was so much more awesome than we ever thought it could be. Turns out that as much as young adults love the chance to sit back and listen to enriching talks on the finer points of systematic theology, what they love even more is someone giving them a chance to make an impact.

So many in the Church are seeing the statistics and wondering what can be done. Millennials are all fleeing the Church in droves! We used to be able to at least count on them coming back to mass once their kids need to get into first communion, BUT THIS GENERATION ISN’T GETTING MARRIED! Whatever shall we do, Church?!

What those statistics don’t tell you is that for every 100 millennials jumping ship, one young man or woman is making the choice to leave everything behind to follow Christ. They are joining NET, FOCUS, going to Franciscan, joining the seminary, discerning religious life, and they are coming out of these communities better formed, better educated, and far more committed to their faith than many of their parents were. They’ve come out of these organizations full of passion and starry eyed at the possibilities of changing the world for Jesus. I know this because I was one of these statistical anomalies. Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you might be one of them too. We’ve all been there. I know I left my alma mater ready to cover some teens in the precious blood of Jesus...

And that’s when were dropped off the cliff into parish life.
Yes. That heavenly place full of felt banners, cheesy jesus pictures, and yes, God incarnate.
I can’t speak for everyone here, but I’ve had so many conversations with creative types about how out of place we feel in the Church. It makes sense, though, right? It’s bad enough when the choir lady with the piercing voice belts out Gather Us In. When you are a son or daughter of the media generation and you’ve spent a few years in the schola or getting your praise on on a daily basis on your NET Team, everything in you is screaming “PLEASE, JUST LET ME DO IT!” The same goes for the hardly designed bulletins and poorly run capital campaigns. Sadly, the opportunities for creative skills in a Church that still uses Papyrus on all of their printed materials has not yet caught up.

But we do have these. Everyone loves these…. right?

It is this generation of on fire young adults that can actually solve the millennial problem. The passion and "lemme at em" mentality is there in buckets. Passion, however, as many of us have already learned, is not enough. We need professional skills that measure up to the standards of the secular world. We need wisdom in navigating the political hierarchy and the frustrations that come with Catholic organizations. Most of all, we need advocates in the broader Catholic community to advocate for better media. This community of Catholic Creatives is meant to serve in all three regards. In sharing and charitably critiquing each other's work, we hope to set the standard for Catholic media high. In putting younger creatives in touch with those who are more experienced in navigating the politics, we hope that the usual landmines can be avoided. Finally, by giving Catholic creatives a neutral, unified voice, we can create a platform from which we can influence the Church on a large scale.

Make no mistake, impact is what this generation wants more than anything else. If I hadn’t seen that at our December meetup, I would know from the hundreds of conversations I’ve had with like minded young men and women. We are, as our facebook bio says: “makers, thinkers, and do-ers. Those who want to use their gifts for a higher purpose, bring beauty back to the Church.” This generation, though sometimes over confident, though sometimes, perhaps, unaware of the complexities of the Church’s inner workings, by the grace of God can reverse the hemorrhage and make the gospel message resound across our nation.

I’ll close with this: I don’t know what Catholic Creatives is going to be. None of us do. It will be shaped by the ideas, conversations, and efforts of those of us who need what this community is and could become. We really want to get to know you and your needs, your wants, and your ideas.

Sign up for our email newsletter, get involved in the facebook group, or better yet, email us and let us know how you think you can help shape our online community, our meetups, and eventually our conference. We can’t do this without your needs and ideas. 

Marcellino D'Ambrosio started designing fliers for his band in High School. He is an expert water balloon filler, a veteran dodgeball player, and a slightly above average joke teller. He helps run The Crossroads Pursuit, and is a founder at D'Ambrosio Creative.