When we are considering our approach, it’s easy to consider the people we know, the people who come to the Sunday service, week by week.
However, there is a rising number of ‘nones’ in the religious landscape. This refers to people who choose ‘no religion’, ‘none of the above’ or ‘nothing in particular’ when faced with the question ‘What is your religion?’
In an earlier post on this site, I considered the importance of understanding our situation in the church. Helpfully, this 25-minute video from the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) gives a good sense of the characteristics of ‘nones’ and how we might speak to them about faith.
Many people leaving the church are very young, often teens, and they often perceive a conflict between science and religion, and have a secular view of prioritising ‘happiness’ rather than ‘truth and goodness’.
The video considers ideas for how we would draw these people back. For some, they appreciate the opportunities where the church works with issues of justice and social support in our communities.
Also drawing people in through beauty, or as Pope Francis talks about the ‘way of beauty’, helping people to see how the beauty of the world around us points us to the power, wisdom and beauty of the Creator. This can be through art, stories, drama and film, as well as the natural world around us.
Just as Fr Mike Schmitz encouraged us to do, this video also encourages us to use new media as a great opportunity to reach out to the ‘nones’ in a way that is relevant for them.
Finally, the encouragement goes out to us to ‘not dumb down the Gospel’. Many skeptics assume that faith is for people who are not prepared to test or evaluate our faith. We must be clear to others that faith does not mean leaving our thinking mind at the door.
Ultimately, we need to helping our parishioners love our ‘nones’ and to walk with them, encourage them, and invite them into a relationship with Jesus. Fr Robert Barron in this video wants us to see this as an opportunity.