Written by Lana Kaczmarek
“It’s what God wants, we’re just allowing it to happen.”
Young adult leaders have created groups to help envoke community amongst young adults practicing their faith. These groups provide an outlet for young adults to express and remain active in their faith by joining together in worship and fellowship. In doing so, these young adults are able to find identity within themselves and Christ.
Dane Hamilton, the creator and one of the leaders of the Young Adult group at Saint Margaret Mary Catholic Church in Winter Park, FL, shared further insight about forming the group and its journey toward big things.
Following graduation, Dane started working in construction and the real estate industry but was mostly surrounded by middle-aged men. During school, Dane had prioritized his involvement in Catholic Gators at the University of Florida and missed the sense of community he had with his peers. So, he went searching for faith and fellowship among his demographic.
“I started with St. Margaret Mary, my home parish. I sent an email out that said something to the effect of, ‘Hey, I love being Catholic. Do you guys have a young adult group?’ And I received this response: ‘I’m sorry to report that we do not have a young adult group at this time. We are in a transitional period,’” said Dane.
Although he was initially bummed, Dane decided not to fret and to continue his search at other surrounding parishes. That was until he thought to himself, why doesn’t St. Margaret Mary have a young adult group? From there, he recontacted the parish and made the necessary steps to start forming the young adult group in 2018.
Despite the group’s current success, it was not without its fair share of obstacles. The return rate of practicing young adult Catholics involved in their faith fluctuated between events. A spark of interest first surfaced before a meet-and-greet event, resulting in a high attendance rate. However, following that, the attendance dwindled. Although the attendance rate was low, Dane did not let that discourage him.
“If you let that discourage you, you give up, and you let the enemy win. You can’t give up. You have to keep watering your seeds. If you planted a seed in the ground, you wouldn’t keep digging it up every five seconds to see if it had grown. If you plant a seed in the ground you have to keep watering it and be patient and wait for it to grow. Just keep at it and keep watering it. Just because it’s not growing right now, you’re doing everything you could, so you just have to keep trying. It’s only partially in your control,” added Dane.
Changes in leadership, events, and fellowship allowed young adults the opportunity to find their niche in the Winter Park parish. Saint Margaret Mary’s young adult group made the transition from a four leader to seven leader structure to bring balance within the group as well as reach more young adults practicing their faith and bring more awareness to young adults active in their faith.
“People are active because it’s what the church needs. God’s making it happen. To be even a part of that plan that he has is really humbling,” added Dane.
Annabeth Huff, creator, and leader of the women’s group, Among the Sunshine, also felt the desire for something more in terms of her faith when returning to Florida.
While living in Atlanta, one of her friends had recognized the lack of women’s groups for women in their twenties and thirties. Her friend decided to take it upon herself and start a women’s group for that age bracket. Once Annabeth returned to Florida, she noticed that Orlando did not have a group for women in that age bracket either, so she decided to start her own.
The group, called Among the Sunshine, has become an outlet for women to grow in their faith. Each meeting is filled with a mix of social interactions and fellowship. Among the Sunshine focuses on studies that help members identify with women in the bible and view our roles as women through a scientific lens. During these discussions, women have been able to grow in their faith because of being surrounded by faith-filled women.
“I think it’s really important as women to have a community and even more so to have a community of like-minded women who are pursuing Christ in our everyday lives,” Annabeth shared. “Coed groups are great, but I think you get to know more about just yourself and your faith as a woman when you’re with women because we all kind of struggle with similar things. We can help each other by leading each other closer to Christ in a different way than coed groups do because we can be more vulnerable and receive feedback from one another.”
Even though Annabeth has faced challenges with member retention and commitment, she has continued to persevere because she knows that “whoever comes needs to come and the community is still growing even if people cannot come every single month.” She recognizes the value of having a group for women to share their faith within the larger young adult community.
Young adults are continuing to grow in their faith because they have found value in their Christ-like image. Having spaces such as the young adult group at Saint Margaret Mary and Among the Sunshine have allowed young adults the opportunity to grow in their faith by helping them find their identity in Christ through fellowship and community.