Building Communities of Faith with 18–35 Year Old – Greg Fromholz Explains Ministry to Young Adults
At a recent meeting of Dublin & Glendalough Diocesan Councils, D&G Young Adults’ Officer Greg Fromholz, outlined the work he has been undertaking recently. Below is his report which covers a wide range of activities reaching out and spending time with the church.
Councils Report June 7, 2018 Young Adults
United Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough
My name is Greg Fromholz and I began working working full time with United Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough in September of 2003. Time has flown by as I near my 15th year, now part time and coordinating Young Adults Ministry for the past 4 years.
Oversight Team consists of Mr. Geoffrey Perrin, Dr. Michael Webb, The Very Revd. Dermot Dunne, Rev. Rob Jones and Ms. Caroline Senior.
Our Mission is straight forward yet, like a lot of your work, complex in its practice. We work with 18–35yr olds. We are an initiative created to form, innovate, grow, train, serve, network and build community and ownership of faith and mission among the young adults of our church; and to cultivate diocesan and national renewal –through missional collaboration, leadership training, resource development, ecumenical networking and mentoring young adults,
To quote Jon Tyson, our work “represents a unique opportunity to convene, unite and distribute leaders with a common vision into every channel of culture.”
We are all aware of the statistical deficit of 18–35 years old that is in our churches yet, on the ground it looks different to the stats. This is not to say that these stats lie, but it is to say that they may not tell the full truth– what it looks like on the ground.
What I see in the ground when speaking at Church Church Cathedral, Kill o’ the Grange or Holy Trinity, Rathmines or when I’m meeting rectors and hearing about Greystones, Howth, Wicklow or Killiney or Chaplains in our Universities– and I’m sure in many more places– the church is breaking through and growing towards thriving, with young adults and young families in our church.
The tide may be low but it can turn.
In short this is what I’ve been up to over the last few years and continuing through this year in reaching out and spending time with the present church. It may look slightly different, but it always has.
Here’s a few examples of what I’ve been up to:
1) Missional Collaboration:
Paradoxology is a sacred space, a prayer tent, co–founded by Chaplain to UCD, Scott Evans, Pamela Rooney of the Methodist Church and myself.
Paradoxology is where young adults live out their faith together and where we are in service for festival–goers and festival staff alike. 2017 was our fifth year at Electric
Picnic. Electric Picnic, now in its twelfth year, is Ireland’s largest music and arts festival. It features 700 acts for 55,000 people– predominately, if not nearly exclusively, young adults.
The sacred space, ‘Paradoxology’, gave out over 1500 free cups of tea and coffee over the three days of the festival. Approximately 2000 people came through the door and the team talked to approx. 5000 people outside the tent.
We have trained over 100 young adults in leadership on the ground in situ at Paradoxology.
This year Rubicon is on October 20th at Dublin’s Sugar Club with keynote Scot McNight– the New Testament scholar, historian of early Christianity, theologian from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. Founded by Rev. Rob Jones and myself this United Diocesan and Holy Trinity, Rathmines partnership is now in its 7th year . I am the Director of the Rubicon gathering and team.
Rubicon is a place for discussing and debating the interplay with culture and the faith. We want to create a place where the big questions can be debated and talked about.
We also Rubicon Conversations at the Dropping Well, the last with over 50 people around the 8th Amendment, prior to the vote.
Over 60 videos of all talks from Rubicon and Rubicon+ gatherings; talks, panels and interviews are available for free on www.wearerubicon.com
Rend Collective, the Bangor born modern sung worship band played to sold out audiences for years in Dublin since participating in “Essential” at Christ Church Cathedral twice when I was Directing the diocesan youth work. On May 20, 2018, Rend Collective returned to play the Olympia Theatre – and we sold it out. It was filled with 1500 young adults and young families, as it was an all age concert.
The Graveyard Shift Podcast
The Graveyard Shifty is a weekly podcast aimed at young adults and features conversations about faith and culture with Rev. Alan Breen (Kill O’ The Grange), UCD Chaplain Scott Evans and myself. We now have almost 120 hours of conversations online and over 75,000 total downloads, 37,000 of which were in the last year.
We are now averaging 6000 monthly downloads– the conversations about church– now are happening and there is a rising number of young adults participating not only in conversations but in the change.
I’m also involved in the United Diocesan Initiative Gateway, as well as consulting ACT 3, our United Diocesan university chaplaincy team.
2) Developing Resources:
NUA Film Series
I’m also involved with resource development– Directing and co–writing the NUA Film Series– an 8 part film series is all about exploration: it’s a film series that encourages questions, acknowledges doubt, and offers an engaging perspective on the Christian faith. (this is similar to the 5 part Crucial DVD series we created in 2005 when I ran the youth work with the United Dioceses) It is now being widely (nationally and internationally) used in both youth and young adults work as a digital discipleship tool.
The Legacy Films
As well, The Legacy Films, a project I created and Direct has become an international leadership and faith development resource, capturing the beautiful humanity and distilled wisdom of our ageing living legacies, like Phyllis Tickle, Eugene Peterson, Tony Campolo and civil rights activist Dr. John M. Perkins. My short films have won international awards, but more importantly they are engaging conversation on what is church and what faith leadership is today, like with Presbyterian Minister, Rev. Steve Stockman in Belfast last week.
My newest film – The Lynchburg Revival with Shane Claiborne documents the rise of the toxic nationalism in our faith institutions and the need for our courageous response. It is being screened tomorrow at the European Chaplains Conference, where I’m also speaking.
3) Working Ecumenically:
World Meeting of Families
As well as speaking the Ecumenical Bible Week and I have been seconded (Similar to 2012 when I was at the International Eucharistic Congress) to sit on the programme team, there 3 of us in total. My role is animating and managing the Family Arena (23,000 in daily attendance) over 3 days, as well as participating in animating the 9 hour preened post–mass programme at Phoenix Park. It’s gonna be a busy August.
You may or may not know that I completed my MA last year in Applied Spirituality, my dissertation was on “The Spirituality of the Millennial Generation in Ireland, A Practitioner’s Perspective” (and am continuing that study having been invited to my PhD in Creative practice in Theology and Religious studies at the The University of Glasgow over the next 3–5 years.)
Three of my biggest findings on my MA was that Practitioners need to find new ways of connecting and developing with young adults and be supported by institutional churches with the time and funding needed to do so in creative and experimental ways, especially when taking in the modern/post–modern view.
Secondly, consistent reflection and action are needed from those engaged.
And third, if the traditional church wants a future with young adults and successive generations, then trust restoration is key for practitioners.
In closing, I will reiterate what I said at the the beginning of this report: the church is breaking through and growing towards thriving, with young adults and young families in our church.
The tide is low but it is turning.
Thank you for your continued support and prayers as we explore and find new ways of having faith conversations with young adults.