How Community and Hospitality Can Bring Gen Z Back to Church

How Community and Hospitality Can Bring Gen Z Back to Church

Gen Z, often hailed as the most connected generation due to their digital savviness, paradoxically stands out as the loneliest.

A Pew survey highlights this stark reality, showing that despite their online connectivity, Gen Z individuals report high levels of loneliness.

Interestingly, many in this generation are not turning to their local churches to find the community and connection they seek.

The Role of Religion in Fostering Close Relationships

Research from Pew suggests that Americans who are affiliated with a religion feel significantly closer to others than those who are not religiously affiliated, with 73% of the former group reporting a sense of closeness compared to 51% of the latter.

This finding underscores the potential of religious communities to provide a remedy for the loneliness epidemic affecting Gen Z.

The Apostolate of Friendship and Hospitality

Carrie Gress, co-author of the “Theology of Home” series, advocates for the “apostolate of friendship and hospitality” as a means to bring Gen Z women back to the Church.

The series explores how women can live out their vocations at any stage of life by infusing beauty into their homes, thus creating welcoming environments that reflect true Christian values.

Gress emphasizes that demonstrating, rather than merely telling, what a true Christian anthropology looks like is crucial.

She argues that popular culture is rife with distortions of human nature, and that Catholics should counter these by producing media that accurately represents their beliefs and values.

The Appeal of Vibrant, Traditional Parishes

Interestingly, there are areas where the Catholic Church is experiencing a surge in conversions, particularly in vibrant, traditional parishes. These parishes seem to attract both young men and women.

For instance, college campuses like Texas A&M and Hillsdale College are witnessing a notable increase in young people joining the Church, as reported by the National Catholic Register.

Rebuilding Community as a Path to Reengagement

Rebuilding a sense of community may be key to drawing the least religious generation back to church. Political scientist and statistician Ryan Burge, co-author of “The Great Dechurching,” found that disaffiliated individuals are more likely to return to church if their friends are there.

His research, conducted through a series of surveys, revealed that friendships ranked high among the reasons people would consider returning to church, while theological reasons often ranked lower.

The Compassionate Response to Loneliness

The apostolate of friendship and hospitality could serve as a compassionate response to the loneliness crisis and might also facilitate a deeper religious engagement. As Gress points out, even if it is challenging to bring friends directly to church, inviting them into one’s home for coffee or dinner can be a significant first step.

This personal, welcoming approach can help build the relational bridges necessary for greater spiritual connection.

Embracing Realism in Church Community

Participants in listening sessions noted that many parts of the Church, including long-established institutions, have become complacent and resistant to change.

They emphasized the importance of adaptability and a mission-oriented approach, suggesting that institutions which operate with more flexibility can remain focused on their ministerial goals rather than becoming bogged down by business-like operations.

Additionally, clear and consistent communication from Church leadership is vital. Instances of conflicting messages from both secular and Catholic media have perpetuated divisions within the universal Church, creating obstacles to its mission.

Clarity and unity in communication are essential to foster a cohesive and supportive community.

The Impact of Tradition and Modernity

The celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass has emerged as a focal point in broader debates about tradition, modernity, and the best ways to nurture faith. Participants noted that young people seek new expressions of faith and desire acceptance when they do so.

Balancing respect for tradition with openness to new forms of worship is crucial for engaging a diverse spectrum of Catholic belief and practice.

Addressing Marginalization and Inclusivity

Another significant concern is the Church’s response to marginalized groups, including LGBTQ individuals and those who are divorced and remarried.

Participants expressed a need for more opportunities for women in leadership roles within Church institutions.

Acknowledging and addressing the feelings of hurt among these groups is essential for fostering an inclusive and welcoming Church environment.


The Vatican’s final meeting of the synod in October will be a pivotal moment for addressing these issues and shaping the future direction of the Church.

By focusing on community-building, friendship, and hospitality, and by embracing both tradition and modernity, the Church can create a more inclusive and engaging environment for all, especially the younger generations seeking connection and purpose.

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