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Theology on Tap a hit in Silicon Valley

Outreach to young adults can seem very daunting for some parishes and dioceses. As a result, efforts to engage people of this age group in the life of the Church are often scarce or nonexistent. Among the exceptions is the Diocese of San Jose, California, where a group of young adults have successfully reached out to their peers by using RENEW International’s Theology on Tap program. Theology on Tap, which is licensed by RENEW International, is a series of events centering on faith topics that are of interest to young adults. These events are held in restaurants, parish halls, coffeehouses, and bars — places where young men and women are comfortable. ToT events feature a speaker who presents a theological topic and then provides time for discussion, faith sharing, and community building.

For their first session, the San Jose group had no idea how many people would show up. “Initially, we were hoping for at least 50 people,’’ the group reported by email. “Our Facebook event page was tracking RSVPs. Each day, it slowly went up. The final confirmed count was about 95 ‘yes’ and 45 ‘maybe,’ but on the day of the event, 250 people showed up!” Despite the lack of RSVPs, and with assistance from the venue, the group was able to accommodate the influx of young people. “We took lessons from the first event,’’ the organizers reported, “made some changes going into the second event, and 220 people showed up, thanks be to God.”

A banner announces a Theology on Tap
meeting in the Silicon Valley area
of California.
A priest from Our Lady of Peace Church in
Santa Clara, CA gives a presentation
at a
Theology on Tap meeting.

Located in the heart of California’s famous hub of high-tech businesses, Theology on Tap-Silicon Valley (TOTSV) wanted to embrace the cultural challenges that young adults face, such as working long hours and constantly being exposed to messages that are contrary to the Catholic faith. “The area has many young adults who come here for work and don’t have a church they belong to,” the TOTSV leaders shared. “We wanted to offer something, outside of our normal young adult group, that would draw them to become more involved. Theology on Tap seemed to be a great fit for those who won’t come to church for a talk, but will come to a more relaxed setting.”

A lot of planning has gone into the series. The core team of adults, consisting of both religious and laity from Our Lady of Peace Church in Santa Clara, has been meeting once a week since January. They made sure to advertise across the diocese by hand delivering printed posters and postcards, placing an ad in the diocesan newspaper, and announcing their series at as many Masses as possible. After those Masses, members of the organizing group were waiting outside the churches to collect email addresses in order to stay in touch with those who had expressed an interest. The group also created a website and Facebook page so that young adults have easy access to information about Theology on Tap. The group plans to end their spring series by hosting a camping trip, which will include activities from hiking to celebrating Mass on top of a mountain.

Participants listen intently during a
Theology on Tap meeting
in Silicon Valley.
A full house of young adults turn out for a
Theology on Tap meeting in the
Diocese of San Jose, California.

TOTSV also plans on following up with the attendees. “TOT is a tool to evangelize and point young adults to other events and church-related activities which lead them to the sacraments,” the group said in its email. “We recognize that each one of the young adults is at a different point in their faith journey and they come from various backgrounds. We’re already looking at a fall series with some events in between this summer.”

For more information about Theology on Tap-Silicon Valley, please visit their website at: http://www.totsv.org/.

RENEW International’s Theology on Tap is an invitation for young adults to learn more about their faith and to share in the Catholic community. If you are interested in forming your own Theology on Tap group, please visit: www.renewtot.org or contact Callie Kowalski, program director, at 908-769-5400 ext. 140 or by email: CallieK@renewintl.org.

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