As people called to proclaim the Gospel, Christians can no longer assume that those they encounter have heard the stories of Noah’s Ark, Daniel in the Lion’s Den, or David and Goliath. In the post-Christian world of today, many individuals are growing up without any type of religious education or association. As a result, Christians, and especially Catholics, need to revisit their methods of proclaiming the Gospel.
Revisiting these methods is exactly what Tamra Hull Fromm does in Pre-Evangelization and Young Adult “Native Nones.” Writing for pastors and lay pastoral workers, Fromm focuses the content of her book on the “native none,” those who were raised without a religious background or affiliation. The question she poses in this book is, “How do we prepare unchurched American young adults to hear and accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ?” (8).
Fromm answers this question by arguing that in order to reach the “native nones,” or “nones” in general, a different approach to evangelization is necessary. This approach, Fromm writes, is found in pre-evangelization.
Fromm begins by articulately unpacking the cultural context of modern young adults in the United States. She discusses the consequences of postmodernity and how it has changed the way young adults see and understand the world. The lack of objective truth, the destruction of the metanarrative, relativism, and individualism all render young adults less able to receive the Gospel. Fromm explains that more must be done to prepare young adults to receive the Gospel.
What young adults need, Fromm argues, is pre-evangelization, which is a period of time before the kerygma or the Gospel message can be proclaimed. During this time young adults are able to ask deeper questions, exploring their own personal narratives and the narratives of others, allowing them to become more open and receptive to evangelization. Pre-evangelization gives young adults more time and space to question, explore, and understand.
According to Fromm, this pre-evangelization takes place in the context of a relationship with other Christians. Relationships are a key component to pre-evangelization. But Fromm makes a very interesting and clear distinction. Pre-evangelization does not normally happen in the places pastors and lay pastoral workers are accustomed too, such as parishes or Catholic schools. These moments of pre-evangelization have to take place in the secular world, because this is where young adults find themselves. Young adults are not seeking out the Church, so the Church must go to them, making pre-evangelization the work primarily of the laity.
The most interesting section of the book is chapter 9, where Fromm discusses her findings in interviews conducted with twenty-four young adults in the Archdiocese of Detroit (Michigan). These young adults were unbaptized participants in RCIA, or the Rite of Christian Initiation, which is the process by which an individual enters into the Catholic Church.
Fromm’s findings in these interviews affirm her argument throughout the book. For example, the author found in her interviews that these young people were either introduced to or became curious about the Catholic faith through relationships with other Catholic individuals, or witnesses, as she calls them. The unique thing about these witnesses was their willingness to meet the young adults where they were and answer their questions about Catholicism openly and honestly.
Another interesting point from Fromm’s research was just how little influence priests had in inspiring these young adults to enter RCIA. This is consistent with the secular nature of the lives of young adults, especially “nones,” most of whom will never be in a situation where they will encounter a member of the clergy. This emphasizes Fromm’s argument that pre-evangelization is a work that must be done primarily by the laity.
Fromm concludes with a chapter providing practical solutions moving forward and suggestions for further research in this area. A simple and straightforward book, Pre-Evangelization and Young Adult “Native-Nones” is a resource every pastor and lay pastoral worker should explore. As the Church moves forward in an age where people are being raised in a post-Christian culture, revisiting the ways in which the Church evangelizes is inevitable.
Elizabeth Slaten is the director of communications for the St. Philip Institute in the Diocese of Tyler.
Date Of Review:
June 30, 2022
Tamra Hull Fromm is an instructor with the Catholic Biblical School of Michigan and an associate lecturer with Maryvale Institute in Birmingham, England. She is also an adjunct faculty member at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. Her background includes service in higher education administration, diocesan marketing for Catholic schools, and young adult ministry. Dr. Fromm earned a PhD from Maryvale Institute/Liverpool Hope University in 2019. She and her husband, Brian, live in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan.
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