Pete Burak, 31, is the director of i.d.9:16, a young-adult Catholic outreach initiative of Renewal Ministries. Burak, a 2010 graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, has a master’s degree in theology from Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. He is a frequent speaker on discipleship, evangelization, and young-adult topics. Burke, a married father of four children, will be speaking at the 2020 Legatus Summit, and recently spoke with Legatus magazine.
The focus of my talk will be how do we understand, encounter, and engage the next generations, millennials more specifically. Looking at the state of the Church in the culture, there’s no question about the unprecedented decline in religious affiliation in my generation and below, particularly in the Catholic Church. So my talk will be a hopeful analysis of what we’re up against, the challenges, but also some practical, personal and Spirit-filled strategies for starting to do something about that and helping this generation meet Jesus, fall in love with Him, and get to the point of sharing Him with others.
Why are millennials so skeptical of organized religion?
I think some of it has to do with age. Being a young adult is a time of questioning and beginning to really think for yourself and consider why I believe what I believe. If those questions don’t come with strong, compelling, life-giving answers, it’s easier to walk away.
I also don’t think you can underestimate the effect of the scandals, the moral erosion that has happened within the Church structure herself. My generation has a deep sensitivity about authenticity. When we look at the Church and see significant levels of hypocrisy or perceived hypocrisy, moral decay, terrible decision making, poor leadership and cover-ups, that doesn’t present a compelling image of something we would want to be a part of.
What drew you to young adult ministry?
I was raised in a strong Catholic family, from a very early age I knew God was real and He loved me. That was a fundamental reality in my life, that I just knew Jesus was alive and I had a relationship with Him. What became clear as I was discerning what the Lord had for me in terms of vocation and career, the thing that most energized me was the idea of helping people meet Jesus and fall in love with Him.
Why did you name your outreach ministry i.d.9:16?
ID stands for our identity, which is to be intentional disciples of Jesus Christ, and 9:16 comes from 1 Corinthians 9:16, where St. Paul is basically saying, “If I preach the Gospel this gives me no grounds for boasting. Woe to me if I do not preach it.” We’re trying to emphasize that our identity is not only to live a life of personal holiness, but to go out and bring the Gospel to others.
What are some key ingredients to a successful young adult outreach?
I’d say building something that looks more like an extended family as opposed to a group or an event. It doesn’t mean you don’t have some of those components in whatever you build, but as best as possible you try to invite people into a common rhyme of life together where there are both structured and organic elements to our lives. Also, creating an atmosphere where the Holy Spirit is both welcomed and encouraged, and infused with everything we’re doing.
How can we break down barriers between millennials and older generations?
One of the best ways to defuse some of these things is genuine conversation and understanding, where if the older generations could pause a little bit and listen a little bit more to what millennials are actually saying, and millennials could pause for a minute and listen a little bit more to what elders are actually saying. Millennials would feel that they are heard, and then could humble themselves a little bit more to hear what the older generations are saying. If that happened, I think there would be a little more harmony there.