What’s a YAM Worth?

money pink coins pig
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

So, is YAM worth it? Is it something that Catholics should be spending time and money on? I think so. And Bishop Barron also seems to think so; here’s what he said recently in an interview:

I don’t know any issue more pressing now in the life of the Church than addressing the problem of the massive attrition of our own people, especially the young. Those professing no religious affiliation has become a veritable army in our country, and their numbers are especially strong among the young. By some estimates, 40% of those under thirty claim no religion. How to re-engage the “nones,” and to prevent the rise of future “nones,” should be, in my judgment, priority one in the Catholic Church.”

Yup, sounds like he thinks it matters.

Still, YAM is a tough sell, as fundraising causes go. It lacks a certain emotional tug that is immediate for other charities. For example, here’s Fr. Joe, trying to raise money to care for your city’s homeless. You know, the people who are everywhere, with absolutely nothing, who make you feel really guilty whenever you’re outdoors in a populated area? Can you spare a couple bucks for them? And now, here’s a GoFundMe for somebody you remember from college, who’s unemployed, has got 5 kids, and has suddenly been widowed. Please be generous; anything helps. Next, there is the pregnancy center, asking for whatever you can give, in order to literally save the life of a child.

You’re agonizing over how to divide your money between these urgent causes, but wait… here comes one more guy. He’d like you to set up a recurring donation so that, uh, we can have kickball leagues, happy hours, and a dance for all the 20 somethings around here. As I said, tough sell; but I still think it’s worthwhile. You just need to look at it long-term.

YAM’s like a Roth IRA. The benefit of it isn’t immediately available to us, but you better make sure you’re putting something into it. You also need to make sure that the people running your investment portfolio have a plan, and it’s a good one.

And that’s where I start to get a little fired up. The people running our YAM investment portfolios are about to start hearing a whole lot of advice – nay, receiving directives – from the Catholic equivalent of Bernie Madoff, Gordon Gekko, and the top executive leadership from Enron. In October, the 2018 Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment will be held in Rome. Its focus is on the 16-29 age demographic, so that’s basically YAM. I’m expecting a controversial and confusing Church document, a bunch of useless token task-forces, re-affirmation of stale, old, bland ideas, and some quality punchline material for Eye of the Tiber to come about as the most notable results of that synod.

Never fear! For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, and so in response to some of the less-than-helpful input that might be on the way, here’s this series of blog posts from me. I have the answers on how to do YAM with all the correctness. I’ll get to the road-map real soon here, but there’s one more thing I need to address before I get into that: those “nones” Bishop Barron talks about… they are there because for decades, we’ve been failing to reach young people. In my next installment, I’ll take a critical inventory of what’s been tried, and why it didn’t/doesn’t/won’t work. They say the best writing comes when the author truly enjoys writing it. Criticizing other people and things is one of my favorite pastimes, so the next installment has extra potential. 


What Does a YAM Do?

Flicker: https://flic.kr/p/7zkoBh
“Yams” – Flicker. Rights reserved.

Have you ever noticed your Catholic friends referring to YAM? In Catholic circles, that stands for “Young Adult Ministry.” That’s what I mean when I type YAM on this blog. If I don’t use caps, and simply write “yam,” then I’m referring to a tuberous root vegetable. It will be crucial, for the purpose of this discussion, to distinguish between these two very different concepts.

So then, you may ask, who are these “Young Adults” to whom YAM ministers? According to the community library district in which I was raised, a “Young Adult” is a person interested in reading things like The Hardy Boys, The Babysitters Club, or the various works of Beverly Cleary. I have found, however, that in the Diocese of San Diego, “Young Adult” commonly refers, on paper (literally, printed on parish bulletins), to a person between 18 – 39 years of age. This is not to say that persons between the ages of 18 – 39 may not also enjoy reading The Babysitters Club, but that is a separate matter that I will not have time to address here today.

The truth is that “Young Adult” is somewhat of a code word. It secretly translates to “singles.” It’s true. Now you know. Whenever you see a Catholic friend of yours like a “Young Adult” page, or get tagged in a YA event, please read that your friend is either looking for love, or he/she is in some capacity employed by the diocese.

Fact: For all practical purposes, YA = Singles.

So why not just call it a singles group? Why do we Catholics avoid using the word “singles” for promoting our singles groups and events? Well, the diplomatic explanation you’ll hear is that we want married people to feel welcome in these groups. If it was called a singles event, so the theory goes, then lonely married young people might feel excluded. That is a common explanation.

That explanation is a silly lie.

As if married couples are sitting in their homes, pining to join others in their 20’s and 30’s for a lively session of laser tag on a Friday night. C’mon! If you believe that, then you clearly don’t know anybody who’s young and married. You could have been the best man in their wedding, and now, getting an hour to meet for a beer requires the level of planning you’d reserve for a 2 week Patagonian backpacking expedition. These people aren’t looking to fill up time on their calendars. And let’s not even get started about married people with kids. Don’t even start. If those people can spare 15 minutes, then all they want in the world is a nap.

It is fair to say that no married person’s feelings will be hurt if they’re not expressly invited to YA events. They’ll show up if they want to, anyway. They don’t give damn anymore. They’re married!

What, then, is the real reason we don’t just call it a singles group? You might not like this answer, but here it is: when you advertise something as being for “Catholic Singles,” it is the surefire way to draw the most pathetic, desperate, spectacularly dysfunctional collection of awkward, snaggletooth, misfits out from the rocks beneath which they dwell. No decent, healthy, happy, Catholic human is going to set foot within a mile of something explicitly labeled as a “Catholic Singles” event, unless it is a one-time consequence of naivete, an act of pure mercy, or else if they are trying to sell something.

I’m not just being uncharitable; I have made a good point. Not to say that the broken, the weak, the vulnerable, etc., are unwelcome at Church events. They aren’t just welcome; they are cherished. They are precisely the ones we are to see Christ in. So the point isn’t at all to exclude the nerds. The point is that it’s very important to bring a much stronger showing of winners into these events, along with them. And besides, shouldn’t there be some hope that a Catholic singles group will eventually yield more Catholics? The trick is that the people who willingly attend events that are known to be specifically for “Catholic Singles” are likely to have, in aggregate, very little potential for favorable population replacement numbers, going forward. Don’t ask me to cite my sources; it’s more of an eyeball estimate.

Hence it is wise that we avoid the word “Singles” in Catholic ministry. It is a word that shall not be uttered. And so we have our secret code word for Singles: YA. 

Thus concludes my discussion of the meaning of YAM. Stay tuned for my next article, “Why Give a Damn About YAM?”, in which I carefully, and with the same rigorous standards of rhetoric demonstrated above, examine whether or not YAM really matters, in the grand scheme of things.


Many years ago, I had my first blog. It was hosted by Blogger, and although it was written for my friends, other people would come to the site from all over the internet, just because they searched random words. For example, I once posted something critical of the Smart ForTwo, and quickly noticed that somebody shared it on a Canadian ForTwo forum. Out of the blue, all these Canadian randos were out there reacting to some dumb thing I typed up at my kitchen table.

That was exciting.

Those were the days, but tragically, they seem to be gone forever. SEO is a big business, and so it takes big money to get a set of eyes on a blog. No matter what I’ve written in recent years, nobody – outside of direct referral acquaintances – would ever come to my blogs. Ever!

I tried making a real website, with an actual domain and everything, because all the SEO blogs said that was essential to being found. I linked to it on all my social media, and tweeted articles with relevant hashtags. I posted original photos with my work, tagging them as well as I could figure how. I wrote about people and businesses by name. All of this accomplished nothing; the analytics needle barely moved. And it cost me a little money.

All of this is a long way of explaining why I’m back here on a free WordPress blog. Nobody is going to find what I write, but I still enjoy writing. Occasionally, maybe I’ll write something that I’d like to directly forward to somebody. So I’m back here, in the land of free blogs, typing in obscurity, for pure love of the game. If you’re here, I hope you enjoy it. Have a nice day, and please come again.