Changes coming to Theology on Tap this summer

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Sunday, May 28, 2017

Young adults gather for a Theology on Tap Session at St. Clement Parish, 642 W. Deming Place on July 14, 2015. Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic

Theology on Tap started more than 35 years ago as an effort to bring young adults together in an informal setting to discuss and learn about their faith and how it applies to their daily lives.

The national Theology on Tap program originated in the Archdiocese of Chicago with sessions in coffeehouses, bars and church basements, often with libations available. Over the years, it expanded to dioceses across the United States and other countries.

This year, Young Adult Ministry of the Archdiocese of Chicago plans to renew Theology on Tap, which will have a July 10 kickoff with Father Tom Rosica, executive director of Salt + Light Television in Canada.

"This is a great thing," said Darius Villalobos, coordinator of youth and young adult ministry for the archdiocese. "But after 35 years, it’s probably time to update it."

One of the changes that participants will notice is that parishes have been asked to work in teams, rather than each parish running its own Theology on Tap program.

That means, for example, that four North Side Parishes — St. Vincent de Paul, Immaculate Conception-St. Joseph, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Michael (Old Town) — will host joint sessions over five weeks, with each session at a restaurant or bar near one of the parishes.

That move mirrors the archdiocesan-wide Renew My Church initiative, which has placed all parishes into clusters to see how they can better provide ministry to everyone without unnecessary duplication of efforts.

Doing so can help young adults connect to the larger Catholic community, Villalobos said, and in turn be a larger presence in the wider community.

Bryan Fong, one of the coordinators of Young Adult Ministry-Northwest, which covers 30 parishes in Northwest suburban Cook County, said his group has run Theology on Tap as a regional program for about four years, making an effort to spread presentations to different parishes, and has gotten good results.

"We can get more people to come out than if there was another Theology on Tap session at the same time just down the road," he said. "Ideally, you don’t want to have five Theology on Taps on the same night at the same time."

The new structure also asks Theology on Tap teams to choose one of three types of programs: those intended to grow the faith by reaching out to young adults who may not come to church regularly; those intended to help young adults who do practice their faith regularly learn more; and those at which young people can offer service to the community, often through Catholic Charities or another Catholic agency.

"We need to think about who are the young adults we are trying to reach and what do they need in their spiritual journey," Villalobos said. "They’re not all in the same place."

For those who might not be connected to a parish or faith community, sessions might be better held in a bar or other community location.

"This is bringing the conversation to places where young adults are at," Villalobos said.

Those discussions also will focus more on the basics, he said.

"It’s intended to be an easy entry point," he said. "It’s meant to be a really good opportunity to ask questions. We want people to get to know the faith a little better."

Sessions for those who already have a solid connection with their parishes are more likely to take place in a parish setting, Villalobos said. Teams working on this track are asked to come up with a four-week series of presentations around a theme, such as mercy.

Service sessions, Villabos said, are meant to include not just a service project, but also an opportunity to reflect on service and what it means, as well as to share food, drinks and fellowship.

Fong said YAM-NW will do a combination of the first two tracks, with the first and last of their sessions in a bar and the other three in parishes.

"We’re letting the setting tell us where to go" with the presentation, Fong said.

He said bringing more young adults together across parishes will help the whole church.

"Young adult groups grow the church," he said. "They help grow the faith."


  • north side parish
  • st clements
  • theology on tap
  • youth faith
  • summer event
  • young adult ministry

Related Articles