Diocesan News

Elmhurst Parish Using TikTok to Reach Gen Z

Youth minister Jason Galindo meets with his group leaders who help direct the Youth & Sports groups, which has over 200 members. The leaders each have different responsibilities. (Photo: Courtesy of Sharleny Castillo)

ELMHURST — When Jason Galindo became the youth minister at St. Bartholomew Church in Elmhurst in January, he knew he wanted to revitalize the
youth program to engage and hold the interests of its more than 200 young members.

To do so, he turned to TikTok, a social media platform with nearly 50% of users under age 30.

“I have kind of formed this new, modern youth group where we don’t just stay in the church. We try to take it beyond that, using TikTok to bring in more kids, using Instagram to promote that the youth group is not a boring thing,” said Galindo, 29. “It’s not Sunday school. It’s
something fun — it’s cool.”

The youth program, Faith & Sports, meets twice a week — Thursday for the middle school students and Friday for the older kids — in the St. Bartholomew Academy gymnasium. They have one hour of prayer, or “faith,” and one hour of sports per meeting.

To coordinate the large group of mainly 12- to 18-year-olds, Galindo has 23 people who serve as leaders; every week, he sits down with them to discuss how they can improve the program and how best to appeal to the younger generation.

It is through these meetings that the Faith & Sports TikTok, @sbfaithandsports, was created.

The idea was initially pitched by Galindo, even though he doesn’t have a TikTok account himself.

In response to the excitement and approval voiced by the leaders on his team, Galindo passed the responsibilities on to the more tech-savvy
members of the youth ministry.

Though he is not a huge fan of social media himself, and admitted he doesn’t fully understand it at times, Galindo trusts the judgment of his team when they say it will help spread the word about the youth group.

“We can’t close our eyes and not know that social media is what kids do nowadays. Everyone has a phone,” he said.

Further delegation comes in the form of assigning titles to different children: there are chief operating officers who handle budgeting, and chief information officers who create social media strategies.
“TikTok is what every youth today uses,” said Sharleny Castillo, 17, a chief operating officer at Youth & Sports.

“That’s the best way to communicate with the youth and reach out and make sure everyone knows about the program.”

There are two goals with the social media platforms, Castillo explained: to promote the program and to bring more children to the Church.

“Not a lot of kids are interested in the Church,” Castillo added. “That’s our goal, just bring people through the church
through what kids love most sometimes, and that’s sports.”

As a chief operating officer, Castillo is one of the leaders in charge of running Faith & Sports when Galindo is not there, as well as helping him with big decisions and planning.

An incoming freshman at City College of New York, Faith & Sports has given Castillo “a community of warriors in Christ.”

“As Christians, it’s very important to find a community of believers that have the same goal, which is to grow with Christ and grow in our faith, and ultimately get to heaven,” he said.

Chief information officers Delia Sebastian, 30, and Christian Perez, 17, both help “capture the moment” of the program, whether it is a lecture, prayer, or the sports tournaments, through photos and videos.

“My favorite part is that because we are capturing a large group, it’s very genuine,” Sebastian said. “We try to capture the most genuine moments, candid moments, and that’s what the youth are attracted to. There is so much on TikTok, and they are attracted to knowing that
we are so genuine.

“We enjoy what we do, and they see that everyone else is enjoying it.”

They also conduct interviews with parents and children to be posted online, all in an effort to influence people through social media.

TikTok is the best social media platform to use for youth ministry, Perez noted, due to its popularity among young people.

“When they play and then they see one of us recording, and they score a goal, they are like, ‘Are you going to post this on Instagram? Are you going to post this on TikTok?’ I think it’s very fun for them,” Perez said.

Father Cesar Peña, who has been a parochial vicar for St. Bartholomew Church for nearly three years, praised Galindo’s leadership and his ability to make the younger generation feel welcome in church.

Father Peña is confident other churches will follow his lead.

“Everything that he has done with TikTok, and everything that they have done here, is great because when I
see a group like this and a mission like this, there is hope for the Church,” he said.