Young people spend up to eight hours a day on their smartphones. The need for digital spirituality is great. The dean’s office in Zurich is betting on golden times on the Internet – with its own YouTube channel for CHF 125,000.
With “URBN.K” the Golden 20s are to be created for Zurich’s Catholics. “URBN.K” means “urban church”, just sounds a bit more sophisticated – and is the name of the new YouTube channel. The trailer makes you want to watch. Zurich shows itself from its beautiful side: young, hip, urban.
Also there: Jana Hitz (21). She worked as a medical practice assistant – but then decided to work with young people in the parish Herz Jesu Wiedikon.
The second face of «URBN.K» is Romina Monferrini (32). She is a woman of many talents. The theologian makes music at worship services. She is involved in Lucerne as a pastor. She is also working on a doctoral thesis. A coup for the Zurich church to have poached the exceptional Lucerne talent for “URBN.K”.
Simon Brechbühler (34) has the male part of the YouTube trio. He heads the “Urban Church” department of the Catholic City Association of Zurich. It is clear to him: After confirmation, it often takes until the wedding before young people come to church again. If the church wants to get in touch with young people nowadays, it needs videos and posts in the digital space.
Simon Brechbühler is quick. There’s a racing bike on his office balcony. He has enough energy. On the balcony he cools 94 Red Bull cans. Better safe than sorry. Simon Brechbühler is from Bern – and yet he overwhelmed the Zurich church with his brisk pace.
Sometimes too fast for the Zurich church
When the Federal Council announced the lockdown, it launched an aid campaign. Young people should shop for old people. The campaign landed on the SRF “Tagesschau”. The Catholic city association was not entirely sure of the grassroots campaign – and asked Brechbühler not to use the “Catholic” label. Today they say: «That was a mistake. We should have trusted Simon. “
Simon Brechbühler thinks: On YouTube, spillage doesn’t help. Only padding helps. So he hired an agency in Germany. A film is now available every week on “URBN.K” for CHF 125,000. It’s about topics like home, but also about spirituality or transgender issues. “Everything that moves young people,” says Simon Brechbühler.
No marketing – but pastoral care in the digital space
For him it’s not about marketing for the church, but about pastoral care. “We don’t just put videos online, we also interact with the community. You can also form a communion online, ”says Simon Brechbühler.
The social worker knows: there is a great inhibition threshold to ask a stranger for help. It’s easier to ask a question online. “We look forward to exchanging ideas with our users.”
The first episode is about “Heimat”
After the lousy, highly professional trailer, the first episode is a bit disappointing. The three young Catholics sit in front of a backdrop that has an Ikea feeling. An alibi cactus creates a little green, the wall in the background is a fake wallpaper. The three talk about home and identity:
The conversation babbles and doesn’t pick up speed. It seems a bit forced – like the backdrop. “We will improve,” says Simon Brechbühler. “We also want to go out a lot.” On Langstrasse with street workers from “Isla Victoria” who advise sex workers. On the skate field. Or to refugees on Lesbos.
Cooperation with other church players
Simon Brechbühler’s pace made some nervous. Some in Zurich ask why the project is so expensive and why he is not involved “Underkath” cooperate, the young channel of the Catholic Media Center. What about the many volunteers at the Jubla, the acolytes, in youth work? Why is their competence not queried?
“We strive for cooperation with other church players,” says Simon Brechbühler. You can complement each other ideally. But he also knows: YouTube doesn’t work all too democratically. “We can’t just pick them all up and then get started.”
Catholic influencer visits «URBN.K»
After the promising trailer and the somewhat lame first episode, many now hope that the next parts will have more bite. Simon Brechbühler was able to win over a celebrity for the second episode: Jana Highholder. The German medical student is a Christian influencer with over 22,000 followers.
“URBN.K” is not as conscious of the mission as Jana Highholder. Those who do not search specifically do not notice that they are dealing with a Catholic channel. Simon Brechbühler says: «We make no secret of who we are. But we don’t want to be a Catholic advertising pillar on YouTube either. “
Jana Highholder caused a sensation in German-speaking countries with the video project “Jana believes”. A role model that Simon Brechbühler says: “Challenge accepted.” And whoever knows his speed knows that he could make it.
The 2020s began on January 1, 2021. Are they going to be in the Roaring Twenties for the Church? What does gold mean in the liturgy? What reform backlog is there? Which solutions work? Kath.ch answers these questions in the series «Golden 20s» – until Mariä Lichtmess on 2.2.2021.
© Catholic Media Center, January 13th, 2021
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