Membership is for Serving and Giving

RNS posted a brief interview with Dr Thom Rainer, Baptist minister and author. His latest book is I Am A Church Member. One of the money quotes from the interview is this:

My research shows that most church members do not have a biblical understanding of church membership. The church, for many, is a place to go to be served rather than to serve. I hope that my book will have a role in turning that type of attitude upside down. The biblical picture of church membership is one of serving and giving.

After twenty-five years in parish ministry, I would say that many Catholics have a similar approach to membership. I think there is a strong minority who do have a sense of serving and giving. I also find there are expectations of being served, or occasionally worse, being serviced.

Our pastor has been attempting to plant seeds of a parishioner-driven community for his four years. It can be a difficult transition, especially for some of our students. Catholic churches and schools do an excellent job serving parents and servicing youth. For many Iowa kids who come to our student center, they might be taken aback at the expectations that they will commit to Sunday Mass, that they will get involved as adult parishioners in liturgy, faith formation, charity, and social justice. But many people do get it. Our liturgy commission chair is a grad student. The Grand Knight the other year was an undergraduate. Most faith formation catechists are students. One year, it might have been ninety percent.

Catholics, however, do have a disadvantage over many reformed communities. In some ways, the hierarchy itself operates on a servicing model. I wonder how much our own ecclesiastical attitudes hamper our ability to form adult disciples who are actually taking the spirit–and action!–of service into their daily lives.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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