Coming Back or Getting Them Back

The Pittsburgh Catholic offers some suggestions for coming back to church. I don’t know if many inactive Catholics read diocesan news organs, but I do know that many Catholics do. As the holidays approach, let me expand on the theme and suggest some ways for active Catholics to roll up their sleeves and work against the SCGS mentality.

For parishioners:

- Invite a son or daughter, a friend, or a neighbor to join you for Mass and a brunch or dinner afterward.

- Ask questions of your neighbors.

- Offer to drive people to church.

- Be sure to be extra welcoming on holidays. No need to be in-your-face with holding hands and hugging, but a smile will do wonders.

- Resist every urge to publicly register your dismay when other people’s children misbehave in church.

For pastors:

- Recommend that your parishioners forego their weekly offering, and bring an inactive Catholic to Mass and take them out for dinner instead.

- Host an occasional dinner at the parish for the active-plus-inactive crowd.

- Advertise in the local media.

- Write an editorial in the local paper about how easy it is to return to church.

- Pay attention at parties when inactive Catholics (or others) approach you willing to talk about things.

- Making the parish a welcome haven for returning Catholics and new believers should be a priority of every priest. Without exception.
Anything else?

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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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10 Responses to Coming Back or Getting Them Back

  1. Tony says:

    I think hospitality is a fabulous thing. However, many Catholics have left active parish life because they don’t like the “rules” or the authentic Catholic message.

    What do you do about those people?

  2. Gavin says:

    I think hospitality is seriously lacking in Catholic churches. It doesn’t cut it to have a cantor say “Welcome to St. So-and-So’s Catholic Community (not church!) Please give a hug and kiss to everyone around you, jump over 5 pews and then do the same. Ask your neighbor what hobbies they enjoy and then break their arms if they don’t swear to return next week. Our Gathering Song is in Gather II at #….” if people just smile awkwardly at eachother. Nor is it right to have Mass begin with a hugfest. As for what CAN be done, I don’t know. If it’s a small church, the priest can personally welcome any visitors he sees after Mass. All that’s usually needed is a simple “thank you for being here!” to make someone consider visiting again. I once went to an extremely conservative protestant church out of curiosity. I’ve never gotten such a warm welcome from a congregation before. They were genuinely happy that I was there to worship with them. How we can get that in a Catholic church, I don’t know at all. Certainly the suggestions on your list are a good place to begin.

  3. KiwiNomad06 says:

    As one of those not regularly in the pews, I don’t think the answer really lies in what goes on at Mass. The only thing that keeps me vaguely in the vicinity of the Church is that I have met some people who practise what they preach by the way that they live. They keep me wondering.

  4. Anne says:

    What is it that they “preach” and how do they “live” that keeps you wondering? I certainly hope that I have that kind of influence on others. I DO try!

  5. Anne says:

    Also, Kiwi, don’t you think that “practicing what they preach” is grounded in what happens at mass,…the Eucharist,our source?

  6. crystal says:

    When I stopped going to church, it wasn’t because of the Mass, or that people weren’t friendly. It was a combination of personal problems, and a feeling that church was more about a relationship with the other church members than about a relationship with God … but I’m kind of a social hermit :-)

  7. Anne says:

    Just thought of something else that could help. Our pastor had parishioners host informal neighborhood meetings in their homes. He was new to the parish and wanted to get a feel for what the people wanted for the parish. Perhaps something like this (small group neighborhood meetings) could be helpful in getting people back to church.

  8. kiwinomad06 says:

    Anne, I am certain that what they do is grounded in their experience of the Eucahrist, which is a major reason I am kept wondering.
    One couple who really ‘practised what they preached” took one of my sisters in to live with their family. One nun who taught me went to the missions in Peru where amongst other things she worked with AIDS patients. She helped a lot of girls behind the scenes who were having various difficulties at home and they remain grateful to her years later. Earlier this year I met a priest who I spoke with over lunch: his whole way of dealing with me spoke of someone who knew Jesus and sought to live his life as a follower. These people keep me wondering. As do others.

  9. Anne says:

    Kiwi, then, if these people you speak of are grounded in the Eucharist, finding the “answer” DOES have something to do with what goes on at mass!
    Thanks, just looking for a clarification.

  10. KiwiNomad06 says:

    Not necessarily. These people have faith and it appears to make a difference to their lives. Others claim to have faith and I see no difference in their lives from many others I know. It makes me wonder but does not prove a thing.

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