Little by little, our world is starting to return to normal. It won’t be long before people are safe to venture out without masks into large crowds, before we’re safe to socialize with our family and friends again, and where we can attend a movie without risk to our life or others. And of course, it won’t be long before your church is safe to be filled to capacity and we can offer a sign of peace to our neighbors once more. But the question presents itself … will our members truly return?
In the beginning, our live streaming audience was plentiful. And our parishioners were happy to drop off their weekly or monthly check to the parish office. We took turns signing up for a slot in Eucharistic Adoration, so as not to overfill the church. However, many parishes today are noticing that even though they are offering public Mass again, attendance is not nearly as it used to be. And while we still have months before many of us will see the vaccine, now is the time to prepare to welcome our parishioners back to the fold. Here are three simple ideas you can build upon to ensure your members continue their relationship with Christ.
1. Invite Them Back
No doubt, your faith community always knew they were welcome to walk through your doors. Welcomed to take part in the sacraments again, welcomed to meet with the priest for confession and spiritual guidance, and welcomed to sit in silence with the Lord during regularly scheduled adoration. But as we all know, sometimes life gets in the way. People get busy and what was once considered an absolute has changed into a variable. And members need a reminder that not only is your church is still here for them, and it needs them as well.
If you have yet to do so, connect with parishioners via email, postal mail, and/or text messaging to remind them of all the safety nets your parish has in place. Social distancing, sanitizer, and gloves are the bare minimum that some parishes are offering. Other things that some churches have been doing is skipping a weekly collection during Mass, instead asking parishioners to give via check in the back, or through online giving.
2. Jumpstart Their Faith Journey
Obviously, you don’t want to pack the church to the brim, but it’s important to find a way to signal to parishioners that it’s time to come back. An event designed to jumpstart their faith journey is a great start.
Begin with a welcome Mass, complete with music from the choir. Hold confession beforehand for all those who may have been putting it off and finish it with adoration and benediction, or a rosary in thanksgiving for God’s many graces during this trying time. Use this time to admit that we all have fallen short with God, but that it’s not too late to begin anew.
3. Challenge Them to a Year of Renewal
It’s been a very hard year, and as such, people may be dealing with a lack-luster faith life. And it’s understandable when so many issues have plagued us for as long as they have. People are tired and worn down. They need a rejuvenation of their faith, and they can do this by making a commitment to a renewed relationship with Christ.
There are many programs available that can be utilized for your faith community. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has recently launched a program called “One Percent Prayer,” meant to help Catholics grow in discipleship through daily prayer. Additionally, Dynamic Catholic has a daily reflection program that allows you to start each day with an inspiring quote sent directly to your inbox.
If you are looking for a more community-focused program, consider Alpha, a series of sessions exploring the Christian faith. Typically meant for a small group setting within a parish, the organization has adapted their sessions for virtual viewing. Check out all the details on their website.