Sundays have changed a lot in culture over the years. What once was a sacred day for faith and family, a day that nourished and refreshed for the days ahead, has become like every other day of the week. As Monday through Saturday seep into Sunday, all too often Sunday loses its power to influence them in return. Georgetown’s CARA study and Pew Research say about half of Americans attend church at least one Sunday a month. 23% of Catholics report attending every week. For those who do show up on Sundays, all too often it’s one and done. We are not a Sunday-only Church! We’ve compiled a few essential ways to help your parishioners re-integrate faith and life.
Offer Engaging Social Opportunities
Having fun with friendly people can be one the easiest first steps to re-engage with a community. Get creative with your offerings! Think outside the box to catch people’s eye. Here are a few ideas:
- Host a picnic at your local park.
- Project a family-friendly movie on a blank wall in the parish hall, or outdoors with a projector screen or taut sheet.
- Offer a Bacon & Brews Night for men … or women!
- Tailgate in the church parking lot and charter a bus to the local major or minor league game.
- Have a local well-known eatery or bakery cater a social event.
- Host a bonfire and hot dog roast. (Check with your local fire department first.)
- Have a Karaoke or Trivia Night.
- Plan a holiday-specific fun, like an end-of-summer bash or “trunk or treat” for kids at Halloween.
Serve in the Community
Everybody wants to make a difference. Offering diverse opportunities to serve others could draw a new crowd into parish engagement. For some members, pouring coffee on Donut Sunday isn’t their idea of changing the world! Serve a meal at a food pantry or partner with Habitat for Humanity for a build day. Sponsor a blood drive. Or — a little closer to home — don’t hire a professional landscaping crew next summer, but instead recruit a parishioner with a green thumb and some leadership skills to direct an outdoor service project.
Answer Essential Questions
Most of your parishioners have likely learned the facts of the faith somewhere along the way. But, for many of us, the bigger questions of life are never quite one and done.
In the midst of the change and transition that continues throughout life, who am I really? Whether I’m just starting out in the professional world or a tragedy has rocked my perspective … why am I here? And where are we going? Evangelistic programming — like Alpha courses and renewal retreats — can engage parishioners with the most basic questions of life and draw people into deeper faith.
Overcome Common Obstacles
When you offer an event, keep the barriers to entry as low as possible. Recruit responsible youth group members or confirmation students to offer free babysitting. Try to keep events free or prices low. For catechetical topics, keep things in conversation. Don’t shy away from controversial issues! People appreciate dialogue on tough questions. But make sure these events happen in a respectful, compassionate manner.
Check the Pulse of Your Preaching
Remember, these are people in the pews! How are you helping them live well outside of them? The homily may be the only encouragement in faith that some parishioners receive. Pew surveyed adults looking for new church congregations. 83% said the quality of sermons played a role in their decision. Of course we don’t want to pander or water-down truth. However, it’s good to assess the homilies from time to time. In his document “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis wrote extensively on homiletics. He writes:
The homily is the touchstone for … a pastor’s closeness and ability to communicate to his people. The homily can actually be an intense and happy experience of the Spirit, a consoling encounter with God’s word, a constant source of renewal and growth.
Consider the invitation the homilies extend. Is it meeting the needs of the culture and demographics of the congregation? Do the homilies emphasize the intersection of faith and daily life? Are they inviting parishioners to lifelong discipleship? These teaching moments can go a long way to inviting people into relationship with Christ and involvement with the community.