A few years ago, the Pew Research Center reported that 28% of U.S. adults don’t attend church on Sunday because they don’t believe. So let’s imagine there are 1,000 Catholics in your parish boundaries who are not coming to Mass. Of those, 720 (72%) are believers who are staying away for other reasons.
What might those be? The Pew folks list three.
Your liturgy is not remarkable
The top reason given for not attending religious services was “I practice my faith in other ways.” What that means is your Sunday liturgy is not remarkable enough to draw believers away from other forms of spiritual practice. Now we all know that sometimes an answer like that can seem shallow. I heard someone say once that her spiritual practice was to read the Sunday New York Times in bed while eating a bagel. We may want to scoff at that. But the reality is that whatever is happening at her parish is not remarkable enough to make her want to get out of bed.
Your liturgy is not likeable
The second reason given for lack of attendance had to do with things folks don’t like about liturgy at their parish. Sometimes it’s just a general feeling of not liking what happens. Other respondents were more specific, saying they didn’t like the preaching or they didn’t feel welcome. While it’s true that we can’t please everyone, we can work at constantly improving everything we do in the liturgy. Catholics have a reputation for bad preaching and for being a little chilly toward strangers. You may think that’s not true in your parish, and you may be right. But if you have space in your pews on Sunday, maybe it’s time to take another look at what might be causing people to stay away.While it’s true that we can’t please everyone, we can work at improving everything we do in the liturgy. If you have space in your pews on Sunday, maybe it’s time to take another look at what might be causing people to stay away. Click To Tweet
Your liturgy isn’t convenient
People also said they didn’t have time to go to church. Or they have difficulty getting there because of health issues. Or there is no church close by. These issues are harder to solve, but they’re not impossible. If the parish leadership made it a goal to help people get to church who have trouble getting there, they would probably be able to come up with some solutions.
It is easy for us to write these responses off as lame excuses and continue on as we have been. But there is a definite shift happening in the United States. We who do go to church tend to think the shift has to do with a lack of belief. But according to this study, that is true for only a minority of non-attenders. And if most of the people who don’t come to church do have some level of belief, don’t we have a responsibility to be like the shepherd who left the 99 and went out find the lost sheep?
See also these related articles:
- How to critically read blog posts and magazine articles about liturgy
- Liturgical principles to guide your planning
- Liturgical flow: the missing piece to compelling liturgy (part 3)
- Liturgical flow: the missing piece to compelling Liturgy (part 2)
- Liturgical flow: the missing piece to compelling liturgy (part 1)
- We are drawn into the dance
- How your ministry changes the flow of the Mass
- Improve parish worship by teaching households how to speak with symbols
- Seven must-read liturgical documents for pastoral leaders
- Celebrating liturgy in our homes
Image credit: Alessandro Erbetta, Unsplash