This was the subject of an email I recently received that received caught my attention. A evangelical named Thom Schultz wrote the following that I found interesting:”Last weekend most people in America avoided church. And, a sizable portion of those who did make it to church
wished they were somewhere else. But why?I decided to go direct to the source. I staked out a city park to ask the public why they weren’t in church. What they
told me echoed what I’ve been hearing for several years now.Their reasons centered around four recurring themes:
“Church people judge me.” A young woman told me that as a child she regularly attended church and Sunday school. But she’s given up on the church as an adult. “They make me feel like an outcast,” she said. “How? Why?” I asked. “Well, I’m a smoker,” she said.
“I don’t want to be lectured.” More people today want to participate in the discussion. A man told me he’s talked with over a thousand other men who’ve given up on church. He said, “Guys don’t want to sit in a room and idly listen to some preacher do all the talking. They want to ask questions. They want to share their thoughts too.”
“They’re a bunch of hypocrites.” I know church leaders are weary of this “excuse.” But people are’nt merely referring to incongruous behavior. What bothers them is the sense that church spokespeople act like they have all the answers. That they’ve arrived. That they’re only interested in telling others what to do—“teaching,” to use the church vernacular.
“I don’t want religion. I want God.” Most people don’t experience God at church. They’re not looking for the “deep” theological trivia that seems to interest some preachers. They crave something very simple. They’re dying to be reassured that God is real, that he is more than a historical figure, that he is present today, and that he is active in the lives of people around them.
Those of us who remain in this imperfect gathering of the faithful need to stop talking and “teaching” long enough to listen to the majority outside our walls. I’m not suggesting their views are flawless. Or that we should design ministry merely according to consumer whims. But we do need to keep our ultimate goal in mind—to help bring others into a closer relationship with Jesus Christ.
That’s what defined the ministry of Jesus himself. He boldly broke away from the habits and routines of the religious elite of the time. And he fashioned a highly relational ministry that connected with the disenfranchised.”
Do you find these reasons to be true?
The Pew Forum study from 2008 found that about only 30% of Adult Catholics are actively practicing their faith. I suspect that also includes going to Mass. 30% – Wow! The “missing Mass is a grave sin” (Cf. CCC 2181) does not seem to have much weight in the Third Millennium.
What can we do in our Catholic parishes to draw people to church?