We all know people who have stopped going to Mass. Sometimes, we simply shrug our shoulders and tell ourselves that it’s their choice. In other cases, it breaks our hearts because the lapsed Catholic is a child, a spouse, a parent or a close friend. What most people don’t realize is that the situation has reached epidemic proportions.
A recent study by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public life tells us that one out of every 10 Americans is a former Catholic. Half of those folks have joined other Christian Churches. The other half are no longer affiliated with any religion.
A lot of the people who become unaffiliated simply drift away. They may not feel like going to Mass. They complain that Mass is boring. They decide that they can pray just as well outdoors or at home.
At first they may feel a little guilty about not going to Mass, but after a while, they begin to justify their decision.
Summertime is one of the most critical times for losing people. Vacations, warm weather and lots of choices for fun things to do often make going to Mass seem like a chore. What every parish needs to consider, however, is how many of those people who stop going to Mass during the summer will return in the fall? How many will become unaffiliated?
Keeping Catholics connected throughout the summer months will require a little planning, but it will probably be worth the effort. Here are some suggestions:
- Publish a calendar of special summer events, including feast days, parish activities and special Masses.
- Keep your parish website up-to-date with summer schedules.
- Send weekly email messages to parishioners with the readings for Sunday Mass.
- Make sure that there is coverage for ushers and greeters who are on vacation so people will receive a friendly welcome.
- Encourage parishioners to invite family members and friends to come to Mass.
- Give parishioners the words they need to explain to family members and friends why going to Mass gives them spiritual support and comfort. OSV pamphlets such as “Why do we have to go to Mass?” and “Five ways to prepare for Mass” will help.