A couple of Sundays ago, our entire family attended church for the first time in several months. It shouldn’t be that complicated to get myself, my husband and our three young children to a service together, but it is.
Last week, my husband brought the three kids himself, as I was working. Last month, I was visiting my parents and brought the children to their church, sans Daddy.
And then there are all the Sunday mornings that we’ve slept in, or had errands to run or chores to do.
Why don’t more young families attend church on Sundays? The answer is complicated.
With today’s young families living farther away from extended family, it’s often intimidating, even for those raised in the church, to seek out a new congregation.
In an informal survey of other young families, many said they don’t feel welcome. They don’t see other people their age at church. They worry about their children being a disturbance.
Some congregations don’t realize just how unique they are. Each one differs in the practices and customs of their regular Sunday service. And they don’t anticipate that a newcomer may not understand.
What’s the solution? First, a thorough order of service should be available to all. Sure, you may sing the Kyrie every time, but to someone used to speaking it, even that may be disconcerting.
A bulletin that lists the names of the major contacts within the congregation, and an acknowledgment of newcomers’ attendance, are gifts any congregation can give a new family.
But how to get that family in the door in the first place?
Thom Rainer, a prominent evangelical Christian author, has written a book on the “unchurched”-those people who have faith but don’t belong to a congregation. In one survey, 96 per cent of those who didn’t belong to a congregation said they were at least somewhat more likely to attend church if they were invited.
It’s as simple as that: extend an invitation. My husband and I were churchless a year ago. Despite a move, we had been driving out of our way to attend our church. Then our minister left, and with him went a lot of our drive (literally!) to continue attending that out-of-the-way church. Around this time, my parents moved closer and we began occasionally attending their church during weekend visits.
So, though we felt guilty and a little out of place about not having our own church, our motivation to seek another one out wasn’t that high. Sure, we talked about going “church hunting,” but we were comfortable enough with the way things were.
Then a news story broke about a local church, just up the road from us. Controversy flamed briefly and my husband and I followed the story and the comments in the online paper. We even made a few comments of our own, supporting the church.
In one of the comments, a member of the congregation declared that theirs was a very welcoming church and asked those commenting to please come next Sunday. We saw that as an invitation, and the next Sunday we found our new church.
We haven’t been the most regular participants, but without that invitation, we may never have attended at all. Ω
Dara Squires is the author of Readily A Parent, a syndicated parenting column and online blog. Squires lives with her family in Corner Brook, Nfld.