I spent the last two weeks driving the back roads of Indiana and Illinois farm country. I saw a lot of corn fields and soybean fields, and I hate to admit it took me longer than I’d like to admit about how to tell the difference. (It helps that corn is a lot taller now than soybeans!) I couldn’t help but think about these small rural parishes in farm country that I’m traveling to though. Most of them feel ignored by big city parishes, wealthy suburban parishes, and even the Diocese. They’re hard to travel to when there’s not an interstate in site for miles and even finding a gas station can be rather complicated on a long trip!
A few months ago I was struck by a guest essay in the New York Times about languishing. An emotion we were feeling collectively as a culture that we didn’t quite have a name for it. Adam Grant defined it as Languishing – not quite depression, but also not happiness or joy. This past weekend a Catholic leader shared another guest essay from Adam Grant about the other side of languishing: Collective Effervescence.
“We need to get ‘Back to Basics!'” I see this often in the open-ended comments of the surveys I conduct with parishes. Many of the respondents indicate that either they or people around them need to have a better understanding of the basic building blocks of the faith. Why do we do the things we do at Mass? What do we believe about Jesus Christ as the Son of God? Where does Mary fit? Well, I’m assuming that’s what they typically mean because they don’t quite explain themselves entirely in the comment box. Honestly “Back to Basics” seems similar to saying, “We need to communicate better.” ‘When parishes tell me that I say, “Define ‘communicate’ and define ‘better.'” I’m going to define “basics” even more simply than that though, so let’s get to it.
One of the questions we ask on our parish surveys is if the parish has ministries, programs, and events for a whole list of different categories of people. Two of the categories on that list are Single People and Single Parents. I also know from my surveys that about 20 to 25% of parishioners who complete them are single, separated/divorced, or widowed. The data I glean from these two questions is that 1/4 of parishioners are unmarried and less than 50% of respondents believe there are adequate ministries for unmarried people at the parish.
I’ve written many times about the research from Springtide Research Institute here at Transform Your Parish. Today I want to share about a challenge they’re doing this summer for leaders who want to help young people find a place where they belong. The team at Springtide has focused much of their research on Loneliness and Belonging.
Catholics have opinions about how their parishes should function. (That’s a truth you didn’t need me to outline.) Because they are so invested and we want them to be engaged, we include them in the Vision Planning process right from the beginning. The Parish Leadership Team (created to develop a Parish Vision Plan) is composed of people who represent the entire parish community whenever possible: young, old, families, empty nesters, cradle Catholics, converts, English speaking, Spanish speaking, etc. This group of individuals bring their own opinions as well as their fellow parishioner’s insights.
I read this article about “Languishing” and thought, “Yes, this describes so much of what’s going on right now in the world. We heard about this idea of “emotional burnout” related to the pandemic about a year ago.
As I do surveys at parishes all over the country, one consistent trend is that Catholics have an opinion about music. It’s either too fast, too slow, too new, too old, too in English, or too in Latin. Their parishes either use too much organ or not enough, too many guitars or not enough, drums are too loud or “how do we not have drums yet?”
Radiant Magazine (a publication of OSV) shared these two examinations of conscience for women during Holy Week. I thought they were so great, I had to share them with you to share with your parishioners.
Earlier this spring our team put together the best ideas from Transform Your Parish into an easy to download and share eBook. Have you seen it yet?