Thursday, April 19, 2012

The average church go'er

In my job as a youth worker, I frequently run into students and parents completely disengaged from church.  As a Catholic, we have the sacraments - God's gift to the Church as a way of dispensing grace.  For some Catholics, it's almost like playing a video game and you jump up to the next level every time you receive a sacrament.  The time in between doesn't seem to matter as much.  They show up for Christmas, Easter and Ash Wednesday and are just fine with that.  For this type of Catholic, its not about the daily search for Christ, its not about carrying your cross, it's not about faith being the driving force in your life - it's about doing the tasks required to fulfill the obligations so you can still call yourself a "church go'er".  I find that many of these individuals have just lost touch with what's really important in life.  Many of them find value in everything else out there, but in the end, they're searching so hard to find true joy.  This kind of joy won't be found in fancy cars, big houses or more activities.  I guess our value system has changed from a family focus to an entertainment focus. 

Here's a list of my personal values in a general order from most important down, and the way I express these things in my life

My daily walk of faith - in the way I treat people, the way I communicate, prayer, the choices I make
Relationship with my wife - communication, time together, acts of kindness, words of affirmation
Relationship with my son - play time, caring for his needs, being patient, helping him grow
Providing for their needs - balancing my time, providing income, doing my share of work at home
Ministry - Planning and running events, personal visits, console, encourage, and be compassionate
Personal time - being well rested, relaxing on the back porch, trips out of town, prayer time
Immediate and extended family - phone and skype calls, attend activities with them
Friends - meet up for activities, phone calls
Vacation and hobbies - set up times family vacations, participate in league, or go to sporting events

I wonder how all that will change once our son and maybe other kids are all in high school and middle school.  They're all going to want to participate in something.  I guess for me, my first choice of activities would be church activities.  Why?  Because I find value in church.  When I was in middle school, I started attending the Pines Catholic Camp.  This was the first place I felt I could really be me and be liked for it.  I met incredible people that had similar values of my family.  They were rooted in faith and it would shine forth from them.  It was such a beautiful and attractive thing, I couldn't help but want what they had and was drawn to their spirit in the Lord.  When I was finally able to drive, my parents let me drive all the way to Dallas to visit with them.  I'll never forget how great it was to be around other high school kids that hung out on a regular basis without drinking.  Their friendships were deep, real and joy flowed forth from them.  Those were the kind of relationships I was seeking and found them only in my church friends.  As I minister to my teens at Good Shepherd, I see the same relationships forming within their groups.  It's an honor to have been a part of helping them connect.

So maybe you're wondering where I'm going with all this...  I guess the point is that I've found an unbelievable value in my faith.  I Love being Catholic and how the sacraments bring me closer to Christ.  I enjoy the community I belong to both parents, teens and my peers.  I look to my faith to be the guiding light in my life and I find so much joy in it.  I guess I struggle with the fact that I want everyone else to have this kind of relationship with their church, their faith, and their God.  I want everyone to cling to Christ in the midst of their struggles.  I meet so many people who's faith revolves around the obligation rather than the opportunity.  I meet so many people that put everything else first.  They are pushing themselves to the max in the world, and doing as little as they have to do for the church.  Why?  I guess because they never made that connection.  They never had that "wow" moment, and if they did, it was so long ago they've forgotten what it's like.  I see them drift further and further from something so awesome because the constant interactions with the "other life".  We become the things we surround ourselves with.

I know kids in select sports that spend $2000 a semester, and 10-15 hours a week but when it comes to church, they complain if mass goes over an hour and their giving is less then $1000 a year...  I struggle when I see these families because all I want to do is give them a glimpse of the greatness the Church can provide if they were just willing to give it a try.  The problem is getting them to show up to something else.  The problem is no one tithes their 10% so we don't have the money to provide more programs which require more staff. 

In the end, I guess I too am trying to go bigger and better - but my bigger and better is for the Lord, balancing family and friends.  As far as my Catholic faith is concerned - I want everyone I know to experience the joy in being part of the Church.  Not just any church but the Catholic Church.  I want all ministry in the church to explode!  I want the Lord to reveal himself so much that the individuals that have been so distant will come back home and be reconnected and rekindled in their life of faith.  I want the Church to be more welcoming, more inviting and more inspirational.  Our church is NOT about the entertainment aspect - it is primarily based on Christ and his expression of Love through the last supper, his death and resurrection and providing us the sacraments to continue to build and supply us with the grace needed to be connected to him.  A piece of me is saddened when I see someone leave the church because they never felt that connection - but at the same time, it pushes me even harder to work for Christ and the Church He established, with the sacraments He gave us.  Until then, I'll be looking for the disengaged families who show up every 4-5 years to fulfill their obligations, and I'll be enjoying my time with the community of faith that are actively experiencing the love of Christ within the Church. 

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