Ministry Tip of the Week
How might we (a parish community) serve the family? Most importantly, an overall orientation of openness to kids and parents is a must. This manifests in a host of ways, but the point is that it must manifest, it must be noticeable. Does a parish provide family-friendly events on a regular basis, or are most of the provisions for individual spiritual growth? Do adult programs come with child care for young parents with a hunger for faith but no funds for a babysitter?
Do parents know their children are not a distraction (or at least a beautiful, positive, welcome, and life-giving distraction) at mass? Take it from me as a parent with young children (aka "squirrels you can't keep outside... or in a cage"), we need to hear this often and from as many people as possible. Especially in the early stages of formation when kids are learning to be quiet - and the parameters of the pew - we struggle constantly with the temptation to stop coming (a decision which only makes it more difficult for the kids to engage in the Mass when they're older), and many of us give into that temptation.
Are we (as a parish community) working to build up the family relationships? By this I mean do we provide programs and events that get families interacting with one another, both family to family as well as the relationships within the family dynamic (parent/child, for example)? The radical individualism in our culture is devastating to families and a parish community should be a place that recognizes this cultural vice, a place that works to counteract the individualistic tendencies of the culture (how few families share their faith with one another).
Family Catechesis is a possible [part of the] solution as well. Many parishes across the country are finding a new way to engage families in the faith formation process. On the one hand, it places more responsibility on parents as the primary educators and it equips them to answer their God-given vocation with confidence. On the other hand, Family Catechesis places faith formation in a more appropriate context by taking it out of the classroom setting and situating it in the wider family and parish community. Plus, it usually involves food, which always helps.
These are some initial thoughts on how to build up families in the context of ministry but, however we do it, the important thing is to see the need. A radical re-orientation of openness to kids and parents is critical to the relationship building efforts of the New Evangelization.
"A central position in the new evangelization must be given to the parish, community of communities, not simply as a place for religious services but as a gathering place for families, Bible groups and renewed lay involvement, where a true sense of the Church is experienced through a most authentically lived celebration of the sacraments and their meaning."
(The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith, 107)