The Catholic Church needs to not try to be cool. It’s not. I know. I’m a part of it. It’s old fashioned and formal and quiet, and I think that’s the way it should be. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be contemporary. I would love to have contemporary worship in my church, and I love that the Church throughout the world uses technology to get the message out to more people. I’m also not saying that the Church shouldn’t be involved in current, secular culture. It absolutely should be. I read an article yesterday about how Pope Francis is planning on doing a lot of work to help the homeless in Rome. He’s already started a project to build public showers for them near the Vatican. This is great because he is someone all Christians can look to and say “That guy practices what he preaches.”
However, a couple of days ago I watched a video about going to confession because I’m not sure how I feel about it. As it is, I currently don’t. I didn’t find the video very convincing for a couple of reasons. The first was that it didn’t give much of a reason why I should go to confession. It mostly just gave an overview of the actual process. The second was that the video itself was pretty doofy. For one thing, it was animated, which isn’t a bad thing by default, but it seemed like it was making light of a serious subject. The animation was not very good, and I just found it annoying because it was downright cutesy. In the description, it didn’t say that the video was geared towards kids, but it might as well have been. It’s this kind of stuff that gets on my nerves. Don’t make this kind of stuff cute or cool. Make it seem important.
I saw another article that I didn’t read because the title was one giant, horrible pun. Maybe this is getting overly critical, but I know that the teachers at my home church tend to be very punny, and they try to create environments for young people that teenagers and young adults will actually enjoy, but then they call them things like Holy Hangout. Not everything the church does has to have a churchy name. In fact, more people might be interested in these kinds of things if they have even neutral names.
There’s an Episcopal church one town over from me that does open mics once a month. It’s very family friendly and performers have to keep it clean, but it’s not churchy at all. The only differences I can see between this open mic and an open mic at a bar or something are that there’s no alcohol, and it’s a bit less out of place for me to play worship songs. Honestly, though, I like playing worship songs in little cafes and bars because it might be the only way some of the people there get to hear about God. We can’t always separate church from other aspects of life. The Gospel isn’t meant to be heard only in church buildings. Maybe it’s obnoxious, but no one’s ever said anything to me, and quite frankly, I don’t care.
I feel like my job as a musician is to make people happy, but also to give them hope. I try not to be a preacher; I just explain my songs as briefly as possible and play. No matter where I’ve been, I’ve never got a bad response.
The congregation at my home church consists of an overwhelming number of old people compared to any other demographic. The next biggest group is families with young children. There are almost no parishioners between the ages of about 12 and 30. I think there are a few reasons for this. The first reason is that this young demographic has a choice. They can either sleep in or go to breakfast/dinner or meet up with family and friends on Sunday morning/Saturday afternoon. Churches tend not to offer services that are super convenient for young people.
However, the second reason this group tends not to go to church is because its not a priority. This tends to be a fairly worry-free period in a person’s life, especially for middle and high school students. People feel they need religion when they have things to worry about. Perhaps this is the reason why young families start going back to church: People have to worry about taking care of children for the first time, and perhaps this worry leads them to look to something bigger for guidance.
The third reason has to do with the first reason. Our culture is obsessed with efficiency. We are basically programmed to constantly ask ourselves “How much can I get done and how fast can I do it?” Because of this, we have to make choices about what the most important things are, and what can be left behind. Church tends not to be a huge priority because it doesn’t seem very productive to sit in a pew and listen for an hour. However, it’s been proven that living with this high-efficiency mindset leads to high stress levels, anxiety and depression in a lot of people. Prioritizing a few “less productive” things at least a few times a week is actually good for our health.
The third reason applies more to the demographic of people with teenage or adult children. There are almost no middle aged people in my parish. This is probably due to the fact that, despite their children being gone, or at least less of a handful, they are still working super hard and still trying to provide for their family; especially if they’re trying to pay college bills.
It seems that retirement age people tend to go back to church for a few reasons. They have time for it, or they don’t have many other things to do. Church becomes a social thing for them, especially if they are not savvy with social media or technology in general. In some cases, they feel worried about where they are in life and worried about what will happen to them on the other side.
This is all fine, except it makes my church feel like a retirement home as opposed to the vibrant community I know it could be.