This skit from Saturday Night Live has been making rounds on both Catholic and non-Catholic blogs since it aired last December. Surprisingly respectful for the most part, SNL over exaggerates several of the people and scenarios we may encounter at Christmas Mass. I spent the entire time watching it trying to figure out which character my fellow parishioners would label me.
Though this skit is intended to be funny, we can glean a few insights and truths from the it to help us this Christmas. SNL nailed it in the opening line, “It’s time for your annual trip to Church…”. If this is your case or someone you know, we invite you to check out this letter and this 9-Tip Survival Guide.
In a Pew Research study 41% of Catholics said they attend Mass only a few times a year. Judging by the limited seating available in my own Church, I’m assuming that Christmas Mass is one of those times for many. This is a golden opportunity – the mission field is coming to us. As Catholics who regularly attend Mass, this is our opportunity to become missionaries in our own home.
It may be uncomfortable for you to think of yourself as a missionary or evangelist, but Jesus says nothing about our own personal comfort when He gives us the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20. “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
5 Ways to Outreach to Christmas Catholics
1. Pray – Everything begins with prayer, but pray specifically for these things.
*Discernment – Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal a person or family especially in need of God’s love this Christmas. You can even say this prayer as people begin to arrive to Church. A few years ago, I noticed a college age girl and felt called to pray for her during Mass. I asked God to help her find Him and that He would send her someone to lead her in her faith. Later that day, a friend introduced me to her (not knowing I had been praying for her). She has been coming to our Bible study ever since! God will lead you to very specific people if you are open to hearing the call.
*Boldness and Courage – It is no easy thing to approach a stranger and begin a conversation with them. Ask the Holy Spirit to empower you with a holy boldness. Release the idea of caring about what others may think of you and embrace the idea of pleasing God. There is a very good chance that the person you approach might think you are weird. That’s okay. A young couple that my husband introduced himself to after Mass one day later confessed to us that they initially thought he was approaching them to sell something to them! Now they seek us out after Mass to talk. That being said, there are several other people that we have tried to introduce ourselves to that run in the other direction when they see us! Not all of our attempts at outreach have been successful, but it isn’t the success rate that God is after. He just wants us to make the effort.
*To Soften the Hearts of the People – Ask God to prepare the hearts of those you encounter so that they may be receptive to the true Gospel message. So many in our culture suffer from a hardness of heart. Ask the intercession of the Saints and the Guardian Angels to assist you in ministering to the people in need. (Ezekiel 36:26)
Studies continue to show that the most effective way to get people to Church is a personal invitation. If talking to someone directly is intimidating to you, send out a tweet or share Mass times for your local Church on your Facebook wall.
3. Arrive to Church Early
Plan on getting to Mass earlier than usual. This will give you time to help greet others as they walk in. No need to be appointed as an Usher, just be a friendly face who is able to assist others in any way needed. Be on hand to point out where the restrooms are or help an elderly couple get to their pew safely.
4. Lead by example
Many people who only come to Mass a few times a year are unfamiliar with when to sit, stand, kneel and speak. Be sure to say prayers and responses loudly and clearly so that others may follow. Remember to be mindful that you are in the presence of Christ. Many times before and after Mass people are socializing in the Church as if they are at a party. Model reverence to Christ by kneeling in prayer before Mass begins. Save the talking for outside of the sanctuary.
5. Bring a gift.
After Mass, seek out an individual or family. Provide them with a Christmas card, book (Rediscovering Catholicism by Matthew Kelly is a good one.), Holy Card or Rosary. You can find something that will fit any budget. Think of the impact a Christmas card and a $10 gift card for ice cream would have on a family with young children! Tell the parents you noticed how well behaved their children were during Mass and present them with the card. Include a scripture verse on your card and information about Bible studies or activities for children that your parish may offer. Another great resource can be found at Catholic Enquiry ( http://www.catholicenquiry.com). This site offers a free, downloadable pamphlet explaining the meaning of Christmas and containing beautiful prayers. It doesn’t matter how big or small the gesture is, put something in their hands that will inspire them to come back to Mass.
What to say….
Most of us are not theologians, priests or nuns, but that doesn’t mean we can’t reach out to others with the intention of helping them grow to love Christ more. Simply introduce yourself, share your story and ask about theirs. Show them joy and genuine love through what you say and how you respond to what they share with you. This is not the time for debates or deep discussions. This is just a brief interaction to help others feel welcomed in your Church. Suggesting ministries that your parish offers which may fit the needs of the person you are speaking with can always be helpful. Examples may be a singles group, moms’ group or a Bible study that they may not have heard. Pope Francis gives us beautiful insight on what to say while evangelizing in Evangelii Gaudium, ” On the lips of the catechist the first proclamation must ring out over and over: “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you…. nothing is more solid, profound, secure, meaningful and wisdom-filled than that initial proclamation. ”
Bring the true meaning of Christmas into your Church this year by being the light of Christ to all who enter in! Together we can provide those who only make it to Church a few times a year with more than something to joke about as in the SNL skit, we can make this annual trip life changing.
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” – Mark 16:15
Check out these wonderful resources! They are free to print and distribute to help others feel more comfortable at Mass.