New Ways to Engage Families in Your Parish

October 21, 2021  •   LPi

Family walking infront of church

There’s the old saying — if you can’t hear crying, your church is dying. Not only do young families bring a vibrancy to parish life, but they represent the future of the faith. Is your parish looking for ways to energize existing member families and attract new ones? Here are some ideas that can jump-start your engagement with this important demographic.

Family-friendly Mass

Technically, every Mass is family-friendly, right? But if you’ve been the parent of a young, squirmy child, you know that feeling of self-consciousness when Junior starts to interrupt Father’s homily — especially if the rest of the congregation is child-free. Designating one liturgy per weekend that is explicitly welcoming to families can go a long way to boosting Mass attendance in this demographic, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly word spreads and new faces appear!

Nursing space

We’re all familiar with the parish “cry room,” and having a space like that sends a message of welcome and inclusivity to young families. But noisy cry rooms are not ideal places to feed a baby, and recently many parishes have begun to set aside a quiet area for breastfeeding mothers to nurse their infants. Is there an underutilized corner of your usher’s room or narthex? Consider putting up a screen to afford privacy and place a comfortable chair there with a basket of wipes and diapers. Some parishes even incorporate imagery of the Madonna and Child or Our Lady of La Leche.

Eucharistic Adoration for kids

Bringing children before the Blessed Sacrament in adoration is an important way to teach the centrality of the Eucharist to our Catholic faith — but that doesn’t mean it’s easy! Just as family-friendly liturgies can make parents feel more at ease with their wiggly littles in tow, a special hour of Eucharistic adoration for families and children is a great way to incorporate parents and kids in the devotional life of your parish, while also evangelizing to non-parishioners. Offer a special Benediction or worship music, set out a well-stocked library of child-friendly books about the Eucharist and make it clear that Jesus is happy to see even the smallest and loudest among us.

Creating an environment of welcome

One way that many parishes send a message of inclusivity to young families is by providing coloring materials, children’s bulletins, and “Mass bags” with activities to keep little hands occupied during the liturgy or during Eucharistic adoration. It’s a way of acknowledging the struggle their parents face while making them feel supported. Many websites, including Catholic Icing and The Catholic Kid offer free printables (coloring sheets, word searches, and more) that can be downloaded and distributed easily. LPi’s WeCreate, free to bulletin customers, offers Growing with the Gospel for grades K-1 and 2-3.

Face time with Father

If he isn’t already doing so, encourage your pastor to find ways of reaching out and making a personal connection with the young families of the parish. This can be through engagement during the homily (asking kids questions or inviting them into the sanctuary), socializing after Mass or attendance at family-oriented events. Creating opportunities for parents and their children to interact with the pastor will create long-lasting bonds between these families and their Catholic faith — and your parish.

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