WHY CHURCH ATTENDANCE IS IMPORTANT

 

Before you begin reading, let me say that this piece is not an indictment of anyone in particular. The comments made in this are general findings and are prevalent no matter where you attend church.

 

In my opinion, the church, in general, and St. John in particular is in crisis. Church attendance among young people, parents and students particularly confirmands, is at an low ebb. The question is why?

 

I have included and article by Pastor Mark Surburg outlining his idea as to why church attendance is waining:

 

"During the last ten years I have come to realize that there is an almost infallible predictor of whether youth who are confirmed will still be regularly attending the Divine Service during the years that lead up to graduation from high school.  If prior to Confirmation, the pattern of their family was regular attendance, this will continue.  If prior to Confirmation, the pattern of their family was absence from the Divine Service, this will return.

     As I watch this predictor prove its validity yet again with another group of high school youth (and college age youth in the area), I reaffirm what I wrote earlier:

     For all of the handwringing about the age of Confirmation and the methodology of catechesis, I don’t believe that changes in these areas will make a marked change in the outcome.  They won’t because the real issue is the faithfulness of the parents.  If the parents consider Christ and his Means of Grace to be important, they will regularly bring their family to church.  And where parents regularly bring their family to church – where they model for their children the importance of the faith by what they do on Sunday morning – we will see youth continue to attend church.  Where this was not important before Confirmation and the parents didn’t bring the family to church on Sunday, it will not be important after Confirmation.  The result is that we will not see confirmed youth in Church.  The relationship between Confirmation and a later lack of faithful attendance by youth is not one of cause and effect.  It is instead the inevitable product of the manner in which the parents conduct their family and its life in the faith.

     For this I have no real answers.  The source of the problem is threefold: the devil, the world, and the sinful nature.  A culture that cares only about being happy is too busy amusing itself to death to be bothered with Christ and the life of faith.  I suspect that in a country that is rapidly embracing a post-Christian existence, the Church will need to get to know a biblical word: remnant.

     The “answer” insofar as it is one, is catechetical activity at church that involves parents with children at a much younger age – and an ecclesiastical culture that expects this. This in turn may help to foster and support the only true answer – parental involvement with catechesis at home.

     What I do know for sure, is that Confirmation as we currently practice it is ecclesiastical insanity.  Ponder this for a moment:

     Something that has taken on its present form and importance in the Lutheran Church largely due to non-Gospel factors is something that unfaithful parents are willing to make sacrifices to do, so that in good conscience they can then go on being unfaithful. 

   That is perverse.  The fact that Confirmation (and by “Confirmation” I mean the entire process and mode of instruction that leads to the rite of Confirmation as it is commonly done today with eighth graders) has taken on this significance must surely be a sign that it is not a healthy thing for the Church.  I would argue that history of Confirmation’s development is filled with explanations for why this is so.

     Then add on top of this the perversity that suggestions about changing – or even doing away with the rite of Confirmation as we know it – will draw the strongest of reactions from those who consider themselves to be faithful Lutherans.  In fact they believe that in defending Confirmation as it currently stands, they are defending “true Lutheranism.”  That is not just perverse.  It is ecclesiastical insanity."

Pastor Mark Surburg

     To add my two cents, I have in 45 years but more recently watched as individuals clamor for more contemporary services and use the lack of them as their reason to stay away from church. I have a difficult time with the idea that all of us can not take one hour each week to thank God for the Word and Sacraments we receive through our Lord Jesus Christ.

   Sports, among other events are also responsible for dwindling church attendance. Club ball, scheduled on weekends, is the main culprit. A decision has to be made and all too often the sports win out.

    I am truly upset when I have witnessed parents and students, who on their confirmation day, pledged in front of the altar, to remain faithful to God and St. John Lutheran church and then, for all intent and purposes drop off the face of the earth and are not seen again until they want a family member want to be married or someone dies.

     Church attendance is dwindewlling. As the head of the elders and former teacher and principal of St. John, I take this matter very serious. Elders have already started making contact with school families and, if not already,  will eventually get to yours. We do this out of love and concern for ALL members of St. John.

 

Christopher Urquhart

Principal, St John Lutheran School (ret.)

Chairman, Board of Lay Ministry

St. John Lutheran