a brainstorm accompanied a thunderstorm....
(are you ready for the idea?)
Pair up young adults (in their 20s and 30s) who belong to your parish (look through your former youth ministry rosters and see who is still living in town) with senior members of the parish who need rides to Mass.
When I lived in Florida, our parish often ran general bulletin announcements for parishioners
to call the rectory if they are willing to pick up older Church members who are unable to
drive themselves. A few members of the parish Young Adult Singles Club decided to give it a try.
For one member in particular, Susan, who was in her late 20s at the time,
she was assigned to drive a nearby parishioner, Agnes.
It only meant that Susan had to leave about ten minutes earlier for Mass,
and then a few minutes longer to drive home as she paused to drop Agnes back off.
This was a great service to Agnes, as she was able to get to Church much more often.
Agnes enjoyed getting out of the house and getting to see some of her friends at Church,
and was thrilled to be able to celebrate Mass with the community.
Susan, of course, began this is a sort of service project....
you know, helping someone who needed the help.
Susan was surprised to realize that she also go things out of this arrangement:
1. a stronger commitment to going to Mass with her responsibility to Agnes
(a.k.a. strength to resist turning off the alarm and staying in bed or opting out of a Mass
for other reasons as may have been the case on a few Sunday mornings.)
2. someone to sit with at Mass (this was key because Susan really did not like going to Church alone,
and her schedule didn't always coincide with her friends' schedules, so sometimes would sit alone
prior to driving Agnes. Sometimes though, her friends would also sit with them.)
3. a new parishioner with which to form a relationship and build community.
For many months, the commitment was just the transportation to and from Mass.
However, Agnes then invited Susan to lunch a couple of times,
and they even went to see a couple of movies as their friendship grew.
After two years, Susan's job transferred her to a different state,
so she said good-bye to Agnes, but for those two years, they both supported each other
and were parish community for each other!
So, I would like to suggest that parish staffer take some time to recruit young adults to
provide this driving service for older members who may not be able to transport themselves to Mass.
Or your parish Mission.
Or the parish picnic.
Or an adult education series.
Get the idea?
If so, and you do it, I would LOVE to hear how it goes...
I do realize it can be tricky as some young adults may have schedules that could frustrate some seniors if they are unable to help on a consistent bases.... and it may take the senior time to trust the younger driver... people would need 'screened' a bit to ensure a good experience for all... but it seems like it could be well worth it.
Especially as we seem to seek ways to help young adults (especially singles) feel connected to our faith communities, and as we know some seniors can use the help.
Let us inspire our parishioners to take a step closer to Tabitha's description from Acts 9:36
"Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which translated means Dorcas).
She was completely occupied with good deeds and almsgiving."
by at least getting them to carpool!
Have you invited someone to go to Church/religious event with you?
According to Barna research,
only 4% of unchurched adults were invited to church by a friend and actually went,
23% were invited but declined,
and 73% were never invited at all.
These adults cannot possibly have been recalling high school days, right? Our youth ministries are great at inviting....aren't we? Teens know they are welcomed and when they can bring their friends to our programs, activities and events...correct? Perhaps we need to take time to evaluate our invitation styles, tools, and skills.
Here are just a few questions to help evaluate:
-- Do on our flyers, posts and announcements explicitly state WHO is invited and if friends can come?
-- Are our flyers, posts and announcements placed in locations that teens and their parents will see them?
-- Do we have adults helping us personally invite youth to be part of programs/activities/events in person, by phone call, etc., or do we rely on flyers, posts and announcements?
-- Do parents have enough information to know that they WANT to encourage their sons/daughters to participate in the programs, activities, events?
- Have we empowered teens to invite others by making sure they have the language necessary to offer invitations to friends, neighbors, relatives, etc.?
Of course, enthusiasm will spill over, so when our teens feel valued, excited, and engaged, they will naturally want to share the spirit...so be sure each and every participant is welcomed and treated to genuine hospitality once they have said "YES" to an invitation!
Then, just maybe, if Barna polls again in 5 - 10 years, that last number will be closer to zero (and if we really show we are Christians by our love, maybe that top number will be higher as well!) Let's get to inviting!
Cindee Case, MAPS
Director of the Diocese of Youngstown Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.