Saturday, June 10, 2017

Declining baptisms, confirmations, and ordinations. . .

Some presume that the Church is to blame for declining baptisms, confirmations, and ordinations.  We have fewer baptisms because people do not feel welcomed (especially when they have children out of wedlock or some other circumstance).  We have fewer confirmations because youth are bored with the traditional old church and its predictable liturgy and mournful hymns.  We have fewer ordinations because of the cost of seminary education and the cost to the parish of a pastor (full-time with more benefits) and the way some pastors are being treated (like low level employees).

I would suggest that there is another reason that underlies all of these.  Our people are attending Church with less regularity, if at all.  The total numbers of self-identified Lutherans has not declined as precipitously as have the membership numbers and attendance figures.  People have stopped attending or attending as frequently.  This, combined with the lower number of births from those folks (gray haired and younger folks), means that they are not in Church to request baptism and baptism is not on their radar because they are not in Church.  The lower numbers of confirmations is due to the lower number of youth in our church population but it is also due to the fact that their parents have not well catechized them or broken in them the good habit of regular and faithful weekly Church attendance.  Finally, the lower numbers of ordinations certainly may be reflective of the financial costs of the ordained and to the ordained but it is much more likely due to the fact that sons are not raised in the Church to believe the high and noble calling of the pastoral ministry.

A Roman Catholic put it this way:
There were about 1.8 million Catholics registered in the area covered by the Boston archdiocese 50 years ago; today the official figure is 1.9 million.

The trouble, of course, is that most of those 1.9 million Catholics aren’t practicing the faith. Consequently it should be no surprise that their sons don’t aspire to the priesthood. There were just over 2,500 priests working in the archdiocese 50 years ago; now there are fewer than 300. That’s right; nearly 90% of the priests are gone. If you can’t replace the priests, you can’t keep open the parishes.
The crisis in the Church cannot be fixed with modern music or entertainment or preaching oriented toward earthly wants and desires.  It is born of children raised with only a peripheral connection to the Church, a catechetical distance to the content of the faith, and an experience growing up that Church is not all that important.  They practice Church this way when they become adults and when they become moms and dads they teach it to their children.  Lets be honest.  The vast majority of children of church going parents who teach and practice the faith at home will stay in the Church, will bring their children to baptism, will encourage their catechesis, and will encourage church vocations.  Absent this example and encouragement, it probably will not happen.

So where will you and your household be tomorrow?


Anonymous said...

I certainly cannot argue with the facts presented by Pastor Peters. However, on the other side of the coin, just this past Sunday, I attended the first mass celebrated by a new Roman Catholic priest in the Latin Rite. There were several hundred people present, mostly family, friends, and supporters of the Latin Mass.

I think that there may be a message in this. When the Church was the Church, it attracted the people and held them. When the Church decided to become modern and popular, people said that they could find better just about any place they looked.

If this is correct, the answer seems to lie in being the Church, the unchanging institution that preserves and presents the unchanging truth of the Gospel. We are not really called to be anything else.


Paul said...

Faithful fathers bring their children to Divine Service at every opportunity.

Anonymous said...

Amen to Anonymous

Anonymous said...

Sometimes it has nothing to do with people attending or not attending. Sometimes it has to do with the Pastors, Deaconesses/Deacons. Sometimes it is demoralizing to be always told to go talk to a "committee" and not able to talk in heart with a Pastor. Maybe the church should not condemn congregant members or labeling them. That does not seem to be the job of the church. Maybe we turn the pages back 50 years and look at what was working with the Pastors, not the congregations only.