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Nix "Family Life Ministry" & Do This Instead

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Nix "Family Life Ministry" & Do This Instead

What Every Parish Priest, Employee, & Parishioner Should Know

This is something that I wish that I could tell every single priest, parish employee, and parishioner. This message is just as much for you because you belong to a parish. I feel so passionately about community wide liturgical living, Catholic culture, and interpersonal faith connections through the liturgical year. I truly and fully believe that if we could do what I'm about to share with you that it would change up the dynamics of our parish communities.

For context, I've been in ministry since I was 19 years old. I took my first job at that very young age and have held a variety of ministerial and administrative jobs within Catholic schools and parishes for 15 years now. You can now do the math on my age! I have a lot of experience in this area and have seen where ministerial efforts go well, where they are stagnant, where they are dying, and what's contributing to those results.

Stop Saying Family Life Ministry

I feel bold in saying this, not because this is groundbreaking, but because it seems that if anyone else has noticed what I'm about to share they aren't saying it. As a Church we haven't done a good job of opening our minds to understand what the word family means when we talk about "family life ministry." Most parishes have "family life ministry" and in some parishes you might find "parish life ministry" and only one parish that I know of has "liturgical life ministry" because I was given the gift to be able to start it myself.

I want to share why I think we need to stop calling "family life ministry" by that title, even though I'm for what is going on in that ministry. Much of what takes place in that ministry is actually liturgical living: communal prayer, devotions, activities, feast day celebrations, engaging traditions, etc. tied in to the liturgical year. Yet, when the only "open invitation" (i.e. an event not belonging to a specific ministry group) at our parish is called "family life ministry" those who do not fit a specific view of family, that being parents with small children, feel as if they don't know if they can go. That is an overwhelming amount of our parish population not attending communal experiences. You may immediately think I am talking about single people and those without children. This is indeed true, but ironically the non-attending population also includes the more "stereotypical" type of family, parents who have children that are older or are teenagers, but they don't go either because the name of the ministry itself insinuates that these experiences are for parents with young children. Next time you have a family life event observe whether or not there are elderly people there, single people, young adults, teens, married couples without children, etc. You'll see what I'm referring to.

What I have witnessed, is that those who don't attend "family life ministry" end up seeking to form their own break off groups just to do those same things happening in "family life ministry" with people in their own season of life. This indicates to me that we have our wires crossed.

For example, I got an email from a gentleman who wants to start an adult group to do a lot of liturgical living type things: prayer, service, communal celebrations, feast day gatherings, going to Mass together, etc. When he emailed, he explained that he wasn't sure if it should just be an adult group open to everyone, or if it should be a group for singles.

Here's my response to that.

  1. If someone is starting a Catholic singles group, or any specific group for that matter, that's great and mostly a separate topic of conversation from the point of this post which I'll get to next. It is necessary and good to have more specific ministry groups in which those in similar circumstances or life experiences can relate to one another. As a Church we are very good at doing specified ministry groups. It's no surprise because they tend to be more clear cut, straight forward, and simpler when planning the mission and goals of the group. For example, the point of a singles group is to meet other singles, so the activities and opportunities will be geared towards that end.

  2. On the other hand, if the goal is to create an adult group that is open to everyone, that tells me that we've missed the mark on our "family life ministry" or "parish life ministry." You see, his proposal just reiterated to me that it's not clear in the name or the mission because if it were there wouldn't need to be another "open invitation" group for adults. This is where we need to embrace the messiness of gathering as an entire parish community. We sometimes hesitate to do things where the age range might be too wide, or the cultures may vary, or the season of life might not be the same as another. Embrace the mess, that's the beauty and reality of being a Catholic village. We are better when we are together and we are enriched by the lives of others. If we can go to Mass and the sacraments as a mixed group of parishioners, then we should be able to extend that similarly into our communal life.

It's in the Name: The Liturgy Gives Our Parishes Life

I think all "family life ministry" and "parish life ministry" should be given the same name across the board, and I think it if were between one name or the other it needs to be parish life. Parish life better communicates and welcomes in anybody and everybody that belongs to the parish to join in on whatever is going on. An even better expression of this, in name and in mission, would be to call your "family life ministry" or "parish life ministry" by the name "liturgical life ministry." Every opportunity that we take as a community to pray, eat, engage in tradition, celebrate a feast day, live the seasons, embrace a devotion, etc. is an extension of the Church's liturgy. There is nothing more central to our faith than the Mass and the sacraments, and these liturgical celebrations are what gives life to the Church. The liturgy gives our parishes life! And this is why I think we need to nix family life and even parish life ministry for liturgical life ministry. We have tried through our own efforts to create community through family life and parish life but guess what, God has already done that through the liturgical year. We just have to get together to share in that with one another. Communal liturgical life works because God established it and what He creates is good!

What's a Family?

We could also stand to help ourselves and our parish friends see and know the many ways that a family can take shape. Different families are different. Some families are elderly couples who have kids that are grown and gone, some are married couples with 10+ kids, 2+ kids, and everything in between. Some families are married couples without children, others are single parents with children. Even single people get put in our parish database and viewed as a "family member" of the parish. This seems obvious, but often when families don't fit into a specific box or view they end up siloed. It's not intentional, but it is in fact happening. The common parish response has been to just create more break off ministry groups for each of these different populations. I am saying, it's not wrong to do that, but people are craving community and it is our responsibility reach out to one another. I would love to be at a parish wide event with the seniors, with the littles, with people my age, and with those who come from a different culture. Living and celebrating the faith as a village nourishes our humanity, and shows us the bigger picture that we are all on the same road to sainthood and we can all be in Heaven together one day.

Here's What You Can Do

I am imploring you, help your parish life/family ministry. Advocate for this to be "liturgical life ministry" and share how it can be a lived experience of the liturgical year and of each other. This is how we build Catholic culture, when we come together and celebrate a certain way, at certain times, on certain days, it's a common expression that is done together. And it has to be done together! Liturgical life ministry will get at the core of liturgy and ritual celebration for God, self, and other and we need to do that together. Pulling a variety of generations together can only help to give life to our community because everyone has their own gifts to offer.

If you need help with this I invite you to send me an email at or follow me on Facebook or Instagram so that I can offer you support. I welcome you to connect me to your people so that we can do this as a team. I've been blessed with many opportunities to help people revamp, change, or nourish their parish community life programs and I can do the same for you. Let me know what questions you have in the comments. Finally, know that I am praying for you and the liturgical life of your parish!

White background with text see you in the eucharist his girl sunday

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