Rebuilt has always been about sharing our real-time experiences in a real-life parish. Now that we are solidly into our fall semester here at Nativity, it seems like a good time for an update on what’s new and what’s next.
If I had to identify one central theme of this update it would be that we are still learning how to navigate the shift in paradigm from attendance to engagement. As you’ll see, our attendance has been modest by pre-COVID standards while our engagement with parishioners and newcomers has never been higher.
Through the spring and summer, we consistently experienced about 30-35% of pre-COVID attendance at weekend Masses. The big question as we approached the fall was, “will the rest come back?”
Following Labor Day, and with the opening back up of all our next generation programs we’ve seen a modest bump in attendance, to about 50% (pre-COVID). This has been somewhat disappointing but consistent with what we know about attendance at other churches. For more thoughts on current attendance patterns check out my previous post. Nevertheless, if not a return to pre-COVID numbers, with “Kick-Off Weekend” we definitely experienced a return to the energy and excitement we used to enjoy (and perhaps took for granted). Our weekends this fall have been fun and festive and everyone who is back seems glad to be back.
Fall Message Series
We have just wrapped up our first message series of the season, “The Head/Heart Connection.” It’s available on-demand on our website. Our next series, “Dangerous Prayers” begins this coming weekend and takes us through Stewardship Sunday. And our final series of the semester, for Advent, will be “The Promises of Christmas” and concludes on Christmas Eve. Three series for the Fall season always feels about right.
Next Generation Programs
Perhaps the single thing that brought the most energy back to campus on the weekends was the return of all our kids and students. So far, our next-generation programs have been safe for our students and successful in terms of attendance and engagement.
And the added benefit to great next-generation programs is that the kids bring their parents back to church.
This weekend, our student’s team will be leading an off-site, overnight retreat for our most-ever Confirmation students.
Small Group Launch
One of the biggest and most successful weekends so far this fall (and probably since COVID) was our Small Group Launch Weekend. Our adult discipleship team and our small groups director, Susan Aldridge, dreamed up a delightful sports-themed festival to showcase small group sign-up opportunities and engage kids on the way out of Mass. There was plenty of fun and fellowship but, more importantly, it also encouraged people to take this step in discipleship (and over 200 did!).
The next big weekend of the year will be Stewardship Sunday, which we’ll host the weekend before Thanksgiving. Stewardship is a big weekend not just because we ask for a financial commitment for the coming year but also because we like to celebrate what people’s investment in the parish has allowed us to accomplish. And, as always, this weekend will be one of the most fun of the year too.
When the name of your parish is Nativity, you’ve got to be serious about Christmas and that means early planning. And that is true this year more than ever. With continued uncertainty about attendance, last week we announced that we’ll be hosting our Christmas Eve celebration on our Ridgely Road campus (rather than our usual Christmas Eve location at the Maryland State Fairgrounds). We’re confident that the experience will be just as joy-filled as previous years while giving us a chance to celebrate Christmas Eve for the first time in our new church. We fully intend to return to the “Cow Palace” for Christmas Eve next year.
Fall is always a sprint, from Labor Day to Christmas, and it always seems to pass quickly. If you’re involved in your parish pastoral life why not take a pause at this point to consider where you’ve been and where you’re going this semester. It will be over before you know it.