NOTE: I write this at the prompting of a student who was worried at a heated debating and near insult situation that occured at one of their campus meeting. The chaplain made an observation on Alpha Hour and it brought up the heated arguments. He asked, “Father, what do you say about the dwindling number of Catholics refusing to attend Church programs? And what is your opinion on Alpha Hour, especially with many Catholic youth joining daily?
Many good intentioned priests and ministers of Churches are worried about the rate at which their faithful move to other Churches, prayer platforms, and fora to pray. They wish the faithful remain in their communities and get nourished within the house. Many lament and ask, “What is wrong with the people? Why do they keep running from one place to the other?”
Truly, some of the people of God are just curious and nothing will stop them from moving from place to place. Others run after miracles and miracle workers. These don’t buy into the principle of growing in the spirit, getting empowered, waiting on God, and even praying about their issues themselves. A percentage of these are frustrated after years of unanswered prayers; they don’t know the cause and think they need a miracle worker to get the needed breakthrough.
The faithful described above may need some or all of the following: primary evangelization (1), faith teachings (2), encouragement (3), and spiritual direction (4). But there is a real situation warranting my write up and I invite you to read to the end.
We have active believers who are hungry for God and want to eat and drink from the spiritual resources of the Body of Christ, the Church. Permit me to limit the discussion to the Catholic Church. Jesus is happy with those hungry for spiritual things. Indeed, blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled (Matthew 5:6). Again, through Peter, Jesus asked the leaders of the Church to “Feed my sheep” (John 21:16c, 17c, and 18c).
The Church must not merely show the food to the faithful; we must feed them. The people are not to feed themselves; we must feed them as the clergy. The biggest problem is that some members of the clergy (if not all) are troubled that they organise feeding avenues (spiritual programs and sessions) but the faithful do not eat (participate in it). I would like to focus on this challenge for the rest of the write-up.
Why are our people refusing to patronize our programs but running to other similar events of other pastors and Churches? These are my observations and suggestions. Kindly note that all of the four suggestions below should not be seen in isolation. They are woven together to cause the possible existing problem.
Thousand and one comments can be made here. Food must be ganished to make it more attractive. Good package is very essential for no one loves what is unattractive. Good sound, physical arrangement in Church, publicity (not just Sunday announcement by secretary), set up for the program, and proper coordination of the program.
2) Spiritual State of the Program
Many Catholic Churches have no intercessory ministers who pray into programs. No spiritual program is small. Jesus prayed daily and told the Church to pray without ceasing. The minister to lead the session (priest or lay) must be seriously immersed in prayer days (or hours) before the program. Practically, the priest must pray seriously before even traditional prayers like the Holy Hour, Penitential service, Stations of the Cross, etc. Beyond the personal prayers of the ministers, Masses (novena) could be celebrated for the success and impact of the program; there could be rosary chains by selected people, or a prayer group that undertake intercession for the impending programs.
Ministers are ordained for 24 hours services. The faithful are in the social and secular sphere controlled by state and industrial laws, constitution, etc. I encourage Pastors to allow the faithful to state when they are mostly available.
4. Collaborative Ministry
Use experts and invest in them
Who is capable is more important than who is available during the feeding process in the Church. Everybody can sing but God has granted singing graces to unique individuals. Same can be said about intercessors, those giving the talk, the MC, etc. Do not just use anybody and evaluate the impact of those you invite to lead periodically. Let us always remember that if it must be done, it must be done well.
Let us consider the above and think through, add up and let us resolve the issue together.
We (Catholic priests) keep talking about why the faithful patronize Alpha Hour. I joined the Alpha Hour for four days continuous to learn what Pastor Elvis Agyemang does right. I went behind to find out more and discovered the following:
1. Quality sound and gadgets (including stable Internet).
2. Well prayed through talks and prayer points
3. Team efforts and not a one man show.
4. Time consciousness and punctuality
5. Proper and well structured advertisement
6. Attractive packaging of each night without unnecessary repetitions of ideas and points
7. A prayer team that prays with the Pastor for successful sessions
8. Proper evaluation after each session.
It is not out of place to learn best practices from one another. May God help us to do what is most effective and not just competing alternatives to what people do. We have a big storehouse full of food. May God teach us how to feed His people. Amen.