Big Goal Outcome Measurement – Mass Attendance
By Jim Jansen – Director of Pastoral Services
When Archbishop Lucas announced The Big Goal – each parish in the Archdiocese of Omaha will be a missional community by 2026 – he also outlined specific outcomes that would be used to measure the fruit of this endeavor. These indicators of mission are financial giving, Baptisms & full-receptions, and Mass attendance.
At first glance, Mass attendance may seem like an odd way to measure the fruit of a missional community. After all, the very nature of the Mass requires a person to be both converted and initiated in order for them to fully enter into the experience and to participate. As such, Mass attendance is a measurement of insider participation rather than a parish’s growing reach to outsiders.
What is the case for publicizing historical Mass attendance as a key outcome of a missional community?
- The Mass is our summit – The ultimate aim of all evangelization, ecumenism, outreach, mission, hospitality, and catechesis is the reconciliation of man with God and mankind with each other. That happens in its fullest sense in heaven, but here on earth, we find the culmination of our efforts in the gathering of those who would have been strangers or enemies around a common table. The Mass is the summit of our worship and of our communion with God on earth, and so it seems that growing each parish’s Mass attendance will be a good indicator of a community on mission.
- The Mass is our source – If a military outpost had the benefit of a supernatural food which inspired and strengthened its soldiers for the mission before them, it would seem reasonable to take notice of the attendance of the soldiers at meals. That food would be the source of strength for all their varied activities and tasks. Gaps in attendance would be concerning for the officers and leaders.
- It is a great place to start. While the trendlines must be interpreted as part of larger demographic and cultural trends, they tell an important story. Just as an individual’s heart rate and blood pressure provides an incomplete picture of health, they also provide an important starting point for any health assessment. In the same way, Mass attendance provides an important starting point for assessing the health of the parish community.
- Parishioners have a right to this information. Although the steady decrease in Mass attendance has been obvious to many, it is still not widely known. Publicizing the information allows the parish community to take ownership of a trend that affects their experience of the faith.
- The information can make a positive difference. There is no denying that the information presented here is sobering. It could even be characterized as depressing. Catholics, however, have a deep conviction that the truth will set you free (Jn 8:32). And so, a deeply shared awareness of the trendlines can be unifying. A compelling presentation of the current reality often results in generosity, unity, and heroic embrace of change.
If you’d like to use this information to make a difference, check out the section in the attached document on how to share this data (p. 79). There you will find questions for reflection and ideas on how to share this information with groups and the community at large.
- Individual Parishes – p. 2
- Parish Circles – p. 45
- FAQ – p. 77
- How to Share the Data – p. 79