Feeling misunderstood


#1

I've been in my church for 2 years. In that time, I've volunteered my time in many different committees and at many different events. Until recently, I've been happy to do so as I am single and have no kids or other commitments that would hinder my involvement in the same way that having a family would.

Unfortunately, I have come to realize that in my church, many of the committees are run by people with families and the participation is extremely low despite having had a huge push for time in ministry (our parish has about 70 "ministries") in the fall. In one of my committees I tried to set up a one-time meeting just to try and get some response and it upset the chairperson so much that we nearly had an argument over it although I told her I wouldn't have it if she didn't want me to. The problem is that I never get any response from anyone in trying to elicit help and it's very frustrating. There are enough people in the group that you'd think they could even respond and say thanks but no thanks.

What I don't get is if nothing is happening in the group and someone is trying to re-energize it by trying, and you, as the head of the group aren't doing anything to try, either, why get upset? I've also done so much leg work on an event for another committee only to have the chairperson drop the ball totally and never respond to me because she was too busy.

I feel very frustrated and sad over trying to help and I wasn't asking for the moon or anything outrageous. The church will die, the committees will die, if nothing is happening and there is no participation.

I have decided that I will fulfill my obligations until the spring and the last event that I have committed to and then I'm going to change my membership and just not be involved in anything.

The Catholic church teaches so much about service and using talents, but in reality, it seems to be only for those with families, as if having a kid or at least a family gives you Catholic credibility. And so singles don't come to church because they don't feel welcome.

I'd rather be the paint on the walls than be involved anymore.

Why is it that even Catholics don't even want their single brothers and sisters to keep the Church alive? I do not get this at all. :(:shrug:


#2

I’m not sure where you go to church, but I’m truly sorry the ministry leaders have made you feel this way. I suppose it’s possible that they simply aren’t used to having young adults involved in ministry, and so don’t know how to respond to your efforts. It may also be that while they are involved in ‘ministry’, they aren’t really actively doing anything. In that case, it’s not a reflection on their attitude toward people who are young and single, but rather on their attitude toward ministry.

If you would like to remain involved, try attending Mass in all the churches in your area. Pick up a bulletin from each church and study it. Does it mention ministry activities? Or perhaps a singles’ ministry? The church I grew up in had several ministries for young adults and singles of varying ages. If the bulletin shows ministry activities or current events, you may find that the ministry heads there are simply more active.

If you would like to remain at your current parish, consider speaking to your priest, deacon, liturgist, or other authority figure, depending on the hierarchy at your parish. An inactive ministry is almost worse than no ministry, because it is a sort of broken promise. If the ‘Feed the Hungry’ ministry never goes to a homeless shelter or soup kitchen, then they are not feeding anyone and the ministry is a lost opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ.

You are in my prayers, and I hope you can find more satisfaction in your ministry.


#3

[quote="therese_lisieux, post:1, topic:225122"]
I've been in my church for 2 years. In that time, I've volunteered my time in many different committees and at many different events. Until recently, I've been happy to do so as I am single and have no kids or other commitments that would hinder my involvement in the same way that having a family would.

Unfortunately, I have come to realize that in my church, many of the committees are run by people with families and the participation is extremely low despite having had a huge push for time in ministry (our parish has about 70 "ministries") in the fall. In one of my committees I tried to set up a one-time meeting just to try and get some response and it upset the chairperson so much that we nearly had an argument over it although I told her I wouldn't have it if she didn't want me to. The problem is that I never get any response from anyone in trying to elicit help and it's very frustrating. There are enough people in the group that you'd think they could even respond and say thanks but no thanks.

What I don't get is if nothing is happening in the group and someone is trying to re-energize it by trying, and you, as the head of the group aren't doing anything to try, either, why get upset? I've also done so much leg work on an event for another committee only to have the chairperson drop the ball totally and never respond to me because she was too busy.

I feel very frustrated and sad over trying to help and I wasn't asking for the moon or anything outrageous. The church will die, the committees will die, if nothing is happening and there is no participation.

I have decided that I will fulfill my obligations until the spring and the last event that I have committed to and then I'm going to change my membership and just not be involved in anything.

The Catholic church teaches so much about service and using talents, but in reality, it seems to be only for those with families, as if having a kid or at least a family gives you Catholic credibility. And so singles don't come to church because they don't feel welcome.

I'd rather be the paint on the walls than be involved anymore.

Why is it that even Catholics don't even want their single brothers and sisters to keep the Church alive? I do not get this at all. :(:shrug:

[/quote]

The church will die?

Don't write it off quite so soon. Regimes change. Heads of committees change. You never know what waits around the corner.

If you want to walk away that's your choice, not anyone else's. And that's fine. But don't blame others for your decision. And do you really want to such sweeping statements about ALL Catholics?


#4

I'm a big believer in going through channels, so if I were on a committee where nothing was happening, I would contact the chair. If I wanted to get the group together I would ask the chair if there was a meeting coming up, suggest that we have one, and offer to contact the members, compile an agenda, invite a speaker, arrange for a room, provide refreshments, or do whatever else was needed.

Most likely the chair is feeling guilty over taking on a commitment and then not following through, so your going ahead on your own probably led to a certain amount of guilt and anger on the chair's part. The other possibility, though, is that something was already in the works and you messed it up by charging ahead without any consultation.

You might want to have a conversation with the pastor. I'm sure he's not happy that nothing is happening with the committee, but is stuck with whoever volunteered to be in charge. When he's looking for committee chairs for next year he would probably be happy to know that you would be willing to lead the group.


#5

Sounds like you’re a leader, not a follower… You’re gonna have to get one of those Chair positions…

I kind of doubt anyone has it in for you 'cause you’re single. Some people just easily get their toes stepped on. And you went in with some boots;)

I’m a lot like you. I don’t like sitting back and watching the whole show ruined 'cause the “leader” is messing it all up by not actually taking charge. Other than just taking the role. Some people just aren’t good leaders, and they just don’t know it!

A technique I used in college for group projects, (cause we all had crazy buzy schedules) was to meet VERY LITTLE, but give everyone an assignment that would get the project done in pcs. Our final meeting usually gelling all those pcs. together.

You might not be able to get that done now (??) But you could contact the chair, and just ask what you need to do, do it, and turn it in so to speak. Since you’re not the chair, you can’t control the whole bringing it together. Or you could volunteer to the chair that you could do THAT pc. since you feel you have more time.

The population at my last church was a lot older than me. I volunteered for the Parish council. I just sat in meetings for a long time. Which helps to understand the environment better. Then I was asked to run a dinner for one of our newly ordained Priests, covering first 40 then 60 then 80 guests… I’m pretty organized. And let it show. I don’t even go to that church anymore, and I get phone calls for ideas on what to do.

You just wait. When you get your turn to shine, you WILL. And then you won’t know what to do with all the offers to HELP… LOL!

Hang tight.


#6

I am not writing off ALL Catholics. I believe this is a human nature issue. A parish without the people participating could close, yes, if it’s not growing. At least, if there is no way to get newer generations to keep things going.
I was quick to acquiesce to the wishes of the chairperson although I’ve been getting conflicting messages from her - she wants me to take the lead in this role but at the same time no. I made clear my intention was never to go over her head.
I am not going to make a huge ordeal out of it to go to any priest. I will just accept things as they are and go about my business.
There are other ways I can share my faith and help others that don’t involve committees.


#7

"(our parish has about 70 "ministries")."

Wow, that's a lot.

Our Church has a bulletin announcement for a once weekly get together for young single Catholics at a low cost sit in restaurant.

Looking back, what would have helped me, as a young Catholic, would have been a group connection & friendship with other Catholics (non alcoholic, non drug related) - a phone contact log.

And then just go from there & see what Catholic interests they want to explore in adult faith formation.

I've been a member of Overeaters Anonymous, we would meet twice a week for an hour at the AA center. We brought our own drinks and we each had a book. The meetings follow a schedule to keep the meeting on track.

Some experience of how those meetings are conducted might be helpful for your meetings, if you decide to take it that way.

I'd think that mid week meetings would be more enjoyable (with more long lasting friendships established) than to host a formal meeting on Sunday.


#8

[quote="therese_lisieux, post:1, topic:225122"]
What I don't get is if nothing is happening in the group and someone is trying to re-energize it by trying, and you, as the head of the group aren't doing anything to try, either, why get upset?...I feel very frustrated and sad over trying to help and I wasn't asking for the moon or anything outrageous. The church will die, the committees will die, if nothing is happening and there is no participation....Catholics don't even want their single brothers and sisters to keep the Church alive? I do not get this at all. :(:shrug:

[/quote]

Hello and thank you for coming here and sharing your story!

I think your question can be answered very easily if you just step back and look at the big picture. Your question is on the minds of every one on this earth who is frustrated by the actions of another human being!

Why does she act like that? Why is he so rude? Why did she say that to me? or in your case...why don't the people in my parish care to be involved or that I am trying to help?

The answer is the same in all cases. Human beings are imperfect and have a fallen human nature. We are prone to sin, sin and sin some more. This does not justify the way that you were treated, but if you can understand why others behave in sinful ways the same way that you and I and everyone else does it can help soften the blow.

Something I try and do that helps a little. When I am blown away and frustrated by the actions or words of another person, I try and "offer up" a little prayer to Jesus. I will say something like "Jesus, this person is not treating me right and I am frustrated, angry and feel put aside. Please help me to love this person anyway and also please forgive me for the times in my life when I did not treat others right just like I was treated."

This does not solve the problem of what the next step to take in your parish is, whether or not to stay involved might require deep thinking and prayer. Find out where God is leading you this is important. I do hope, however that I have offered a small help when it comes to dealing with frustration you can offer it up as a powerful prayer it can change your life.

God bless


#9

My experience with stuff like this comes more from my children’s school.

People are forever lamenting that no one helps; but then when you try to get involved, they circle the wagons. To me, the reason is clear: they are control freaks. They like being “in charge.” They fear change. They are threatened by someone else’s good idea – what if everyone thinks the new girl has better ideas? Where will my compliments and adulations come from then?

Perhaps it’s jaded of me; but I find that many people don’t “volunteer” for nothing – they do it because they get something selfish out of it. A lot of the times (in my situation) I think it is to curry favor with the school administrators.

What can you do? Well, wait for a chairperson to resign, and get in charge of something, and use your great leadership skills. Or start something new.


#10

[quote="therese_lisieux, post:1, topic:225122"]
I
The Catholic church teaches so much about service and using talents, but in reality, it seems to be only for those with families, as if having a kid or at least a family gives you Catholic credibility. And so singles don't come to church because they don't feel welcome.

[/quote]

I could almost hear the frustration and resignation in your post ((hugs)). I won't say that I know how you feel, but I have a small inkling of a feeling of where you are coming from.

For some reason, we have this idea about churches being for families, and for families only in part of the fact that we wish to see churches play a role in family formation. That is a good thing, don't get me wrong-- but not everyone's life is going to head into that direction. There are lots of single people at church who want to be actively involved within the church life and community, but for some reason because you are single you're seen as a "floater" within the church instead of a fully functional and able member. When my husband was single before we were married he came across similar roadblocks with our church. He was very interested in participating in ministries that assisted the elderly, but would get dismissive responses, no responses at all, or some other answer. He thinks that they must have found it weird that a young single guy wanted to deliver meals for elderly people:shrug: Who knows. It got to the point where he just gave up because it honestly became too much work for him to convince the people running these ministries that he wanted to participate.

I do get what you are saying about how somehow having a child makes you more credible. My husband and I don't have any children, nor can we for a while because of my health issues. We're seen as one of those odd younger couples who've been married for a couple years that doesn't have children. At my previous church, joining the women's groups got to be so boring because all the other women would do is talk about their families (most of them were around my age too) whereas I just sat there because well, I don't have kids. I felt like an outsider even though I was sitting at the same table.

In short-- it can suck.


#11

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

-this version is credited to Mother Teresa


#12

[quote="therese_lisieux, post:1, topic:225122"]
I have decided that I will fulfill my obligations until the spring and the last event that I have committed to and then I'm going to change my membership and just not be involved in anything.

The Catholic church teaches so much about service and using talents, but in reality, it seems to be only for those with families, as if having a kid or at least a family gives you Catholic credibility. And so singles don't come to church because they don't feel welcome.

I'd rather be the paint on the walls than be involved anymore.

Why is it that even Catholics don't even want their single brothers and sisters to keep the Church alive? I do not get this at all. :(:shrug:

[/quote]

I totally hear you and you describe something that seems almost enedemic in Catholic parishes. If it is any comfort I hear the same complaints from non-Catholic congregational leadership.

In our parish it seems to be the opposite, there is very little for families or family oriented beyond CCD or the school. But it is symptomatic of a wider problem. Here at least part of it is a cultural expectation that seems to expect churches, schools and community groups exist to help you, and there is no commitment to give back, to participate in leadership, or even support financially. I hear it from scout leaders, coaches, booster organizations, and community service organizations as well as pastors and lay ministers.

The problem that seems to me uniquely Catholic (until I talk to leaders in other faiths) is the turf war, where entrenched leadership in a ministry or apostolate "owns" the committee or ministry. St. Vincent runs like that in every parish I have ever known for 40 years--you can donate money and goods but you cannot volunteer because the in crowd has a lock on it.

We discussed a similar complaint not long ago and I shared our rather subtle approach which is to do an end-run about an established committee that is not fulfilling its mission, by starting a new initiative and recruiting new people. That way you don't butt heads with current entrenched leadership, and have a feeder system for new parishioners, or those currently unrepresented in parish life.

For instance we have a chapter of a widely known evangelical organization, whose members refuse to evangelize and don't even welcome new members. So we latched onto the diocesan evangelization program and have one of the largest membership in the new, very active, very effective group. No hurt feelings, just lots of new people involved, who btw are also showing up for other activities.

Yes as far as personal discernment can be situations where you should step back, take a sabbatical before taking on new commitments. I would not however change parishes unless there is another good reason (poor liturgy, bad teaching etc).

The one common assumption I do want to challenge is this.

I'veI feel very frustrated and sad over trying to help and I wasn't asking for the moon or anything outrageous. The church will die, the committees will die, if nothing is happening and there is no participation.

no the parish will not die, the church will not die, although the committee may very well die if it has outlived its usefulness. No such activity should be eternal in any case. No matter how worthwhile the ministry or apostolate or activity, if the parish as a whole won't support it (and that includes especially pastoral support) then it is not right for the parish at this time. The Holy Spirit will raise up new efforts in His good time.

This also translates to individual lay leaders. No, the ministry, apostolate or committee will not die if I leave, or don't volunteer. The Holy Spirit will raise up new leaders and members in His good time. If he does not, then the effort is not right for the parish at this time. You cannot force leadership or membership, and you cannot force a certain apostolate or group.


#13

We have a group very much like this at my parish which is also very large. More than a few members of the group has stopped chipping in to leadership because they feel very disrespected by the leader. What made me think of it is that the leader consistently says that if she leaves the group the group will die. Here are some questions you might want to ask yourself from the other side of things:

  1. Am I keeping proper accountability of myself to the group members or have I forgotten they are my peers?

  2. When I give a task do I micromanage how that is done or do I give leeway on how that is accomplished? (Adults are not kids and they do not wish to be told how to work if they accomplish the task)

  3. Is my way always the right way?

  4. Do we have proper officer positions or am I running everything?

  5. Have I accepted that ministry will go on without any one person - it will change?

Just some observations.


#14

I hate to be a Debbie Downer but you are experiencing what happens in any organization that relies on volunteers. If you look around you will that 10% of the members of any organization does 90% of the work. Eventually people become burnt-out and stop doing so much work. New gung ho people will come in and try to get more folks involved such as you and notice that no one wants to do anything. That person finally gets tired and starts doing less work and then a newer person comes along and the process repeats. My point is, it’s what happens when volunteers are involved and it will always be that way in any organization. All you can do is do your best. And I’ll give you a hint, the folks who are new to the church will be your best place to get some help because they aren’t burnt out yet.


#15

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