What could be done to most improve Sunday Mass attendance?



Location, Location, Location. Our area has 4% Roman Catholic at best, and it’s an aging population. We do our best…more Catholics would really help!


Not scoffing but it would be a bad idea. Non Catholics and some Catholics would not be properly disposed to receiving our Lord. Open communion would not foster belief in the Real Presence.


I can tell you what motivates me to attend at particular parishes: masses at 5 pm and later on a Sunday. Not Saturday, as I don’t really want to attend a Saturday afternoon vigil Mass unless I am specifically trying to attend one Mass on Saturday (for example, a First Saturday Mass) and another on Sunday. I usually like to attend my Sunday Mass on a Sunday, and often find it a pain that almost all churches in the area have their last Mass at 11 or 11:30 am.

In one of my areas, there are two churches that have 5:15 Masses on Sunday (Used to be only one until another pastor started scheduling a “youth Mass” late on Sunday) and near my work in a diffreent state, there is one church with a Sunday 5:15 pm, another about 10 miles away with a 7 pm and a Newman Center that has a 9 pm during the school year (alas, not during the summer). I end up at one of these very often. Meanwhile, there are about 20 other churches in each area having Sunday Mass between 8 and 11 am - even a 12 noon is rare. I understand that the priests would like to finish their Mass commitments early in the day and probably go do something else, but since we no longer have to fast from the night before, I appreciate having an option that does not make me have to get up, dressed and out early on one of my only days off work.


I think we should teach that it is a sin not to attend Mass. At my parish we are to teach that we should want to come to Mass but no mention of the obligation. I honestly do not believe that people know that it is a sin not to attend. I think we should tell them, but I am not in charge so I keep quiet.

I know some (maybe all) will say we should want to go to Mass and I agree but sometime I do attend out of obligation. While I might not have wanted to go in the beginning, I can count on one hand the number of times I have regretted going.


Sounds like GREAT opportunity.


Absolutely. It would have to be done in a tactful, catechetical manner, but I think a lot of lapsed Catholics no longer believe that attendance on Sundays is MANDATORY.


No one has mentioned what is likely the best thing to do: pray for those people not there. The Holy Spirit is the only one who can truly convict a heart… not discounting any other suggestions, but if you’re not including this first and foremost, your efforts are going to be in vain.


Thanks for the explanation.

To take one example… 1 hour of fellowship after Mass. Most Churches I am familiar with have that already going. I take it yours doesn’t. Have you guys tried it. We have both fellowship, coffee and donuts, and once a month pancake breakfast. Occasionally the Hispanic contingent offer Mexican alternatives. Those wanting to participate do so. Those not wanting to dont. There has been zero correlation between any of the specials and an increase in Mass attendance. But they may work in your environment.



Awesome insight! About 5 years ago I sat on an ad-hoc committee on how to increase Mass attendance. Because I live in a college town I focused on college students. My parish’s last Sunday Mass is 5:30, the Newman Center’s is 6:00 PM – and despite it being filled, they are loathe to add another.

Yet doing some simple research on-line I found that MANY Masses across the country are offered and 9:00 and even 10:00PM. The on-campus Sunday Mass at Stanford is at 10:00 and it gets a good crowd.

My recommendation was to offer a 9 or 10:00 PM Mass on Sundays. I would have done some polling to determine which time was optimal.

My idea was not adopted. It would have (and could still) kill on Sunday nights.


Non-starter. Only you have mentioned “open communion.”


That’s axiomatic…


Honestly, I don’t think improving Mass attendance is about finding better music or recruiting better readers or serving better coffee. I think improving Mass attendance is achieved by spreading the message that faith is an important and valuable part of one’s life. That it adds depth and quality and meaning to your every day experience. That the relationship you build with God through Mass attendance is one from which you will benefit. Otherwise, you are building your attendance on a foundation of sand. It isn’t being inspired by a love of God and a meaningful desire to connect with Him but by the desire for an external, temporal experience hosted by people. And people are fallible.

One of the very real ways I think we can all help to improve Mass attendance is to stop complaining about Mass. The number of complaints I hear about how Mass is conducted - either from people here or in my own diocesan community - is frankly depressing, and if I wasn’t a Catholic, why would I want to attend based on that kind of feedback? Maybe you don’t like the music, or the accent the reader had, or the fact that there are children talking, or that the altar server is wearing bright orange sneakers. But you are still at the table of the Lord. You are still getting to witness and share in the remarkable drama of His sacrifice. Forget everything else and just concentrate on how remarkable that sacrifice was and how privileged you are to be able to share in it week after week.


If it’s not explicitly part of the plan, it’s forgotten and not done. Just my thoughts.


I think people would be motivated to attend Mass if they thought it was more important than what they were already doing like sleeping late, shopping, watching or participating in sports, spending time with family, doing errands and chores, etc. For those who attend Mass, thins like shopping naturally fall into a lower position. For those who don’t attend Mass, they basically don’t see anything to lead them to give up their time. I think long before you can work on getting more people to Mass, you have to help them develop a relationship with God such that they care. Mass attendance is a result of evangelization and that’s something our society as a whole is losing.

I think a lot of evangelizing happens one on one. Invite someone to Mass or some event at church that might be of interest. Be open to discussing your own faith journey, including the difficulties. Let people see how your faith is important and active in your life. That’s the spill in which the seeds get planted.


I think this is very beautifully said.


Getting ex-Catholics to come back would triple mass attendance. Every parish needs some kind of outreach to these people. Flyers on door knobs, door-to-door evangelizing, processions through the neighborhood, booths at local fairs and festivals, etc. All of us need to do more to get the word out to former Catholics to come back. Invite someone to church. Pass out rosaries. Something.


Eh. We don’t want to come off like Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons .

The way to get people back is by how we act. Showing love and mercy. I feel like compared to five years ago mass attendance has went up. Maybe the Pope? Not sure .


I definitely KNOW that improved music, readers and fellowship would help Mass attendance.

That too is axiomatic. It’s also false to imply that it must come at the expense of better music/better readers/fellowship. It cannot be used as an excuse not to do anything else.

Not me. I think that suggestions like this greatly inhibit many parishes from improving. Without constructive feedback, without a corrective action loop, mistakes and problems continue and that’s not good.

It makes no difference what I like. This is not about preferences. This is about doing things objectively better in the drive to improve Sunday Mass attendance.

The ultimate excuse! Yes, I am at Calvary. I want more souls to be there with me! I don’t want to use this very fact as an impediment not to bring more people to His CHurch.


It’s not about having a Tridentine Mass. Priests that commit liturgical abuses in the OF will do it in the Extraordinary Form.

If there is a problem with liturgical abuses those should be addressed, but changing the form doesn’t fix that.

My parish is standing room only at the morning masses and pretty full at the evening ones. I drive across town to get there, going past the one closest to me. Why?

  1. I can understand the priest. The new priest at the closer parish has such a thick accent I struggle to understand his homily, and I know for sure my kids don’t understand him. If it was just me, I’d deal with it but I have young kids that I want to be engaged and they can’t do that if they don’t understand what the priest is saying. (he is from Nigeria I believe)
  2. The children’s faith formation program at the further parish is SO MUCH better. More organized. More developmentally appropriate. Catechists that love being there and don’t seem frazzled. Clear communication to parents as to what is expected.
  3. Beauty. The closer parish was built in the 70’s or 80’s and is just ugly. I mean, I’m sure someone finds it attractive, but I don’t. The further parish showcases the glory of God and I feel like even if my kids find their eyes wandering they are still feeling the presence of the Lord as they marvel at the beauty of the church, stained glass, etc.
  4. They project on a wall most of the prayers, creed, lyrics to hymns, etc. This probably would be something a lot of you would hate, as too modern, but it is super helpful for my kids and especially for my husband, who is not Catholic and not a regular attender. He doesn’t feel lost because he can follow along.

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