ARTICLE – Addressing Low Attendance in Churches

A recent survey by Gallup found that only 23% of US Catholic adults attend Mass weekly, with a solid half of them seldom or never visiting a church at all. This figure rises to 33% when adding those who attend “almost every week,” but it is still the lowest attendance of any major faith in the US. The survey, which accumulated data from over 32,000 participants, found that nearly every religious group has seen a decline in weekly attendance over the last two decades. Catholics were shown to have the greatest change in weekly attendance, with a fall from 45% in the 2000s to just 33% in the 2020s, a diminishment of 12%. (

Addressing low attendance in churches requires an approach that considers the diverse needs and preferences of parishioners. Here are some practical solutions that parishes can consider to respond to low attendance:

  1. Improve outreach and engagement: Parish leaders should focus on building relationships with parishioners and reaching out to those who have stopped attending Mass. This can be done through personal invitations, phone calls, emails, and social media. Parishes can also engage with the community by hosting events, volunteering, and collaborating with local organizations.
  2. Offer diverse worship experiences: Parishioners have different preferences when it comes to worship styles, music, and liturgy. Parishes can attract a broader range of attendees by offering a variety of Mass times, worship styles, and musical genres while maintaining the sacredness of the liturgy.
  3. Foster a sense of community: Many people attend Mass not only for spiritual nourishment but also for social connection. Parishes can foster a sense of community by offering opportunities for fellowship, such as coffee hours, potlucks, and small group gatherings. They can also encourage parishioners to get involved in ministries and service projects.
  4. Provide faith formation opportunities: Parishioners are more likely to attend Mass if they feel that they are growing in their faith. Parishes can offer faith formation programs for adults, youth, and children, such as Bible studies, catechesis, and retreats. They can also provide resources for personal prayer and spiritual growth.
  5. Address barriers to attendance: Some people may not attend Mass due to logistical barriers such as lack of transportation, health issues, or work schedules. Parishes can address these barriers by offering transportation services, live streaming Mass for those who cannot attend in person, and accommodating work schedules by offering Mass times on weekdays or evenings.
  6. Emphasize the importance of the Eucharist: The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life, and attending Mass is the primary way that Catholics encounter Christ. Parish leaders can emphasize the importance of the Eucharist through homilies, catechesis, and devotional practices such as Eucharistic adoration.
  7. Pray for the sick: Illness can be a challenging and isolating experience for individuals and their families. Parishes can show support and care for the sick by praying for them during Mass, organizing prayer chains, and visiting them at home or in the hospital. This not only provides spiritual comfort but also fosters a sense of community and solidarity among parishioners. 

In summary, parishes can respond to low attendance by improving outreach and engagement, offering diverse worship experiences, fostering a sense of community, providing faith formation opportunities, addressing barriers to attendance, emphasizing the importance of the Eucharist and praying for the sick. By implementing these strategies, parishes can create a welcoming and loving faith community that attracts and retains parishioners.

Pierre-Alain Giffard, Director of Pastoral Work

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