Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Advantages / Disadvantages to Mega-Parishes

The reality in the Catholic Church is that we are moving toward larger and larger parishes in many parts of the country. Some dioceses are struggling to get vocations and are consolidating parishes. Some dioceses are growing so rapidly, they can't keep up with the growth. Some have both problems. A recent report says that parish growth is escalating rapidly.

Because the Catholic Church is not part of the definition of a "mega-church", we have our own phrase - "mega-parishes", and there are at least 3,000 of them. As a recent Our Sunday Visitor article pointed out, there are some big disadvantages to having bigger parishes, but there are also advantages. Here are some highlights of both, some from the study and some from experience:

Advantage Of Bigger Parishes - More groups, organizations, and ministries can be offered. This gives a wider array of things for people to get involved in.

Advantage Of Smaller Parishes - A larger percentage of people are active.


Advantage Of Bigger Parishes - More priests and deacons mean a wider selection of preaching styles, confessors, spiritual directors, etc.

Advantage Of Smaller Parishes - More parishioners know the priest(s) well.


Advantage Of Bigger Parishes - One study shows that larger parishes are more cost efficient than smaller ones and better off financially.

Advantage Of Smaller Parishes - More people give to the parish.


Advantage Of Bigger Parishes - The music is generally better and offers an array of styles.

Advantage Of Smaller Parishes - More people sing.


Advantage Of Bigger Parishes - More Masses make it more convenient to go at a time you like and different languages might be offered.

Advantage Of Smaller Parishes - You know the people you sit next to.


Advantage Of Bigger Parishes - Excitement in the congregation, because an energy comes from the large crowds.

Advantage Of Smaller Parishes - Don't get lost in the crowd or forgotten as easily.


Advantage Of Bigger Parishes - Some smaller parishes must share a pastor with other parishes.

Advantage Of Smaller Parishes - Some larger parishes can become cults of personality with the pastor as merely a CEO of a parish.


Advantage Of Bigger Parishes - In general, the youth ministry and young adult ministries are more dynamic.

Advantage Of Smaller Parishes - Kids are known personally by leaders.


Advantage Of Bigger Parishes - Facilities are better.

Advantage Of Smaller Parishes - Don't get lost in the maze of buildings.


Advantage Of Bigger Parishes - Bigger.

Advantage Of Smaller Parishes - Smaller.

***So, what did I miss?


The Okvist Family said...

My biggest fear would be distribution of Our Lord in the Eucharist would be zipped through as fast as possible taking out all the reverence and awe receiving the Lord naturally entails.

Blair said...

Sacramental preparation at smaller parishes can be more individualized without as many "hoops."

We'll be attending a very small parish when we move. It was founded 10 yrs ago to offer that small community that the mega-parishes can't. They have meals together after mass and they all know each other. There are many homeschooling families and the city's Catholic homeschool group is based there. I'm looking forward to being a part of that community!

A Catholic Reader said...

I would have to disagree that music in huge parishes is generally better. Certainly there may be more money poured into the music program, but that does NOT make it better. Paid musicians are not the same as dedicated worshipers, and liturgical music is ultimately an offering of worship not a professional performance.

To my mind, the many disadvantages of mega-parishes far outweigh the putative advantages. "More," in a religious context, seldom actually means "better." These things can't be commodified.

Will Duquette said...

I used to be an Episcopalian. Even the fairly moderately-sized Catholic parish I belong to now is a mega-parish compared to the Episcopalian parish I used to belong to. There's small and then there's small.

stceolfrithtx said...

I think this gave me an insight into why I like two of the Byzantine parishes in Texas I've visited. They are invariably small parishes in our corner of the country, at least.

They don't embarrass visitors at the beginning of the liturgy, but especially if you arrive early someone will notice you're a visitor and will offer to explain things that Byzantines do differently and how to flip through books.

It would be nice if all of our parishes had the ability or inclination to more discreetly welcome visitors and give non-Catholics tips on what to expect in the liturgy and let them know important things, like "we ask that non-Catholics refrain from presenting themselves for Communion. The reason is ___".

Back to these Byzantine parishes, they always have a reception afterwards and they're very good hosts. They would love to have another parishioner. I actually tried talking to a new parishioner after Mass once. She had moved from another state, and I faced a "why are you talking to me?" sort of situation. :-p

Cassi@FromaCatholicDaughter said...

I'm from a very small parish but I definitely see the advantages and disadvantages of both. We just need a combination of both!