What is giving our churches and synagogues in America some real competition on the weekends? Childrens sports, according to this article from The Long Island Press.
Below are some excerpts, though I recommend you read the entire article.
A study concerning church attendance released by Southern California research company The Barna Group shows that across denominational lines, the percentage of families attending worship once each week has declined from 49 percent in 1991 to 43 percent in 2004, the most recent year for which figures are available.
"Our situation reflects the general trend [regarding the attendance decline]," says Ruth Dunn Widmann, pastor at the Bayport United Methodist Church in Bayport. "There are many reasons, and organized sports is a large one." Widmann makes it clear that she has nothing against sports, saying that they help to promote social connections and a healthy sense of competition. But she is eager to find a balance between the two.
But maybe LI parents are just as happy as their kids are to have a reason to skip services.
"Quite frankly, I'm a parent and I should put my foot down," says Cavallo. "But if there is a call between church and the game, the game comes first." The 44-year-old accountant is not alone in that school of thought. Many of the parents the Press spoke with at weekend games said that between homework, school clubs and sports, there's really no time for church.
"It seems that Mass is frequently losing out to sporting events," says Sean Dolan, spokesperson for the Diocese of Rockville Centre. "People have a priority and it is sports first, Mass second."
"[The Diocese] is not out of touch, we're not suggesting people stay home all day on Sunday, but there has to be a balance, and the Eucharist has to be a central part of Sunday," says Dolan, who adds that after Mass, families should bond, not just run off to a game or a practice.
Everyone from the pastor to the rabbi to the Diocese spokesman seems to agree that Saturday and Sunday mornings should be spent forging relationships with family, in worship. But many parents feel that soccer and football can be just as uplifting as religious services.
"People might look down on me for spending my Sundays on the field, but at least I'm spending time with my kids. You don't need to show up at church or temple to be a good person. It's how you live your life that matters," says Centereach mom Carol Sanchez.
Carol Sanchez is exactly right. You can sense the desperation in the religious figures quoted in the article. "The Eucharist has to be a central part of Sunday." "Saturday and Sunday mornings should be spent forging relationships with family, in worship." (Emphasis mine.) Because these people have deluded themselves into thinking that they have dedicated their lives to serving their sky daddy, they quite naturally need you to need them. Otherwise, their lives are quite wasted, aren't they? They are afraid of ending up like a troupe of actors getting all dressed up to perform a play on stage without an audience.