Saturday, January 9, 2010

Boy altar server involvement in Mass increases 500% by making rules more demanding

By returning to more demanding altar server practices, two men were able to increase participation at their parish from 10 to 60.

"Altar serving at Holy Family allows boys to be more fully integrated into the Mass and gives them a chance to experience Christ's sacrifice up close. Holy Family provides an environment that makes them feel welcome and necessary and is an excellent experience". Carson Lind, 19 year old, 7 year veteran

The need it meets

Bob and Mark, members of Holy Family Catholic Church in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, wanted to see more boys actively involved in the Mass. They felt that being an altar server could help boys participate more fully and possibly discern a priestly vocation. Bob and Mark approached their pastor, Father Dufner, and shared with him their vision.

Where it came from

Both men had served in all-boy altar server groups as boys and remembered the experience with fondness. They wanted to share this experience with the boys in their parish.

How it works

First, the men proposed making the program only for boys. They believed this would increase the boys' desire to participate in the program. Father Dufner agreed. Next, the men worked on creating a more reverent atmosphere by using cassocks and surpluses and by buying uniform footwear [GR]. Finally, the men trained the boys in the traditional roles of altar servers, but instituting cool nicknames and a system of ranks, which made them more accessible and attractive to the young boys. With these stricter guidelines, the program has seen great growth.

The results

In the last seven years, it has grown from 10 participants to 60. There is a wide range of ages involved, giving older boys the chance to mentor younger ones.

Key elements

The men believe that several key elements have helped the program grow. The boys at the parish have responded well to the all-boy atmosphere, especially the extra time it has allowed them to spend with Father Dufner, both during training and outside of Mass at numerous program activities such as bowling and fishing. The boys have also been motivated by the hierarchy of ranks, along with the program's high standards of order and discipline.

How to implement it

A good way to implement this program is to find male adult leaders who have a desire to see greater participation by boys in the Mass and encourage them to begin an altar boy program. Help these leaders to create a fun, competitive environment by instituting a system of ranks with nicknames, enforcing a strict dress code, and organizing complementary sports activities just for the altar servers. This will help motivate the boys to serve God and their church.


Terry Nelson said...

I'm sending this to my pastor - you can't believe the lack of decorum on the altar at my parish - no matter if they are male or female servers.

Unknown said...

I talked to the Deacon at St. Stephen's today about this article. It turns out that he had been at Holy Family for ten years or so.

I initiated the conversation by complimenting him about the good job he had been doing with altar boys.

They were ringing the bell, carrying the empty chalice to and from the credence table, all the good stuff. A little rough around the edges, but they were "doing stuff."

There is nothing worse than to see N.O. servers process in and essentially sit down for an hour and then process out. Who would want to do that.

I reminisced about my times back in the dark ages and he seems to be doing the right things

We need more altar boys if we expect to have more priests.