Catholics Come Home: The Role of Denominations

September 23, 2009 by

2009_09_10_CatholicsComeHome.jpgIt looks like the Catholic church is ramping up their “Catholics Come Home” campaign. The LA Times reported that the diocese of Sacramento is “preparing to air several thousand prime-time TV commercials in English and Spanish, inviting inactive Catholics to return to their religious roots.”

With less than 15% of Catholics attending church on a weekly basis in Sacramento alone, they’re hoping this campaign will change the tide.

In addition to Sacramento, dioceses in Chicago, Omaha, Providence, R.I., and four other cities will launch the “Catholics Come Home” advertising blitz during Advent, the period before Christmas.

Some of the video ads are pretty moving, including the one titled “Epic.”

We’ve covered some of these “We Are [insert denomination name here]” campaigns in the past, and this one from the Catholics is no exception. As Kevin said, “Maybe it’s the denominational hopscotch I’ve played throughout my life, but a denomination doesn’t define my identity. I’m a Christian, first and foremost.” I agree that we are definitely moving beyond the times when our religious affiliation defined our status in the community.

In my opinion, the opportunity for denominations lies not in their ability to rally around a set of beliefs, but instead in their ability to rally people based on the DNA of the gathered tribe. In other words, beyond doctrinal beliefs, what makes XYZ Denomination tick?

For the Catholic Church, they’re making pretty strong claims on how they’ve influenced the world over the centuries, but their message ends with the obvious ask of “come to this building on the weekend.” Excuse me Catholic Church, but all of the claims you just made came not from weekend worshippers but weekday workers. Yes, church services do have their place for instilling Scripture, learning and listening to the Spirit of God, and for the community of Christ-followers. I’m not suggesting we do away with them.

I am suggesting that we understand what really defines us. The DNA of a denomination or tribe of people is beyond beliefs, it also includes behaviors. These behaviors are the reason why people continue to assemble (or not assemble).

It’s a new day for denominations and it’s going to take more than ad campaigns and catchy slogans for them to survive and thrive. It’s going to take some serious soul searching for why and how they should exist.

Post By:

Brad Abare

Brad Abare is the founder of the Center for Church Communication. He consults with companies and organizations, helping them figure out why in the world they exist, why anyone should care and what to do about it.
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22 Responses to “Catholics Come Home: The Role of Denominations”

  • Jon Allen
    September 23, 2009

    I agree with you. In my short experience I have found that people aren’t drawn to an organization, they are drawn to people they identify with. If we can convince people of the value of what we are doing, they will want to join us.
    Isn’t the really sad reality here that the catholic church in these areas are having to spend big bucks on an advertising campaign to convince people who have lost interest to come back?

  • Thom
    September 23, 2009

    Dear Brad, for Catholics, the Sacraments are essential for performing the “weekday work.” Both are important, and they go hand in hand.

  • the one at church
    September 23, 2009

    It is my experience that Catholics have more of an identity in their denomination (I always want to type that as “demonination”) than many of the individual Protestant denominations. Maybe Southern Baptist is comparable. This is in part because of centuries worth of tradition and trappings that Protestants largely eliminated or stripped down.

  • ryan guard
    September 23, 2009

    Amen amigo.
    Denominations don’t mean jack squat to this generation.
    Not to me, anyways. I’ve been a pastor for 9 years and I couldn’t really even tell you what denomination I am. It’s a stupid conversation for pastors who spend more time in Starbucks than they do in people’s lives.
    I’m sorry I said that about Starbucks.

  • Mike Hosey
    September 24, 2009

    Just need to correct a common misconception — Southern Baptist is not technically a denomination. It is an association of likeminded church’s. Each individual church sets its own rules and standards. Now, in recent years, there have been those who have tried to require members of the association to adhere strictly to a set of beliefs, but this has not happened yet.
    With all that being said, I would caution against the idea of losing doctrinal integrity. Once you’ve done that you run the risk of losing believing in things that are essential to being saved and a Christian. Now, that doesn’t have to be included in a marketing campaign of course. Just about any denomination can say in their ad: “we believe that Jesus died for the sins of the world.” “we believe that Jesus has a plan for your life.” etc… Now please join us at 1st bapticostal church of the lutheran saints on Sunday at 11am.
    That way you hit the essential stuff common to most Christians without compromising your denominations doctrinal integrity in the ad.

  • Marvin
    September 24, 2009

    While beliefs may be the foundation for a church, I believe that marketing makes up the rest.

  • Thom
    September 24, 2009

    The more I go over the article, the more misstatements and generalizations I find.
    I’ve read this blog for a while now, and this is incredibly disappointing. It’s not the well-written, well-researched, well-reasoned material that usually fills these pages.

  • Brice Bohrer
    October 1, 2009

    When did Catholic become a denomination?

  • misty
    November 21, 2009

    wow! I was feeling really down and looking for a uplifting message when I stumbled onto this via search engine. all I’ve seen is everyone whining about everyone else. thanks, but no thanks.

  • misty
    November 21, 2009

    wow! I was feeling really down and looking for a uplifting message when I stumbled onto this via search engine. all I’ve seen is everyone whining about everyone else. thanks, but no thanks.

  • Carson Weber
    December 18, 2009

    This post got one point entirely wrong: The Catholic Church isn’t a denomination. It’s the Church founded by Jesus Christ himself, and we don’t simply gather to worship on weekends.. We worship and consume the flesh and flood of the God-Man really and truly and substantially present in the Most Holy Eucharist. That’s simply profound, amazing, and exactly what the early Church believed. Confused? Read this scholarly work:

  • Mrs P
    January 28, 2010

    their campaign makes me laugh, actually. What are they doing to address the Priests who molest boys? WHY would I want to go back to a Church who blatently ignores this atrocity. I have denounced my Catholic roots.

    • jim
      November 12, 2012

      Mrs P: The sexual abuse scandal was exactly that: a scandal. So many people were hurt: the victims of the abuse, their families, the parishes where the abusive priests served. even priests who continue to serve today and had nothing to do with the scandal live under a cloud because of the sins of the abusers. The Church has historically embraced a “family” model (We call our priests “Father,” the nuns “Sister,” etc.). Abuse is nothing new. As a matter of fact, it is rampant in families if the statistics are to be believed with victims being more likely to be abused by a family member than a stranger. Families “protect” themselves and don’t air dirty laundry for the world to see. That’s what is so diabolical about the sin of sexual abuse. There’s this web of shame that covers the “family,” including the victim. Simply put, it’s wrong. It’s wrong that this comparably small percentage of abusive priests weren’r dealt with when it happen for the sake of protecting the family and preserving the faithful from scandal.

      However, in the last 10 years or so, things have changed. Some would say the measures are extreme, not found in any other organization. Every priest and employee must be fingerprinted and has to undergo a thorough criminal background check. All volunteers who have any contact with children or vulnerable adults have to have a background check. All have to undergo some training in child protection to have some knowledge of appropriate boundaries as well as be able to recognize signs of abuse. Those whose history reveal something criminal, or even questionable, are not allowed to volunteer. So, things have changed and I believe that Catholic churches and schools are among the safest places for children today as a result. Now, no system is perfect, but the Church is doing everything humanly possible to avoid any sort of repeat of this terrible history.

      I encourage you to give your faith another look.

  • Newman
    March 13, 2010

    “This post got one point entirely wrong: The Catholic Church isn’t a denomination. It’s the Church founded by Jesus Christ himself, and we don’t simply gather to worship on weekends” you have got to be kidding. The holy Roman Church did not exist in the times of Jesus and most early Christian (followers of Christ) were Jews. As for the claims of the Holy Roman Empire that they began scientific thought??? Socrates, Plato, do these names ring a bell! The Holy Roman Empire struck down many great people of learning, Galileo …and so many more. The Catholic Church came to be through the works of Constantine a pagan violent power hungry man. His vision of the cross on the warrior’s shields was a tactical maneuver to join the pagans and early Christians into one army. If the church is interested in the truth open the vaults of the Vatican and sell or donate your hidden treasures for the good of all humankind.

    • jim
      November 12, 2012

      I fail to get the connection between truth and selling”hidden treasures.” It’s a tired argument that the Church must liquidate its assets and give to the poor, particularly when the Catholic Church is the leader in church-related charitable works throughout the world.

      Of course the Church didn’t exist at the time of Jesus! He founded the Church, gave the “keys” to Peter (the first bishop of Rome) and entrusted the faith to the first apostles who handed it on through the ages. The term “Catholic” was first used in the 2nd century by St. Ignatius of Antioch to describe the universality of the faith – that is, beyond one particular culture or ethnic group. True, the first Christians were Jews (by and large) until St. Paul began his missionary journeys and founded Christian communities comprised of Gentiles.

      Invest in a history book, Newman, and you will find the Catholic faith traced directly to Jesus unlike the “denominations” associated with the Protestant Reformation (rebellion) that ushered in a Christianity rooted in what one personally believes or does not belief. Truth is truth, not part of a buffet from which one may pick and choose. True, there is a “hierarchy of truths” in that some of more core and central to Christian faith (the Trinity, the Resurrection, etc.) and all Christians share in a common faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, in Catholicism I find the “fullness of the faith” rooted in Scripture AND Tradition. (Actually Tradition came first as the Church gave us the scriptures, not the other way around.) This coming from a former Southern Baptist.

    • jim
      November 12, 2012

      As a former Southern Baptist, now Roman Catholic, I encourage you to check your history. Of course, the Roman Catholic Church didn’t exist during the time of Jesus! Jesus founded the Church, giving the “keys” to Peter, and handing on the faith to his apostles who went about evangelizing the ancient world. While it can be said that the earliest Christians were Jews, it wasn’t long before Gentiles were converted, largely due to the efforts of St. Paul and others who formed Christian communities throughout the ancient world.

      Rome became central as Peter was the first bishop of Rome (and where he was martyred). Certainly, Rome as the center of the empire came into play as time went on. The Catholic Church contains the “fullness of faith.” Protestant denominations can only be traced to the 16th century, and some started very recently, the result of split after split after split. Jesus prayed for unity in his body, the Church. How sad that there are today tens of thousands of denominations.

      Elsewhere in this post it’s pointed out that Ignatius of Antioch (a successor of Peter who was the first bishop of Antioch, before moving on to Rome) spoke of the Catholic Church in the early 2nd century, less than 75 years since the Resurrection of Jesus! “Catholic” gave a connotation that the Church was not restricted to one ethnic group or geographic area, but invites all people of all backgrounds into a loving relationship with Christ and to become members of his body, the Church, through baptism.

      As a Southern Baptist, I met Christ and learned of him through the scriptures. As a Catholic, I feel that picture is complete as I continue to experience his presence in the scriptures but also experience a life of grace through the sacraments we celebrate, particularly the Eucharist where I receive him in all his resurrected glory – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity – an “altar call” so to speak as I accept him into my heart and into my life every time I approach the altar. May Christians all be one again someday, just as Jesus prayed.

  • katherine
    March 20, 2010

    i am ashamed of the catholic child sex abuse..i was raised a catholic/the church can stick it….frustate!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Gail Herzog
    March 22, 2010

    Once again, the Catholic Church is using GUILT as a tool. The Catholic Church opposes Birth Control, yet refuses to help suppot those Families who have lots of children. Once again, the Catholic Church is only concerned about the Church, as it was in the early days of Catholicism. AND POWER AND MONEY!!!! No wonder so many people have left the catholic church.

  • brad
    December 20, 2010

    everyone is missing the point. JESUS!!!

  • Brian
    March 17, 2011

    To the poster who said the Catholic Church was started after Constantine. Check your facts. Early Christian extra-biblical writings speak of the Eucharist as early as 60-90 A.D. St. Ignatius of Antioch in 109 A.D. says that wherever the bishop is present, “there is the Catholic Church.”

  • Phil
    January 3, 2012

    “Imagine. . . .” John Lennon

  • candice
    January 12, 2012

    Wow. I am not Catholic, but I do work as a Marketing Director for a Catholic church. I usually come to this website because I have found your articles to be an overall great resource for learning “goods & bads” of religious marketing overall. However, this post was the worst piece I have read in all of my research. It completely opinionated and did nothing for research whatsoever. Thanks for nothing.

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