Did you know that in 2011, 55 percent of all single people and 66 percent of families in the U.S. are pet owners? The numbers of pet owners are increasing. Meanwhile, 40 percent of Americans claim to attend worship services regularly.
For years researchers have studied the positive effects of pet ownership on older individuals—from improvements in physical health to an overall enhanced quality of life. Now, a study reveals that young adults (ages 18-26) who have pets are also more likely to serve in leadership positions in their communities and have deeper social interactions.
I wonder if attendance increases when pets are invited to worship, for example on pet blessing Sunday usually held on St. Francis of Assisi’s feast day in October. Has your women’s group thought about offering a pooch-friendly Bible study? Women of the ELCA offers great resources that are short and easily transportable because they are digital. Daily Grace features devotions delivered to your smartphone. You can take the digital copy of Gather with you or download a Café (boldcafe.org) article to your iPad.
In many church communities, activities and events are geared toward families with children. You might consider tailoring an invitation to pooch parents that could help bring women together, older and younger, so they could participate in a group that shares similar interests in animals.
I haven’t actually tried a “Bow Wow Bible Study” gathering—so I don’t know if it would be possible. And a lot of dogs can be pretty overwhelming. You might consider an abbreviated program with extra volunteers on hand—but at least women can connect with one another and experience a faith community in a creative way.
To grow participation in the church and in women’s groups, we must extend our invitations to new comers in different ways. But maybe we should also think about including Fido. (Cats should be included, too, but might prefer to be left at home for independent study and reflection.)
What do you think? Are you willing to try it? If you do, take pictures please and send them to us.
Elizabeth McBride is the Director for Intergenerational Programs and has one pooch she would like to bring to Bible Study and one feline who would enjoy alone time while the dog is at Bible study.