Guidance for Altar Serving

Recently on The Patrick Madrid Show, an anonymous listener wrote in to the show to ask about any guidance that Patrick can offer as far as preparing someone to altar serve on their own.

Dear Patrick,

Our young son, 11 years old, volunteered at our parish to be an altar server a few months ago. He loves to serve. However, he was never given proper instruction from an adult or from the priest. He shadowed the older server a few times.

Then asked if he could serve alone because they are in desperate need of servers at that time, our son does not feel confident or comfortable doing a Mass alone yet. However, he’s expected to do that. I spoke to our priest about it and he said, “Okay, but I think a language barrier may be an issue.”

As his parents, we are proud of our son, but we are afraid he may want to stop serving altogether because he’s expected to serve alone at such a young age. Can you please give us some guidance?

Patrick said he began altar serving himself when he was about six or seven years old, younger than the normal age allowed, so he has experience. On the upside, the parents seem to have identified the problem in this situation. It is not that he is eleven (which is not an abnormally young age to start serving), but rather that he doesn’t know what he’s doing yet.

Many parishes (though not all) have some sort of training program for altar servers, usually led by one of the priests. As it seems the priests may be too busy to lead it in this case, there are other options as the training isn’t terribly complicated. Patrick recommended that this server’s parents reach out to the Knights of Columbus and see if they might be interested in sponsoring or organizing a training session for all the altar servers on the weekend. All that would be necessary is the pastor’s permission.

At Patrick’s parish, altar servers are not allowed to serve until they’ve gone through this training, but once they’ve gone through it, they feel confident in what their responsibilities are and how to get everything done.

“That would be my advice. I think you can be creative and get this done. Then your son’s going to really appreciate being able to serve with confidence and know what he’s doing. And also the priest is going to appreciate that he’s there helping him out.”

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John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at and on the Relevant Radio® app.