We heard from a lot of people who were excited about our organization and wanted to know more about what we were doing, so we decided, since we're all on the same team anyway, let's just tell everyone exactly how we go about transforming a parish culture. For parts one through five of our series, click here, here, here, here, and here!
Finally, we arrive at the end of our series! It is funny, looking back at these posts and at the work we have done in parishes already, I'm amazed by how much of moving a parish from maintenance to mission remains not captured even by a six-part series. Parishes are so complex, the variables so many, the realities of all of us fallen human persons working to build the Kingdom of God so fraught with difficulty. It is hard to capture it all in a few posts. That is the nature of all things on the Internet though, no?
Without further ado, here is our fifth and final key outcome or deliverable for our Parish Partnerships.
5) CONSULT WITH VARIOUS MINISTRIES AT THE PARISH TO HELP THEM STRATEGIZE AROUND BECOMING MORE INTENTIONALLY DISCIPLE-MAKING
There are certain areas of parish life that should be aligned in a particular way with a vision for evangelization and discipleship, so, as part of our Parish Partnership, we give special, personal attention to those areas of ministry. What we are hoping is that, with the parish, they can set a clear vision for what they are attempting to accomplish and then ensuring that they themselves understand how the Win people for Christ, Build them into disciples, and Send them on mission.
Though where we are asked to consult remains at the discernment of our parish partner, some of the major areas of emphasis we like to tackle are faith formation, RCIA, liturgy (Sunday experience), web presence, on-ramps into parish life (like Baptism and Marriage prep), and Easter and Christmas outreaches. We identified these as crucial areas to be very strategic around that required specific attention for mission alignment if a culture of missionary discipleship is going to be highlighted as the crux of a parish's mission.
The areas of emphasis for each ministry consultation differ. To just zero in on a couple things we want to accomplish with two ministries, for RCIA, we really want to know that the program is not assuming that people come to them as already evangelized disciples who just need to be told what the Catholic things are but are instead providing people with opportunities to encounter Jesus and become His disciple as well. For faith formation, some kind of strategy to reach parents and involve them in the core mission of discipleship at the parish seems essential. Whatever the specific area of growth needs to be, one of our core tenets in these consultations is helping ministries understand what they are trying to accomplish and how they are going to accomplish it. If we are going to be doing ministry, let's at least do it on purpose and with conviction, right? Often, and I know this from my own experience of working in a parish, due to the overwhelming amount of hats that most parish staff wear, we are often, in our ministry, throwing darts at a board hoping something hits. One of the key steps to move from maintenance to mission is to recognize that even if we miss, let's aim.
One point on liturgy: several conversations recently have tipped me off to a trend where some leadership at certain parishes that are more traditionally minded find all of this talk about forming missionary disciples somehow part of a more "progressive" mentality of the Church reminiscent of the "spirit of Vatican II" days that make them shudder. Let me be as clear as possible. Forming. Disciples. Is. For. Every. Parish. There is no parish who is not called to understand intimately how it forms disciples whether you are the most traditional, Latin Mass loving parish in the world or you still have liturgical dancers prancing up and down the aisles (though, let's be real, you probably should not be doing that second one, right? ;-) ) A vision for missionary discipleship in the parish can, and even should(!), go hand-in-hand with a parish that wants to emphasize a more reverent liturgy.
These ministry consultations bring to mind my absolute favorite part about working on our Parish Partnerships. The myriad of variables and challenges presented in each parish, and even in each area of ministry within that parish, represent exciting opportunities to problem solve with dedicated parish leaders who really want to see Christ glorified in their particular area of work. To watch the Holy Spirit work in these conversations is thrilling and reminds me how deeply the Lord wants to see continued renewal in His Church through parishes become hotbeds for the New Evangelization.