L'Alto's expansion featured across Catholic media!

As you may have heard, L'Alto Catholic Institute announced some very exciting news. We are expanding our organization's mission nationally!

Catholic News Agency wrote a fabulous piece on our expansion that was then picked up by various other Catholic publications. It was a blessing to have the word spread about our mission so quickly!

You can read CNA's piece here

Tim Glemkowski
L'Alto featured on Relevant Radio's "Morning Air"

I had a great time on Relevant Radio's "Morning Air" a couple of weeks ago talking parish renewal through forming disciples!

Morning Air was the first ever Catholic radio program that I heard growing up. When my mom would drive me to school my freshman year in high school, she would always put on Morning Air with Jeff Cavins! It was an honor to be featured on one of the biggest Catholic radio programs in the country.

For the audio of my interview and a summary article, click here

Tim Glemkowski
Doing It for the Right Reasons
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I talk with a lot of pastors who are motivated to make changes to the way their parish functions because they see a need for renewal. Some begin a conversation with me because they see an aging population in their parish or have read statistics about decline in church membership around the country or have less volunteers or less money, etc. etc. 

While experiencing these "pain points" can be great for getting us out of our seats and awakening us to the need for renewal, they can only get us so far.

At the end of the day, the courage to make real changes to a parish stuck in maintenance mode has to come from a deeper place. Being in this game for the right reasons is so important. As with anything in life, the intention that we bring to our work of parish renewal is crucial. 

This past Sunday, we heard this from Jesus, "I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. in the Gospel from." I think the same is true of us in ministry if we aren't motivated by the right reasons. In my opinion, there are really two fundamental reasons that we should gather around in working to renew our parishes around a vision for evangelization and discipleship.

1) Love of God

2) Love of Neighbor

Love of God because Jesus Christ Himself gave a single mission to the Church and that was to make disciples of the entire world. We exist fundamentally for the salvation of all. Obedience to Jesus Christ is the primary reason that we work to make disciples.

Love of neighbor is more commonly my personal motivation in evangelizing, though. When I was eighteen years old, I encountered the personal love that God had for me in a new and profound way. From that moment, everything in my life changed. Having known the darkness, loneliness, and emptiness of a life lived not in relationship with Jesus Christ, my heart breaks for anyone who has to walk through this world not knowing that love. Furthermore, I believe that it is possible for people to eternally reject the love that God holds out for them. In other words, Hell is real. If a relationship with Jesus Christ is the happiness of my neighbor in both this life and the next, how much would I have to hate somebody not to work patiently so that they might know Him?

Only these reasons will help us plow through the frustration and confusion of attempting to bring about culture change. If we're just in this because we want to be in charge of the most vibrant parish in the area, then we will just want to please everybody and won't make tough decisions that might offend people. If we want to form disciples just because we want more butts in the seats, then we'll be tempted to look for silver bullets instead of the long faithfulness of walking with people as they become fully mature missionary disciples. Only love, of God and neighbor, can truly propel us forward in becoming the life-giving parish that God is calling us to be. 

 

Tim Glemkowski
Why It Works // Be Love Revolution: Forming Teenage Girls as Disciples of Jesus Christ
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Our recent post from Dr. Carole Brown on how to make a multiplying discipleship process work at your parish was one of our most successful posts to date! It seems that people are interested in hearing stories about initiatives in the Church that have been effective at forming disciples. We love sharing these ideas with you for two reasons. 

1. We want to highlight some of the hopeful, positive momentum being made in evangelization. We hear so much about the dire statistics. We want to show you some of the positives. 

2. We want to show you what is working and ask these leaders to reflect critically on why it is so that you can implement their core principles in your own parish/school/ministry setting.  

Why It Works is a new series in which we reach out to some of the most fruitful evangelists we know who are seeing great fruit in their ministries and ask them one simple question, "Why does it work?" 


Be His, Be Free, Be love: Forming Teenaged girls as disciples of Jesus Christ 

an interview with debbie herbeck, founder of be love revolution

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Debra Herbeck speaks at conferences and retreats about spiritual growth, discipleship, and her own journey from Judaism to the Catholic Church. For the past thirty years, she has worked extensively in youth and women’s ministry. Debbie is the co-founder and leader of Be Love Revolution, a movement dedicated to helping young women encounter and be God’s love in the world. Debbie is the director of Pine Hills Girls Camp. She also helps lead i.d.9:16, an outreach of Renewal Ministries that equips young adult Catholics to live as intentional disciples.

She has written Safely Through the Storm: 120 Reflections on Hope, Firmly on the Rock: 120 Reflections on Faith, and Love Never Fails: 120 Reflections on Love. She and her husband Peter co-authored When the Spirit Speaks: Touched by God’s Word.

Debbie and Peter have four children and four grandchildren. They live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Below is our interview with Debbie. Enjoy!

L'Alto Catholic Institute: Debbie, I am incredibly impressed with what I am hearing and seeing from Be Love Revolution. I think a lot of our readers are going to be interested in hearing about some of the genesis for this ministry. 

Debbie Herbeck: Almost five years ago, we were wrapping up another wonderful week at Pine Hills Girls’ Camp (editor's note: Pine Hills is a camp for middle school-aged girls led by adult, young adult, and teen leaders). As the director of this week-long camp, I sensed a turning point (or more accurately a launching point), for this important ministry. For the past 28 years, we had successfully ministered to junior high aged campers, and high school and college women as our staff, many who were former campers. Through our strong culture of faith and authentic love, countless young women had personally encountered the love of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, and established friendships of support and accountability. That closing night of camp in 2013, as we worshipped together, the Lord spoke these words to me clearly:

“If each one of these young women, filled with the love of God and one another, takes that love out into the world, and touches one life, we could start a Revolution.”

It was then that I heard the call to extend this culture of God’s love beyond the confines of camp or a singular event; to begin a movement for young women in junior high, high school and beyond. That fall, we rallied our high school girls, college and young adult women—who had all experienced the Pine Hills Camp “culture”—and launched the Revolution through weekly events and social media. 

L'Alto: That's amazing. What is some of your vision behind Be Love? 

Debbie: The mission of the Be Love Revolution is three-fold:

  • Be His—to help young women know the personal and transformative love of Jesus.
  • Be Free—to radically change young women’s self-perception and to help them live freely and confidently.
  • Be Love—to teach and empower young women to be God’s love in the world today.

From those first meetings almost five years ago, we have grown tremendously, not only in our attendance, but in the scope of our mission. 

L'Alto: I love that. You are really walking them through that full growth from pre-discipleship all the way through beginning to bear fruit in the lives of others themselves. Tell me; what kind of fruit have you seen from BLR? 

In a sense, the fruit of BLR is generated from a culture of faith, love, and acceptance that began and was cultivated at Pine Hills Camp for more than 30 years. The visible fruit can be seen in the lives of the young women themselves, who have progressed from middle school campers, to high schoolers, to young adult women who at each step in their spiritual journey have been evangelized, nurtured, supported, discipled, and mentored in their faith. They now take their place as leaders of other girls and women. 

As confident, converted young women, they are using their gifts and talents in BLR and beyond through leading, speaking, writing, art, music, drama, etc. As they move from high school to college, many take the Revolution with them, serving with zeal and love in campus ministry, parish youth groups, and the workplace. 

Many have experienced deep personal inner healing as they discover their true identity as daughters of God and learn how to actively fight the lies of the world. An all-girl environment provides them with the opportunity to learn how to be for one another, rather than adversaries and enemies, and they develop life-long bonds of friendship, support, and sisterhood. 

There are girls who come to our various events with little or no faith life, and over time they develop a living and active faith in Christ. We have witnessed families—parents and siblings—growing deeper in the faith because of the witness and love of their daughters and sisters. Empowered to be God’s love in the world, hearts for the poor and a desire to serve others grows. 

Practically, I could name so many different activities that we provide: retreats, worship nights, mission trips, service opportunities, small groups, and mentorship. But the heart of this ministry reflects the mission of St. Mother Teresa, which is to live this revolutionary love by loving the person in front of us—with the love of Christ. This ripple effect is what changes hearts and lives, and ultimately changes the world, one person at a time. 

L'Alto: That is all so good to hear. Gives me a ton of hope. To kind of sum things up for us, can you maybe just give us a list of a handful of ingredients that you think have really led to BLR being as fruitful as it is?

Debbie:

  1. Jesus and life in His Spirit are at the center of everything we do. 
  2. We help girls come into a living, personal relationship with Jesus.
  3. BLR has a defined culture in which girls feel loved, accepted, and safe. Everyone is cared for.
  4. BLR is run by young women, for young women.
  5. Persistence and perseverance. One-on-one discipleship is an important element; a trusted mentor walks alongside each girl to help them navigate the challenges of their age and the secular culture. 
  6. Our teaching and testimonies are challenging, yet practical and relatable. We call them to an exciting adventure to live for something greater than themselves and to fulfill their destiny as daughters of God.
  7. We desire to support and help parents as they raise their daughters in a culture that is objectively challenging and often hostile to Christianity. 

The reality is that success is often difficult to measure in youth ministry. Our gauge is obedience to God’s call and growing in love.


Thank you so much to Debbie for taking the time to answer our questions about Be Love Revolution! It is amazing to see the great work the Holy Spirit is up to in the Church.

For more information about Be Love Revolution and Pine Hills Girls’ Camp go to:

www.beloverevolution.com and www.pinehillsgirlscamp.com or email Debbie and her team at info@beloverevolution.com

Tim Glemkowski
7 Tips for Making Multiplying Discipleship Actually Work at Your Parish: a guest post from Dr. Carole Brown
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Many, many people hereabouts are not becoming Christians for one reason only: there is nobody to make them Christians.
— St. Francis Xavier

When Jesus walked the Earth, He had been given a simple mission by His Father, "Evangelize the entire world." Why, then, did Jesus' public ministry remain so locally bound? And, also, why did He spend so much time with twelve, uneducated, ordinary guys? The reason is simple; evangelization is not about complicated formulas; it is about relationships. He knew that when He ascended to the Father, His apostles would carry on His mission for Him. He believed in the process of spiritual multiplication.

The simple math of spiritual multiplication is that the most effective of evangelization is to not just form disciples, but form disciples capable of making disciples, creating exponential growth. One of the things we implement in the parishes with whom we work is a multiplying process of discipleship by training leaders who initiate this spiritual multiplication utilizing a structure of discipleship groups and 1-on-1 mentoring.

As the concept of spiritual multiplication becomes more familiar in our parishes, though, what I am learning is that just having the structure in place does not itself equate to automatic success! You have to have the right ingredients to really make it work. 

I recently saw a video put out by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, The Impact of a Glacier: Multiplying Discipleship, that outlines a parish where this kind of multiplying discipleship process has made a significant impact. After watching, I reached out to Dr. Carole Brown, Director of the Office of New Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City (http://www.archokc.org/new-evangelization), who assisted the startup of this process at St. John Nepomuk in Yukon, OK, and asked her that all-important question, "What made it work?" 

The following are Dr. Carole Brown's 7 concrete essential practices for making a multiplying discipleship process at your parish actually take root based on what worked at St. John Nepomuk! If you are thinking about building this kind of initiative at your parish, you really need to check these out!

I love these tips because they are not born from theoretical knowledge but from actual real-world experience. Without further ado, ladies and gentleman, Dr. Carole Brown...


7 Tips for Making Multiplying Discipleship Actually Work at your parish

by Dr. Carole Brown

1) Get the right leaders

At St. John Nepomuk, a male and female leader who were already deeply personally committed to Jesus Christ went through the process themselves, and agreed to give focused leadership to it.  They are both well established in the parish, and they are the “drivers” of the process.

2) Get those leaders to prioritize this effort

The leaders for your discipleship process can not be those people who are also doing a million other things in the parish. They need to be good fits for the ministry and in love with Christ, but they cannot be already over-committed at the parish. This needs to be their main apostolate...which may mean they need to be relieved of other responsibilities that could usefully be done by someone else.  (I like to say, “I’m asking you to discern a call from God on this to make this your main thing.”)

3) Manage the parish's expectations

It’s important to manage expectations around multiplying discipleship because it works differently from most other things in the parish.  Unlike most other “programs”, this is not something you are going to put a note in the bulletin about, or do a signup table for--at least not for a few cycles.  Sometimes people get agitated and say things like, "Why is this not for everyone? How come I wasn’t invited?” You have to be willing and able to manage those expectations by communicating clearly about what these groups are about and how they differ slightly from your normal parish Bible study or Lenten small groups.

4) Meet off-site

The groups at St. John Nepomuk met in peoples homes, not at the church.  This allows for a little cozier environment more conducive to sharing your life.  We also advised the hosts to keep it simple.  Don’t plan a gourmet spread.  Put out a pitcher of icewater and leave it at that.  The more drama there is around hospitality, the less people will want to run their own groups.  

5) Begin by filling groups with potential leaders

For the first few cycles—and by that I mean “years” because this process takes about a year—you are prayerfully and carefully choosing people who have the ability to lead others.  There’s an actual Scriptural principle behind this from 2 Timothy 2:2. St. Paul writes to Timothy, "What you have heard from me through many witnesses, entrust to faithful people who will be able to lead others as well."

There are…what…5 sets of people indicated in this verse who are going to be responsible for launching this big chain reaction, and it’s so so key to make sure that we are raising up “faithful people who can lead others.” It is a little counter-intuitive to the way we usually think of evangelization.  Usually we don’t think of starting with people who are already faithful—but in this situation that’s exactly who you want to get into shape for helping develop the culture of discipleship.  

6) Start with a manageable commitment for your leaders


Sometimes it’s hard to get people to commit to a whole year up front.  At St. John Nepomuk, they identified 25 people and invited them to a dinner.  I came and gave a spiel, and then the folks were asked just to commit to the first 6 week Catholic Christian Outreach (cco.ca) series, Discovery.  6 weeks. That's all. However—and this is another thing that’s a bit different—they are asked to commit to ALL six weeks.  Can’t even miss one, and if they do, the leader is prepared to do a makeup session with them.  That’s a little different for Catholics, because they are used to being able to drop in and drop out.  Now—to be honest—in this case—by the time they got through Discovery, they were hooked.

7) Don't skip the 1-on-1s!

The CCO series that we use for our groups has a built in 1-on-1 component.  The group leader met with each member of their groups after each six-week session, and followed the outline in the book to help lead the conversation. 
It’s amazing what comes up in these 1-on-1s, things with which people have been quietly wrestling with and sometimes need some real help.  Now, keep in mind, these can't be spiritual direction, just a little opportunity for some personalized mentoring.  This is an excellent method of doing the kind of spiritual “accompaniment” that is so needed in our times.

It can be tempting to skip these individualized meetings because of the time commitment, but I can’t encourage you enough—make time for the 1-on-1. A good tip is to make the occasion for meeting something enjoyable. Get a coffee. Walk around the lake. 

One last thing that is worth mentioning about this particular parish's tactics. This is not a hard and fast rule, and, in fact, I personally am mentoring a mixed gender group, but—at St. John Nepomuk, they decided to do mens groups and womens groups, rather than mixed groups.  One of the advantages of this is that it takes care of the childcare issue. Couples do not both need to be at a meeting at the same time.  Also, often men and women share very differently.  Sometimes, men can say in 45 minutes what women need a full 90 minutes to say.  Again, not a hard and fast rule, but something to consider.

Conclusion

If you will allow me to do a little math for a second to show the impact of this process at St. John Nepomuk, one of the numbers that’s been thrown out there as a kind of general gauge is that about 5-7% of people in the parish are living their discipleship in an intentional way.  One of the strategic benchmarks that Sherry Weddell and others have proposed is to try to double the number of intentional disciples at a parish in 5 years:  “Double in 5.”  So in other words—in 5 years, try to raise the percentage of IDs at a parish up to 10-14% of adults who have been through a process designed to form them as intentional disciples.  The theory is that if you can get to 20%, you have a de-facto culture change going on.

Well, guess what?  If you can get multiplying discipleship going in your parish, you can not only double in 5, you can even get to 20%.  Let’s do the math.

We estimated that about 800 of the 1200 registered families in this parish are participating regularly.  We ballparked, therefore, about 1400 adults active in this parish.

In their 4th generation, about 300 adults have either completed the process or are in it currently.  That’s 21% of the active adults.

Now, it’s time to start going after the inactive ones. God has only just begun!

 

about the author

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Dr. Carole Brown is the Director of the Office of New Evangelization in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.  She attained her MA in Theology and Christian Ministry at Franciscan University of Steubenville in 1997.  In 2010, she successfully defended her dissertation, entitled “Crossing the Threshold of Faith: Pope John Paul II’s Approach to the Problem of the Conversion of the Baptized.”  Subsequently, this dissertation was cited in Sherry Weddell’s highly acclaimed book, Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus.

Dr. Brown’s defining passion is to help parishes to develop a culture of intentional discipleship.

Tim Glemkowski