The USCCB’s Catholic Social Ministry Gathering kicks off today! Just a quick glance at the schedule reveals the incredible mission God has given to us and empowers us to take on–bringing the evangel, the Good News, to every sphere of human existence, starting in our own hometowns!
As Pope Paul VI explained, evangelization and social ministry are profoundly linked:
Between evangelization and human advancement- development and liberation- there are in fact profound links. These include links of an anthropological order, because the man who is to be evangelized is not an abstract being but is subject to social and economic questions. They also include links in the theological order, since one cannot dissociate the plan of creation from the plan of Redemption. The latter plan touches the very concrete situations of injustice to be combated and of justice to be restored. (Evangelii Nuntiandi, §31)
One of the healthy tensions that exists in our work as disciples of Jesus Christ is that we are simultaneously called to both the smallest acts of love, mercy, and compassion and to use our natural human gifts and divinely empowered charisms to take on the larger-scale works of transforming our society and human structures, so that the Great Commission (Mt 28:19-20) is truly our mission.
How do we move parish ministries to scale that enables transformation in our cities, counties, or regions? From isolated impact to widespread breaking forth of the Gospel in our midst?
Scaling-up social ministry takes prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit. It also takes intentionality and strategic planning–things we sometimes shy away from, for fear it will distract us from the valid mission to continue to do the smallest acts of justice and mercy for the sake of the Gospel. The Stanford Social Innovation Review’s “Emerging Pathways to Transformative Scale” offers some conversation-starting approaches for expanding the social impact of smaller-scale efforts, such as:
1. Distribute through existing platforms.
2. Recruit (and train!) others to deliver the solution.
3. Unbundle and scale up the parts that have the greatest impact.
4. Use technology to reach a larger audience.
5. Don’t just build organizations and programs, strengthen a field.
6. Change public systems.
7. Embrace the need for policy change.
8. Don’t ignore for-profit models for scale.
9. Alter people’s attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.
Have you seen these approaches for scaling-up to transformative impact tried and/or successfully implemented in Catholic Social Ministry, especially at the parish level?
Or, based on your experience what holds us, and especially parishes, back from scaling-up?
Is scaling-up important as an act of spiritual commitment–a “leap of faith” as disciples witnessing in the world–or is it distraction to earthly success?