A Glimpse of Parish Life as a “None” Parent via”Losing Our Religion”

9781479883202_fullFor the past week, we’ve been diving into key points and applications from Christel Manning’s “Losing Our Religion: How Unaffiliated Parents Are Raising Their Children”. In closing, I’m sharing her own personal experience encountering a Catholic parish as a “None” parent. I’m thankful to Manning for incorporating her own personal experiences into her valuable work of sociology.

Manning, like many other parents who identify as “None,” experienced new questions during the “early childhood” stage of her daughter, Sheila. Embodying the diversity of her framework for understanding the beliefs of Nones and range of options to offer worldview formation for their children, Manning took up the recommendation of a Catholic friend, and enrolled her daughter in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at her local parish. Here’s her reflection:

The teacher leading the program was a lovely woman, gentle and non-dogmatic and so good with kids. My husband was initially opposed to any kind of church-based education, but I convinced him to give it a try…I enrolled Sheila for the first year. She loved it…When we went to England for Christmas, my husband’s family was duly impressed with Sheila’s knowledge of religion…At the end of the school year, however, the doctrinal basis of the program became more clear. The first year curriculum, geared to very young children, was centered on the idea that God is a good shepherd who will take care of you–a fairly generic concept that I could accept. By contrast, the second-year curriculum involved teaching children the Catholic creed and preparing them for first communion. I did not feel comfortable with that. Parents were encouraged to attend church with their children, and in talking to other parents I realized that everybody else was actually doing that. I felt like a fraud. So the next Sunday, I went to mass and I took Sheila with me…There were rousing hymns singing glory to God, prayers, a reading from the Bible, a homily on a topic I cannot remember people lined up to receive communion. The hymns struck me as militaristic, the Bible reading felt irrelevant to my life,and the prayers reminded me that I do not believe in God. Sheila was bored and fidgety. I was bored and alienated. It was clear this was not the right path for us. I was disappointed, but also relieved. (192)

Take Aways

  1. What appealed to Manning?
    • the recommendation of her Catholic friend, who did not hesitate to share an experience that was positive for her child with her “None” friend —> personal endorsement/invitation is the most powerful marketing
    • about Catechesis of the Good Shepherd? We see it in her own layperson’s description, “a Montessori-based two-year program for preschoolers and kindergarten age children that allows children to choose from various religion-themed play activities rather than imposing a unified curriculum on them” (192). While this is incomplete in a technical sense (i.e. Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is in Catholic language a “systematic” catechesis and stretches to age 12) it reveals what resonated with a “None” parent —> our marketing “key words” for outsiders do not need to be what’s most theologically important to us “church folks”
    • the Level 1 (ages 3-6) emphasis that “God is a good shepherd who will take care of you” was experienced by Manning as pre-evangelistic, it connected to her existing values –> the Church’s teaching on the role of pre-evangelization should not be overlooked 🙂

  2. As described in her research, it was her interest that convinced her husband to allow the “testing the water” in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. After the child’s interests/needs, spouses exert the second most powerful “push” to explore religious worldviews. And it’s usually the woman. –> #MarketToMoms #ConnectWithMoms 
  3. Those familiar with Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) will notice that Manning’s perceptive description isn’t quite accurate, i.e. our “insider” understanding of different “Levels” each spanning approximately three years is not clear to her. And this isn’t her fault, she’s not trying to be a catechetical expert (and yes, the parish mentioned runs typical Level 1 and 2 CGS programs). This impacts her expectations and understanding. –> When describing catechetical programs to parents, let’s remember that they don’t have the time to research or prepare to be familiar with our “insider” language. 
  4. Manning takes her daughter to Mass. (!!!) Did you catch that? How blessed are we to receive such seekers in our midst! Remember, Manning is a “None,” her husband initially opposed the idea of having their daughter attend Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, Manning herself already feels “uncomfortable,” and yet, she still goes. This is a huge leap on her part. –> Our attitude toward seekers should respect and honor the risks they’ve already taken to encounter us on “our turf,” rather than veil a disdainful or critical, “where have you been all these years?” We rejoice (note Jesus’ 3 parables in Lk 15) that the Holy Spirit has led them this far.

  5. Manning finds the Eucharistic homily at Mass to be forgettable. –> #AlwaysBeEvangelizing. While Mass isn’t “for” seekers, seekers are present. Preaching matters–it’s worth spending the time, bringing in the team, and preparing for the sake of those who might only be giving Mass one try. 
  6. The music and lectors didn’t captivate Manning either –> Movements like Amazing ParishRebuilt, and Divine Renovation all emphasize the importance of the “Sunday Experience.” They’re right. (Other evidence supports this too).
  7. Manning’s daughter was bored and fidgety. –> While liturgically oriented Catholics may love having their young children with them at Mass, it’s unlikely a seeker or “None” will find that experience life-giving. We shouldn’t force them to by failing to care enough to offer a memorable and engaging experience for their children. It was Sheila who indirectly “brought” her mother to Mass this time–imagine if Sheila had spent the car-ride home telling her mom about the kids she met, how much she loved the singing, how fun it was–many parents would come back a second time (or more!) simply because their child had a great experience. That’s how us parents work 🙂

Again, I’m grateful to Christel Manning for sharing so personally in the conclusion of her book. Rarely do we get such a detailed description of how a “None” parent/child can go from non-attending, to catechesis, and even make it to Mass. 

Having concluded this series on Losing Our Religion, what new thoughts are you thinking about “Nones” as parents?

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Vision in a Homily

So your parish has a vision, and maybe even a catchy vision statement–now what?

Vision that’s not communicated broadly falls flat. Because the point of vision is that it guides everyone. Not just the elite. Not just leaders. Everyone.

VISION
How to communicate broadly in a Catholic parish?
The Sunday Homily.

I can hear the mental excuses now. All the reasons why your parish can’t communicate vision in homilies, how the people won’t like it, how it can’t be planned, there’s not enough time, etc. But, none of the excuses override the critical importance of preaching the vision, frequently and repeatedly, to the broadest parish audience.

As Fr. James Mallon, author of Divine Renovation and The Divine Renovation Guidebook, explains:

I remember catching myself saying once, ‘But I spoke about that in a homily last year.’ It is foolish for us preachers to think that most parishioners are going to remember something we said two weeks before, never mind a year before. In truth, if the sign on the bus is to be plainly recognized, we must speak about vision over and over again. In the last three years, I have committed myself to preaching some form of visioning homily at all the weekend Masses every three weeks. I am convinced that this is necessary (Divine Renovation, 255).

Sometimes it can be tempting to think, it’s in the bulletin right? We’ve got a sign up? The staff knows? It’s on the website? But that’s not enough, “there are no shortcuts when it comes to communicating vision: it takes time and intentionality” (DR Guidebook, 60).

Let’s start with the practical: what is a visioning homily?

  • not simply information, but the inspiration and motivation “to desire that preferred future and be wiling to make the changes necessary” (DR Guidebook, 60)
  • “A homily that attempts, in some way, to address the question of why are we here, where are we going and why we do the things we do, or are trying to do the things we are trying to do” (DR Guidebook, 62)
  • “Preaching about the mission of the Church and the future of your parish in a way that all your parishioners can hear and understand” (DR Guidebook, 62)

Does it really need to be repeated so often?

Answer: Yes. Here’s why: “If a parish is becoming truly missional and is innovating, there will be ongoing change within the parish. Change must always be explained in light of the vision” (Divine Renovation, 256). Most people don’t love change. By communicating the vision frequently (as Fr. James Mallon does, roughly every 3 weeks) the parish helps each and every person know and understand how concrete changes and decisions fit into the big picture, and help guide the efforts.

Okay, I’m ready. But what goes into a visioning homily?

Drawing from Divine Renovation (pg. 256-257), here are the key elements in a visioning homily, with examples from a visioning homily (Groundbreaking 05: Vision, April 24, 2016) at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD.

  • Answer: why are we here? Remind the listeners why the parish exists, what God has called you to, what your mission is. For Church of the Nativity, it’s growing disciples while growing as disciples. This gets mentioned twice in the first four minutes (at 1:50-2:08 and 3:50-4:04).
  • Name: what’s not right at the gut level. Scratch the point of dissatisfaction that people are experiencing. Help everyone feel the need. For Church of the Nativity, it’s that it’s “hard to invite people to come people to church when there’s no place to park and no place to sit” (4:30-4:45). This is something tangible. Lots of people in the parish may have experienced this…tentatively thinking about inviting a friend to Mass, but wary of doing so because of the seemingly crowded experience.
  • Explain: why the current situation or past models won’t work. This might include some transparency or vulnerability. Or showing how the parish has “done its homework” in trying to address the point of dissatisfaction in the past. Aim to be clear and honest about how a particular [old] way of doing things isn’t working, but without blaming people, staff, specific groups, etc. Since Church of the Nativity is addressing how to accommodate growth, the leaders share what they’ve done in the past or tried (different times, off-campus sites, etc), and how these solutions don’t effectively lead toward the parish’s vision (1:00-1:22).
  • Inspire: capture imaginations, invite people to dream. Encourage everyone listening to join in the “imagine if…” for the parish. What could it be? This is a time, not for information, but to make our hearts leap, make even the most change-averse person in the pew have a momentary optimism about the future. In the example from Church of the Nativity, Brian Cook reminds the community of pieces of plywood the parish had “filled with the names of all your friends, family members, co-workers…people you’re praying for, that one day they’ll come to church and meet their Heavenly Father…this project is about making room for them, all of them” (5:30-6:00) and continues to spur the imagination as to the wider significance of the parish’s direction, that “This new building can stand as a hopeful sign that intentional growth is still possible…that God is still using the local church to change lives” (6:10-6:41).
  • Share: the plan for how we’re getting to where we’re going. This part is the most intuitive. We like to talk about what we’re doing. But remember, this is just one of five key elements. Without the other pieces, this part of a visioning homily can quickly become a litany of information, rather than the transformation that’s at the heart of vision and change leadership. Church of the Nativity puts it concisely: it’s about “creating empty seats at optimal times” and that phrase is used at least four times in the 7-minute vision-casting portion of the Sunday message (remember, repetition works!). The “how” is that as the parish responds to the call to “invest your treasure in the Church” this will result in hearts “connected to the Church” and the “growth in faith that comes somewhere outside of your comfort zone.”

A well-crafted visioning homily weaves these elements together, independent threads yet repeated and interrelated. There’s a logical flow from reminding who we are, to identifying and understanding the “situation” (Name & Explain), to inspiring, and only then speaking the plan.

A visioning homily doesn’t need to take a lot of time. While this entire message from Church of the Nativity is “long” (20 minutes in total) by most Catholic standards, the vision casting portion is solidly within the first 7 minutes. Visioning homilies can be done in any Catholic parish on a regular basis.

The other lesson from the Church of the Nativity example is that a parish need not have a singularly incredible, awesome, best-preacher-ever to communicate vision. Brian Cook, Tom Corcoran, and Fr. Michael White (the 3 speakers in the Church of the Nativity message) are ordinary folks, just like you. They stumble on their words (as we all do). It’s not always the most beautiful language. And think about it–if you’re preaching on vision once every three weeks, not every one is going to be your personal best. The point is, they commit. They do it. One doesn’t have to be an especially-gifted dynamic preacher to communicate vision. Check out their book, Rebuilding Your Message (and related podcasts) for practical tips on how any disciple of Jesus Christ can grow as a communicator.

Do you have a great visioning homily to share? Post a link in the Comment section to help us all grow in this essential area of parish ministry.

p.s. Download the “Groundbreaking 05: Vision” example I used here. All vision casting elements are present within the first 7 minutes. I’m not sure how long beyond March 2017 the download will be available, but all key excerpts are in this post–viewing is optional 🙂

Rebuilding Your Message: Big Idea #3, Even the Best Can Rebuild

Digging deeper (beyond a review and key takeawaysBig Idea #1: Series, and Big Idea #2, Always Be Evangelizing) with Fr. Michael White and Tom Corcoran’s Rebuilding Your Message (2015), today I’m pulling highlights about the systematic side of regular preaching–stuff that can benefit even the most spiritually graced preacher with natural and developed talents. These are ideas that can help a parish with a prayerful and gifted preaching pastor (or pastors) move from a place known for transformative and authentic individual Eucharistic homilies, to a place where that powerhouse preaching of the Word of God spills over, shapes, and colors entire systems within the parish.

communicationCommunication is always a two-ways endeavor. The best preaching (on paper/in theory) isn’t the best if it’s not fully heard in a way that leads to life-changing shifts in attitude or action. The most gifted and well-formed preachers and communicators can benefit by considering the process and systems for communication as a whole in the parish. How does the Sunday Eucharistic homily connect to everything in parish life?

Key Lessons for Great Parishes/Preachers from Rebuilding Your Message:

1. Have a Preparation Process that’s More than One. Outstanding preachers already know that preparing takes time.  But what about when there are more and more demands on your time (especially as a priest)? Have a process. “If you develop a basic process for preparation and presentation, you will find it much easier to survive and even thrive in communication” (41). And, bring all of your assets into this process/system, “while only [Father] Michael can preach it [Eucharistic homily], several people help to write the message” (41). This sets the conditions for sustainable quality.

But, don’t let it end with proximate preparation for a Eucharistic homily. Have a system for the message to overflow! [Patrick Lencioni does a great job describing this in The Advantage, naming it cascading communication.] “Regardless of the size of your parish, and the size of your staff, a team of people is the key to effective communication” (202). “This requires internal communication that precedes your general or church-wide communication” (202). The odea is that every children’s liturgy of the word leader, every usher, every deacon, etc. are all on the same page about the key messages of a particular homily/series

2. Use Series (p. 128-129). Now, we’ve talked about series in general before (and here’s Fr. White’s personal blog-pitch) but what I want to emphasize here is that using a series is not a crutch. Not some type of aid for those who “aren’t good” at preaching God’s Word. Taking the time to systematically plan series of sermons into the liturgical year is about the hearers, especially the unevangelized or those needing to take further steps as disciples. Here’s why: a) series develop into conversations among hearers–conversations keep the message in our minds and spur us to go deeper, b) a single message rarely converts minds or hearts (see strategy # 7 here), and c) a series creates alignment and focus in the parish, to “move the parish in a disciplined direction,” with a series (vs. a stand-alone, one Sunday theme) adult formation, youth ministry, and children’s formation can all move together, so that families and friends can support each other–so that synergy happens. It takes momentum to get things rolling in people’s lives, and the power of a series theme to align everything in parish life for a particular season helps create that momentum.

3. Plan Long Term. “You should plan all your communication as far in advance as possible. If you’re preaching, plan out a season or even an entire liturgical year. If you’re teaching or responsible for adult faith formation, look ahead each semester to the next semester (56).” This ensures all of the communications (preaching and teaching especially) tend toward a central vision, and every key leader in parish life can align their work and ministry to support it optimally. This also saves time–since by having a “lens” of a long term plan, staff and key volunteers can be on the lookout for examples and opportunities to connect to preaching themes. [Because seriously, emphasizing local testimonies or examples is way better than using an Internet search engine to find “off the shelf” pastoral examples for preaching!]

4. Resound the Message. Find ways to re-emphasize and repeat (with slightly difrerent messengers, twists, formats, etc.) your well-planned Sunday Eucharist messages. One of my favorite ways Church of the Nativity (the authors of Rebuilding Your Message) do this is by using what they call endnotes. Endnotes happen after Mass and include another statement of gratitude and encouragement to visitors, “sum up the homily,” and “remind people what our basic message was and the challenge offered to them in the message”–“a bottom line that they can carry with them out of Mass and into their week” (108-109). Usually this  includes a concrete action-step, something that week they can do that supports the main message of the homily. For example:

  • A prayer card after a message on worry
  • Breakout talks/sessions on relationship issues (i.e. married couples, caregiver relationships, parents of teens, etc.) after a homily series called “Tough Love”
  • Invitation cards to hand out to unchurched friends after a homily series on evangelization

Endnotes are rehearsed, not a reading of announcements (at Nativity this happens before Mass, since “regulars” more so than guests are likely to be there early and have a need to hear announcements). The speaker for Endnotes is polished and is aiming to make a solid impression. It’s key that the speaker (ideally) not be the celebrant or homilist–since having different faces and voices for the same message helps it to resonate more, to be more memorable, and to potentially give an alternate path to “hearing” if someone had a “block” (of language, internal bias, etc.) that impacted the hearing of the homily.

5. Integrate Concrete, Local Action. Let the Eucharistic homily truly be for this particular community. If a homily is about relationships in the Christian life, talk about small-groups (and ideally be having small-group launches soon in your parish!). If it’s about repentance, talk Confession times, etc. (162).

6. Go from Audience to AudiencesSpeak to different places of faith. “Comfort outsiders” by acknowledging them, but also making it clear what’s not for them–i.e. discerning percentile giving (aka tithing), praying about how to take a step into local mission, etc. (182). Say it aloud. This is not for you. On the other hand, make it clear that for longtime parish attendees, you’re asking them to take concrete steps in discipleship, to commit to prayer, to serve, etc. Don’t be afraid to speak to different audiences (i.e. youth, parents, etc.) in giving applications for a homily focus (198).

Interested in learning more? Check out these podcasts and share your insights in the Comment Box.

Rebuilt Podcasts (related to this post):

Image Credit:  “uncoolbob” via Flicker, CC BY-NC 2.0

 

How long should Mass be?

 In Divine Renovation: From a Maintenance to a Missional Parish, Fr. James Mallon offers these insights and reflections for figuring out what’s right for your parish community when it comes to Sunday Mass:

Worrying about Mass as a production is the wrong concern. He writes, “to the accusation that everything is a production, I am tempted to say, ‘Thank you, I’m so glad you noticed.'” While Mass isn’t a “production” in the literal sense of the term, it should be treated with the utmost planning and concern for quality and transformation of those present.

Remember the 80/20 rule. In most parishes, “the only time we see 80% of our people is on the weekend,” yet what proportion of time goes into preparing for this crucial weekly moment?

“The Church is, of course, not a mere business, it is mystery, but grace still builds on nature and there is an essential truth here. The priority of any parish, and any priest, ought to be about preparing for and celebrating the Sunday Eucharist to make it the best possible experience for the maximum number of people.”

Mass might need to be longer than you think. Or like. Or are comfortable with. Fr. Mallon observes, “The days of the 50-minute get-it-over-and-done-with Mass must end…if the weekend celebrations are to be a priority, then we must have sufficient time on Sunday mornings to gather, celebrate and connect afterwards…We need to honestly look at our Mass schedules, and ask what we truly value. Do we value meaningful and transformative celebrations of the Eucharist, or is our primary value convenient and static Mass times?”

In the end, it is not really a question of how long the Mass ought to be or could be, but whether this value leads us to health. I believe it does not. It contributes to a “get it over and done with” mentality that turns our Eucharistic celebrations into something to be endured rather than something that endures.

What values does your Mass schedule, length, and culture project? Fr. Mallon asserts:

Minimalism and convenience cannot be the primary values of a healthy church. Minimalism and convenience have no place in the life of the disciple who is called to save his or her life by losing it. Someone once said that Jesus doesn’t ask for much – he asks for everything. If our liturgies are to be meaningful and transformative “productions,” they need to be able to breathe and not be constrained by a rigid one-hour rule. Likewise, there needs to be enough time between Masses so that those who are hungry for God are able to linger with one another after Mass to encourage and support one another.

In summary, I think a key is moving from the question how long should Mass be? or how long should a homily be? to addressing the intended outcomes. What is Mass to do? What is the outcome of the homily? Then, work backwards to determine how much time this takes in your setting and context. At the same time, begin to consider how to assess if these desired outcomes, effects, and fruits are happening among those present to worship. Challenging, but worth it to unleash the full power and fruits of the Eucharist amid our worshiping assemblies! 😀

Want to read more? Check out these longer excerpts from Fr. Andrew Carrozza, read Divine Renovation yourself, or listen to Fr. James Mallon’s podcasts on topics related to this great ministry book!

Rebuilding Your Message: Big Idea #1, the Series

As promised back in September, I wanted to dig a little deeper (beyond a review and key takeaways) with Fr. Michael White and Tom Corcoran’s Rebuilding Your Message (2015) and keep this important conversation on preaching going.

One of the interesting things about Rebuilding Your Message is that some big, systemic, significant ideas were embedded within the practical mini-chapters (in an understated way). White and Corcoran (probably wisely) choose not to dig into these since additional depth would distract from their primary focus. However, I think they’re worth pulling out here for furthering discussion.

Big Idea #1 — Message Series

The Rebuilt Parish books have mentioned message series again and again. Series are important for preaching in our cultural context. White and Corcoran advocate for the use of series since it enables a preacher/staff to:

  • avoid starting from a blank slate each week (tie it into something larger)
  • promote conversation among the assembly/parishioners (since they can remember central themes)
  • move the parish in a disciplined direction
  • emphasize liturgical seasons
  • go deeper into specific topics while repeating key themes (128-129).

While Rebuilding Your Message provides lots of short tidbits on crafting sermon/message series, I think given how rare they are in Catholic preaching, a more comprehensive “how to” would be in order. Church of the Nativity has, I recall, devoted a podcast episode to the nuts and bolts behind series planning, but a sequel book from them might be in order to really share this with the wider Catholic community in the United States.

There are some excellent resources on this from our Christian brothers and sisters (I’ve found Adam Hamilton‘s insights into sermon series planning very useful), but a comprehensive guide from a Catholic parish might be what’s needed to spur this forward in more parishes. This guide could discuss liturgical seasons, discerning the local “calendar” and cultural context, relationship to other ministries in the parish, and more.

Using this Big Idea as a discussion springboard:

  • What do you think of sermon series? (in general, at Mass, in any Catholic context?)
  • What hesitations do you have or what holds your ministry back from experimenting with a series?
  • Why do you think that the idea of a “series” has become typical in many growing non-Catholic congregations, yet is startlingly rare in Catholic settings?

Eucharistic Homily: To Sanctify and Glorify

The Catechism states that “the Eucharist makes the Church” (CCC 1396), but also that the Eucharist is inseparable from the Word of God (cf. CCC 1346).

Because the homily is an integral part of the liturgy, it is not only an instruction, it is also an act of worship. When we read the homilies of the Fathers, we find that many of them concluded their discourse with a doxology and the word “Amen”: they understood that the purpose of the homily was not only to sanctify the people, but to glorify God. The homily is a hymn of gratitude for the magnalia Dei, which not only tells those assembled that God’s Word is fulfilled in their hearing, but praises God for this fulfillment.

–Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments,

Homiletic Directory (2014), §4

Spot On: Church Revitalization, Evangelization, and Discipleship

H/t to Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD for this short and simple list — Church Revitalization: 5 Reasons It Works When It Works.

Breaking apart the post, Fr. Michael White offers 5 critical factors that are present when church revitalization occurs, the parish:

1. Acknowledges that they have a problem.
2. Approach the problem in prayer.
3. Preaches the Gospel (evangelization/discipleship).
4. Lives evangelization and discipleship.
5. Have a clear, consistent, and challenging discipleship path.

The all important “step zero” is that fundamentally, the parish realizes that the only true revitalization is exactly what the Church has proclaimed for centuries–evangelization that necessarily includes discipleship. I have observed situations where parishes do mistake revitalization for something other than evangelization and discipleship (for example, boosting Mass attendance, a building project, a successful fundraising campaign, increasing engagement and participation of parishioners, etc.).

Praise the Lord, I believe more and more Catholic parishes are realizing Steps 0, 1, and 2, named above.

Steps 3 and 4, however, are a bit more elusive and challenging because they are inherently zero-sum propositions. To preach and live evangelization and discipleship means that, practically speaking, other things must go. This can be hugely challenging. A stumbling block that prevents parishes from making past steps 1 and 2. 

What is this “preaching the Gospel” all about, as Fr. White explains:

Preaching the Gospel, of course, automatically means an emphasis on evangelization and discipleship that begins in the pulpit. And these churches keep the message focused and simple.

There’s only so much “pulpit time.” Yes, it can (and should in many cases!) be expanded in parish life (see here and here).  But assuming the weekly pulpit time isn’t changing in a parish, then an emphasis on evangelization and discipleship means that some style of preaching, content, and forms the parish is used to, probably have to go.

Which leads into the challenge of #4,

Preached simply enough and often enough, the parishioners will get it, and live it. They don’t just talk about evangelization, or form a committee to talk about it, or confuse it with other things they are already doing. They do it. They intentionally share Christ with others, and make invitations to their unchurched friends to come to church.

Thinking the New Evangelization is complete by merely “talking about evangelization” or making (usually well intentioned, yet shallow/surface-level) changes to things the parish is already doing is a real temptation. It’s amazing the number of initiatives and programs that seem to be re-named or re-branded as “evangelization” over the past few years, as evangelization and discipleship have become the pressing and prominent topics they always should have been in parish life.

If a community truly recognizes #1 (we have a problem), then it’s not about making small changes or surface changes–fundamentally some activities of the parish need a new intentionality, a difference substance, purpose, and direction. Again, for most people and parishes, there’s the reality of limited time and resources–so the question becomes what can’t we do anymore, if we are to live evangelization and discipleship as the simple and driving principles within our church? I find Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger’s alignment principle to be especially helpful here. Also, take heart! This is hard for leaders outside of the ministry world as well, as parish minister Michael Gormley shares.

Making room for true priorities is not an easy conversation for any organization, much less a parish to have–but it’s a critical conversation that needs to be had in order for the New Evangelization to be more than a theological concept, but clearly and vibrantly lived in a parish, so that no one can miss it!