FORMING DYNAMIC PARISHES
"The parish community has a special role in promoting participation in the life, mission, and work of the faith community."
"The parish is where the Church lives. Parishes are communities of faith, of action, and of hope. They are where the Gospel is proclaimed and celebrated, where believers are formed and sent to renew the earth. Parishes are the home of the Christian community; they are the heart of our Church. Parishes are the place where God's people meet Jesus in word and sacrament and come in touch with the source of the Church's life."
- Communities of Salt and Light, p. 1 https://www.wearesaltandlight.org
The parish is the home of the domestic church - the family.
As on any journey, we always have a reason to go somewhere. Generally, we need a road map to show us how to get there and a way to travel. Our journey may be short or long, easy or have lots of turns, twists and obstacles.
Our journey to becoming a Dynamic Parish is no different. We know where we want to go, we have a road map and we have a way to get there AND we have a very dependable driver. As with any journey, it is always a lot more interesting when others travel with us. Our parish is where we find our road map, our driver, and our traveling companions.
While it is simple enough to go on a journey now with Google, GPS and tons of social media to help us, the journey to building a Dynamic Parish calls us to something much more personal and long term. This journey extends way beyond our mortal lives; it is a journey that begins at conception and our destiny is the new Promise Land, Heaven. We have only one purpose in this life and that is to live fully as believers in Jesus Christ and obey His command to "GO! Make Disciples."
Jesus established the Church on earth to be our main source of divine love and the foundation for everything we need to obey His commands and fulfill His covenant with us. He gave us an earthly family to be our companions and in that family are many types of people and personalities who have needs, wants and ideas. To help us build our Dynamic Parish and to better understand our traveling companions, we have some very practical and simple tools and we can use to move our parishes from activity and maintenance to mission and Dynamic discipleship.
All parishes have activities that must be maintained for the day-to-day operations. Generally, there is a paid staff, regular bills to pay, internal and external ministries to be maintained, problems to solve and sometimes it comes down to just being able to keep the lights on and people happy. Over time, something has changed. Whether it is modern culture, generational needs, or dislike of the clergy, something has changed and for every person who joins the Catholic church, six are leaving. Why?
Fr. James Mallon (Divine Renovation) stresses the importance of the leadership role of the Pastor. He reminds us that our priests are human and have much responsibility and at times may feel alone in what they are trying to do . Some may feel there is simply not enough time or not enough return on the investment of resources. Others may fear acknowledging weakness or admitting mistakes have been made "which is often related to the difficulty of balancing the roles of being a parish's spiritual shepherd AND its organizational leader." (Divine Renovation Guidebook, pg. 11). Some priests (especially older priests) have stated they were never prepared for the organizational part of running a parish.
"Taking action is the best way to learn, and it gives you courage to keep taking action."
- Patrick Lencioni The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
Introduction: First Steps
The very first step to creating a Dynamic Parish is to create a culture of Dynamic Disciples by identifying and selecting a core group of people to become the Parish Leadership Team (PLT) and then bring them together in PRAYER. Most pastors already know the people in this group. They most likely hold positions in various parish ministries and often have much influence on others. They may be involved in one or multiple ministries such as the Knights of Columbus, Society of St Vincent de Paul, Pastoral Council President or President of the parish school Parent/Teacher Organization.
The Pastor extends a personal invitation to the 1st Level Leadership Team. At this meeting, it is vital that the format be established with PRAYER front and center and in everything the Team is tasked. One group always begins their meetings with fifteen minutes of prayer with Lectio Divina scripture reading and discussion that may segue into the meeting work agenda. Another team created a prayer just for praise, thanksgiving and petitions for their ministry.
Divine Renovation Guidebook: A Step-by-Step Manual for Transforming Your Parish (Four-book Series) Fr James Mallon
Becoming a Parish of Intentional Disciples Sherry Weddell (siena.org)
4 Signs of a Dynamic Catholic Matthew Kelly (dynamiccatholic.com)