More thoughts on how to grow a parish

Stephen Lybrand has been sharing some ideas on how we in the ordinariate might take steps to encourage the growth of our parishes.   Parts 1-3 are here.   Here’s part four:

4. Promote successes

A. The work of the church is the salvation of soul’s. While our main focus at Mass is always Christ in the Eucharist,  when we have a “conversion event”, particularly someone coming into full communion with the Catholic Church (often colloquially called a “conversion” from another Christian denomination), a Confirmation, a child or especially an Adult baptism the entirety of the focus that day should be a community celebration of the event.

We should do everything we can to let the community know how special an event someone professing the faith is, and to congratulate and affirm every member of the parish community for playing a part in the salvation of that soul!

For converts or people coming into full communion give a 30-60 second version of the conversion story. This not only let’s the congregation know a little more about the person(s), it let’s them know what techniques are effective. Be sure to point out anyone in the parish who helped them along in their journey. Additionally, point out that every member of the parish also can claim part of the new persons entry into the Church. Even though they may not have been directly involved, by participating in the prayers, by supporting financially, by helping in service they all had a part in that person joining the faith.

B. Everybody wants to be part of a winning team. Use every opportunity discuss the positive things that are going on in your parish. Your annual giving letters or “vision night” dinners should start off with success stories and end with plans for the future. Preferable these areas should be presented by the key ministry leaders or significant people making the success happen. How many new people/families, Baptisms, Confirmations and the wonderful plans on how you are going to reach the lost in the future.

C. Other than emergency repairs, Capital Campaigns should be focused on “we have run out of room and have kid’s classes playing in the hallway” or “ The sanctuary is 80% full at both services” rather than “we want something new and shiny”. Of course if your ministry areas have gained traction and you can confidently create projections this could be a reasonable justification for asking as well.  Show a need born of growth and the financial support will happen. For the most part parishioners are generous givers. If we educate about the place giving has in the life of a Christian (in their formation), then give folks a specific purpose for which the funding will be used, I have found the finances are provided. When people see you are on a mission for souls, particularly in our lost world, those who have the means will support the effort. Living in America we are truly blessed.

2 thoughts on “More thoughts on how to grow a parish

  1. Pingback: Some thoughts on how to grow a parish | Anglicanorum Coetibus Society Blog

  2. We need to be much more careful in our use of terminology. The misuse of terms such as “convert” and “conversion” in reference to those who come into the full communion of the Catholic Church is both theologically wrong and construed as offensive by members of at least some other Christian denominations. This misuse does appear in No. 69 of the sacred constitution Sacrosanctum concillium on divine worship directing that “a new rite should be drawn up for converts who are already baptized…” to be sure — but that was the very first major document promulgated by the council, coming at a time when theological principles of ecumenism were still coming into clarity, and it definitively was NOT a dogmatic document that would be intrinsically infallible. The same council promulgated the theological corrective about a year later, in No. 15 of the dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium (citations removed).

    15. The Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those who, being baptized, are honored with the name of Christian, though they do not profess the faith in its entirety or do not preserve unity of communion with the successor of Peter. For there are many who honor Sacred Scripture, taking it as a norm of belief and a pattern of life, and who show a sincere zeal. They lovingly believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, the Son of God and Saviour. They are consecrated by baptism, in which they are united with Christ. They also recognize and accept other sacraments within their own Churches or ecclesiastical communities. Many of them rejoice in the episcopate, celebrate the Holy Eucharist and cultivate devotion toward the Virgin Mother of God. They also share with us in prayer and other spiritual benefits. Likewise we can say that in some real way they are joined with us in the Holy Spirit, for to them too He gives His gifts and graces whereby He is operative among them with His sanctifying power. Some indeed He has strengthened to the extent of the shedding of their blood. In all of Christ’s disciples the Spirit arouses the desire to be peacefully united, in the manner determined by Christ, as one flock under one shepherd, and He prompts them to pursue this end. Mother Church never ceases to pray, hope and work that this may come about. She exhorts her children to purification and renewal so that the sign of Christ may shine more brightly over the face of the earth.

    Fundamentally, those who are already Christian are NOT converting to Christian faith when they come into the full communion of the Catholic Church. Thus, the Vatican carefully chose the (rather wordy) title of Reception of Baptized Christians into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church — carefully avoiding the word “convert” completely — for the new liturgical rite in question. Further, the general instructions within that rite state direct avoidance of any confusion between candidates for reception into full communion and converts. The reason is simple: baptism is the fundamental mark of conversion to Christian faith — and members of other Christian bodies, who are validly baptized, rightfully take umbrage when we use terminology that carries a contrary indication. For this reason, it is more appropriate for persons who were baptized in other Christian denominations, but not subsequently catechized, to participate in formation programs for similarly situated adults baptized in the Catholic Church than in the formation program of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), which is exclusively for those who are not yet baptized.

    This may seem minor, but use of terms such as “convert” and “conversion” in reference to people who are already baptized actually pushes at least some of those people away — which clearly is NOT what we want to do.



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