In Light Of Our 10-Year “Master Plan” Roll Out - Part 1

I wanted to offer some thoughts in light of the recent presentation of our 10-Year “Master Plan” last week. Recently, I’ve been reading two books, which deal with the subject of measuring the spiritual maturity and spiritual growth of parishioners, parishes and congregations. One book was written by Greg Hawkins, Executive Pastor, Willow Creek Association. Although a member of a large “mega-church,” his sentiments as a “church leader,” exactly mirror my thoughts and concerns as well as those that I have heard from conscientious parishioners at St. Monica and other Roman Catholic parishes.


Willow Creek is a highly “successful” congregation. Since the mid-1970’s they’ve grown froGreg Hawkinsm a small “store-front” church to a massive 5,000-per-weekend assembly. Their Pastor, Bill Hybels is a world-renown Christian leader, author of numerous books on pastoring, leadership and spirituality and founder of Willow Creek’s annual “Leadership Summit,” a two-day, world-class leadership event experienced by more than 170,000 leaders around the world.


These people are good and they have gotten a lot of things right. Nevertheless, in 2004 Greg and colleague Cally Parkinson approached Pastor Bill and began to ask some honest and very uncomfortable questions like, “Are we really getting it right? Are our people really growing spiritually? Are we really doing what we should be doing? Are we truly doing God’s work?” To answer those questions, they hired the Vanderbloemen Research Group to conduct a survey of the Willow Creek Community.

The results kept Pastor Bill Hybels up during the night over the next 5 days and caused a total transformation in what Willow Creek has become and now does. The implications were so astounding that Willow Creek published a book on the study entitled, REVEAL (One of the two books I am currently reading). To confirm their findings, over the next 3 years further Reveal surveys looked at an additional 500 Churches and conducted 11,000 individual surveys involving numerous denominations. After six years, additional data was collected from 250,000 people in well over a thousand churches of every size, denomination, and geographic area.


I believe that the courage to ask such important and uncomfortable questions, as well as to honestly discern the results, have relevant implications for the Catholic Church, and possibly for St. Monica as well, as we look into our future.


As a result of these more extensive studies, Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson published further insights about the Reveal surveys in their book, Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth (The second book I am reading).

Let me state some of their key findings. I’ll go into the details of these findings over the next two weeks.

The FIRST most important finding: Church activity does not predict - nor drive - long-term spiritual growth.

The SECOND most important finding: Engagement with the Scriptures (especially on daily basis) was the single, greatest indicator of continued, personal, spiritual growth.

The THIRD most important finding: More than 25% of people surveyed – and in some cases even as many as 50% - were either spiritually “stalled” (They believe in Christ but haven’t grown in their faith recently) or “dissatisfied” with their church (Their faith is central to their lives but their church is letting them down).

Two alarming facts:

  1. Up to 65% of this group was seriously considering leaving their church/parish.
  2. These people are the ones who attend Mass most frequently, the most active, the most engaged and the most generous in terms of time, talent and treasure.



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