In Light Of Our 10-Year “Master Plan” Roll Out – Part 2
Last week I wrote about several books I am reading. These include Reveal and Move by Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson (who are members of Willow Creek Church Pastored by Bill Hybels) as well as Forming Intentional Disciples by Catholic cuthor and speaker, Sherry Weddell. I have been reading and writing about the ideas found in these books in light of the recent presentation of our 10-Year “Master Plan.” They deal with the subjects of spiritual maturity and spiritual growth of parishioners, parishes and congregations. I offered three key findings from the research done by Hawkins and Parkinson. Their research and ideas mirror my thoughts and concerns about St. Monica and other Roman Catholic parishes.
As we move forward, I believe that the courage to ask important and uncomfortable questions, as well as to honestly discern answers, have relevant implications for the Catholic Church, and possibly for St. Monica as well, as we look into our future.
The FIRST most important finding: Church activity does not predict – nor drive – long-term spiritual growth.
- Many ”active” church attending congregants (who have been faithfully attending church for 5 years or more) are not exploring, and thus deepening, their own personal faith. Although attending church all of the time, they have basically become ”apathetic, non-believers.”
- Such “non-believing” believers are less likely to develop a long-term, personal, mature relationship with Christ.
- Many “devoted” congregants are not even active in their church. 80% say they love God but:
- 30% don’t serve the church in any capacity
- 40% don’t contribute to their church in any consistent, significant, meaningful way.
- 50% don’t serve the poor during the year.
The second most important finding: Engagement with the Scriptures (especially on daily basis) was the single, greatest indicator of continued, personal, spiritual growth. And yet:
- 80% of church members were not engaging Scripture on regular basis. (Personal comment: This statistics dealt with Protestant, Evangelical, “Reformation-Theology, Bible-based” congregations. I would imagine that the Catholic percentage is most likely even lower.)
- There are two groups of people who regularly “attend church” but who are not growing in their faith. They are those who are spiritually “stalled” (people who believe in Christ but have done nothing recently to grow their faith) or spiritually “dissatisfied” (people whose faith is central to their lives but feel that their church is letting them down). These two groups account for 25% of church-attending parishioners – and the percentage can be as high as 50%! This was the statistic that most frightened Pastor Bill Hybels. In effect, it said that up to 50% of his congregation – the most active, most engaged, most mature – were so disaffected with how little they were being fed, that they are almost ready to leave!
Incidentally, this is not just an Evangelical/Protestant phenomenon. In her book, Forming Intentional Disciples, Catherine of Siena founder, Sherry Weddell sees similar comparative results between the findings of the Reveal survey within Roman Catholic demographics. For example:
- Only 30% of Americans raised Catholic are still practicing.
- 10% of all adults in America (or 31 million) are ex-Catholics or fallen-away Catholic. Demographically, this represents the largest “religious group” in U.S.
- By age 23 … 79% of those who have stopped calling themselves “Catholic” claim no religious affiliation of any kind.
- Among men and women who were raised Catholics, converting and becoming Protestant is the best guarantee of stable church attendance as an adult.
- The majority of adult Catholics are uncertain that a personal relationship with God is possible. This is critical because the research showed that a “personal relationship with God” was the single, greatest indicator of Mass attendance.
Some other important findings:
- There are not short-term solutions.
- There is no “magic bullet” or “killer app” to address these issues.
- Leadership matters.