Over the past two weeks I have reflected about several books I am reading (Reveal and Move by Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson as well as Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell) in light of the recent presentation of our 10-Year “Master Plan” last week. They deal with the subjects of spiritual maturity and spiritual growth of parishioners, parishes and congregations. The author’s 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.
Last week I mentioned some of the sobering statistics that Reveal found. This week, let me open with some more positive notes:
First, the results from Reveal claim that you can, indeed, statistically measure something as transcendent as a person’s “heart” and, thus, the spiritual health and growth of a parish/congregation/assembly. They conclude that you can predict the “spiritual growth” of a person and congregation based on developing:
- A “framework,”
- Based on how people describe their relationship with Jesus Christ,
- With “Spiritual Growth” as defined for participants as “Love of God and Love of Others” (Matthew 22:36-40).
Some other findings:
Reveal and Move show that people go through “stages” in spiritual growth. They present four:
- Exploring Christ: Getting to Know Those Who Are Searching for God
- Growing in Christ: Getting to Know Those Who Are Open to God
- Close to Christ: Getting to Know Those Who Are on Personal Terms with God
- Christ-Centered: Getting to Know Those Who Are Surrendered to God.
Move and Reveal also found three “spiritual movements” between the stages. In addition, the studies also revealed catalysts and barriers to spiritual growth. I personally saw these catalysts and barriers as critical items for further and future discussion. They go to the hearts of why so many Roman Catholics have left the church. They also provide some insights into what we must do to reach out, invite and bring them “home” again.
- Initial Trust
- Spiritual Curiosity
- Spiritual Openness
- Spiritual Seeking
- Intentional Discipleship
The good news: both Intentional Disciples and Reveal/Move present an optimistic view that the spiritual maturity of people can be determined and, more importantly, nurtured. Both, however, make it explicitly and urgently clear that if we are going to spiritually grow our churches, doing what we have been doing up to now will simply not work (It’s not working now!)
So what do we do next?
Greg Hawkins and Willow Creek have offered an invitation, free of charge, to 500 other churches to participate in a similar survey on the spiritual life of their congregation and the role that your church plays in the development of your spiritual life. In addition to an individual assessment, Willow Creek will later publish the results of the aggregate study of all 500 churches to allow these churches to learn from each other and to help grow and nourish the spiritual growth of their people.
Now, I am NOT asking us to be one of these churches. (Surprised?) My reasoning:
- REVEAL and MOVE come from a Bible-based, Evangelical world-view. Thus, there is a bias towards that type of Evangelical/Protestant/Reformation Theology both in the questionnaire, in the results that are presented, in the implications and in the recommendations.
- We’ve utilized several analytical tools here at St. Monica over the past 12 months (“Called and Gifted” I and II, KRA/SMART Goals and Charters from Good Leaders-Good Shepherds, The Catherine of Siena “Spiritual Inventory”). Another analytic tool so soon might be counter-productive.
- It might be good to see what impact the 10-Year “Master Plan” has on the parish and what activities are “teased out” from the conversations following the presentation of the “Master Plan.”
- We don’t know what events, corresponding with World Meeting of Families and the Papal visit to Philadelphia, could impact our parish.
- Rather than another analysis, I think I would simply like to begin regular conversations (perhaps formally and regularly scheduled) with members of Parish Leadership and other select parishioners on what they see happening in the parish and to discern how the Holy Spirit seems to be moving (or not) in St. Monica.
- Guess what? Several Roman Catholic leaders were involved in the initial self studies at Willow Creek (Surprise-surprise!). I have heard that a “Roman Catholic version” of Reveal is currently under development and is currently being beta-tested in the United States. Thus, I would like to wait until a more “Catholic-theologically-based” tool is available.