Next Steps #5 – Foundations, Formation and Finding Our Purpose
We recently completing renovations/repairs/reconfigurations to the St. Monica church. Now that we are well on the way to stewarding our facilities, we can begin to turn to other aspects of the parish. Over the past few weeks, I have been outlining my ideas on answering critical questions concerning the future of St. Monica Parish such as: “Why are we here? What would you have us do, Lord? What would Jesus want the Parish of St. Monica to look like in 5 years?” Last week I started with the first two – and probably the most critical – steps: Prayer and Engagement With The Bible. This week we look at the next two steps.
Third Step: Build The Foundation. When I first arrived three years ago, St. Monica was in a challenging, yet certainly not a unique position. St. Monica was a parish of “lights” and “shadows” with positive gifts, talents, resources as well as a history and culture about which it could be proud. Nevertheless, church facilities desperately needed updating – to the tune of close to $1.8 million. The incredible generosity of parishioners raised the necessary funding. Over the past two months we completed a $450,000 renovation/repair/reconfiguration of the church building which included new lighting, a new sound system, a new organ, a reconfigured choir area, new heating equipment, a new air conditioning system and a more flexible church configuration allowing us the ability to enhance the worship experience at St. Monica. Future renovations/repairs/reconfigurations are planned as finances become available from last year’s Master Plan Financial Campaign. This has moved us from being “behind the 8-ball” to having a church and facilities and a 5-year Master Plan, which puts us ahead of the curve and establishes a foundation to more easily integrate technology and resources to enhance various aspects of parish life in the future.
Fourth Step: Measure Spiritual Health of Parish. Is St. Monica a spiritually healthy parish? How can we determine that? We measure it. There are a number of instruments that have been developed over the past decade to allow churches to see how well they are fulfilling the “Great Commandment” and “Great Commissioning.” For example, Catholic Leadership Institute has developed their “Disciple Maker Index” which has been successfully tested at dioceses and archdioceses across the United States. The Gallop Company has offered the “ME 25” or “Faith Member Engagement Survey” to Catholic parishes for the past ten years. Willow Creek Church in Illinois started such studies in a significant way in 2003 which eventually led to the development of their “Spiritual Vitality Index” and the publication of two books covering the results entitled, Reveal and Move. We will choose one and roll it out in the beginning of 2017 to measure the spiritual vitality of the parish see how St. Monica is doing in terms of its “spiritual health.”
Fifth Step: Intentionally Determine The Call of Individual Parishioners. Having examined the spiritual health and vitality of the parish as a whole, we then turn to the spiritual vitality and health of individual parishioners.
Christians need to understand that they were born on purpose – for a purpose. How do you know what your purpose is? Start by asking yourself the question: “What am I good at? What do I enjoy doing? What is it that I do that seems to have a positive impact on events and people around me?” God gave you gifts and talents. He also gave you them for a reason. God probably wants you to use them for the benefit of His children around you and His greater glory.
To assist in this process, two year ago, parishioners were invited to enter into a more “intentional” relationship with Jesus Christ by investigating the idea of “discipleship” starting with the Called and Gifted seminar and utilizing a Spiritual Gifts Inventory from the Catherine of Siena Institute. This helped to first determine each person’s unique “charisms.” Next, 6-months of committed and intense prayer and discussion within a small-group community allowed people to discern how the Lord was leading them as individual followers of Christ and what their “call” might be.
What is your call and how do your gifts tie into that call? (Confer the Parish Vision: “Called By Name – Gifted By God – Committed to Prayer”). We have already begun, but we need to do this on a wider scale.
One final note of caution. This process can sometimes lead to some friction when couples enter into this process together. One person might “seem” to be further along in their spirituality or relationship with God. The other person can feel intimidated, insecure or threatened by this process. Being Catholic means being in relationship – with Christ and with others. Within human associations, relationships change. They grow and develop as people grow and develop. They also grow, change and develop in different spheres of the human person (physical, intellectual, emotional, artistic, relational, financial). It is perfectly normal – and it is to be expected – that people will be in different places in relation to another person. The same is true in spiritual relationships with Jesus Christ. As Pope John Paul II said, “Be not afraid! Put out into the deep water.” God knows who you are, where are are and what you need. His timing is also perfect. Allow the Lord to minister to you exactly and precisely as you need to be ministered to – at this time, in this place.
Next week we will cover the final two parts of the plan: Ministry and Mission.