Decisions, Direction and the “Disciple Maker Index” - PART 1

I wanted to have a conversation with St. Monica on a number of important decisions and provide a roadmap for the parish for the next several months.

When I arrived, it was said that “family and youth” were top parish priorities. My concern was that the parish seemed to be organized in “silos” so that grade-school youth, high-school youth were not tied into ministries to young adults and families. None of these, in turn were integrated with worship and liturgy. In addition, service and social activities were out on their own. Finally, the idea that all of these needed to be interwoven with discipleship, developing a closer personal relationship with Jesus and growing the individual faith of each parishioner was a totally foreign concept to an overwhelming number of parishioners.

When we hired Jason Carter, I tasked him to begin to bring all of these facets of parish life together. I recently appointed Jason to be “Team Leader,” together with Diane Pealer and a person yet to be hired, to begin to move the Parish of St. Monica in this direction.

As I outlined in a number of recent blog posts, over the past 9 months, a group of parishioners have been meeting with me to read the “signs of the times,” take an honest look at where St. Monica is now, and discern where the Lord wishes to take the parish in the future. The two overreaching questions that guided the conversation were: (1) What does Jesus Christ want the parish of St. Monica to look like in 5 years, and (2) If St. Monica closed tomorrow – besides parishioners, would anybody miss us? With the help of Catholic Leadership Institute and Catherine of Siena institute, we examined the results of the “Disciple Maker Index” (DMI) parish spirituality survey that we took several months ago. Let me outline what we found.

The DMI looks at spiritual health and growth through several themes such as:

  • How Does the Parish Help Me Grow Spiritually?
  • Stewardship: How Does the Parish Utilize Its Resources In Support of Spiritual Growth?
  • Relationships With – and Satisfaction With - the Catholic Faith, the parish, pastor, parish activities.
  • Personal Spiritual and Religious Beliefs.
  • Personal Faith Practices and Behaviors.
  • Evangelization: Sharing My Faith With Others.
  • Growing and “Forming” The Faith of Our Children
  • Overall “Faith Maturity”
  • Demographic Data

The DMI results were presented in two types of charts. Examples of the two charts are provided here:



The first chart describes two types of charts presented. The key to the second slide is to realize that, when we analyzed the DMI results, my team and I strongly focused on the “Strongly Agree” answers. The reason is the “halo effect.” Many people might not “Strongly Agree” with a particular statement, but are too nice to answer “Neither Agree or Disagree” or even “Disagree.” Thus they put down “Agree” as their answer. Thus, the people who answered “Strongly Agree” are the true promoters in each case and these are the people St. Monica can count on to move any particular issue or indicator higher.

Let me present two examples. The two sides below are actual charts from St. Monica results. The first one was from the category: Personal Faith Practices and Behaviors. It answered the question: “How often did parishioners at St. Monica attend a bible study over the past year?”



(A larger, easier to read version of the slide is here. Click on the “expand” arrows in the lower right hand corner) The St. Monica score is represented by the bar in the middle. The three scores to the right provide comparison scores from “”Medium-Sized Parishes” (like ours), “Suburban Parishes” (like ours), the average of all of the parishes in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia who took the DMI and then the average of all parishes in the United States who took the DMI. As you can see, St. Monica scores rather well in comparison to these parishes. However, before we get too proud, look at the scores to the left of our score. These are the scores of the top three parishes in the United State for this particular question. We’re not bad, but we still have some work to do, don’t we?

The second example was from the category Stewardship: How Does the Parish Tend Its Resources In Support of Spiritual Growth? The question asked was, “How well does St. Monica provide financial transparency to the parishioners.” (A larger More readable version of the slide is here. Click on the “expand” arrows in the lower right hand corner) Again, St. Monica scored well (focus on the “Strongly Agree” score) in comparison to parishes similar to us as well as all Philadelphia parishes and parishes nation-wide. Nevertheless, we also have room to grow when compared to the “best practices” parishes in the survey.


Next week I shall go into the results of the DMI in more detail.

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