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Decisions, Direction and the “Disciple Maker Index” – PART 2

I wanted to inform our parish of St. Monica on a number of important decisions and provide a roadmap for the parish for the next several months. Last week I started outlining  the need for St. Monica to begin integrating various aspects of the parish. Our grade-school youth program (Edge), our high-school youth program (Lifeteen), our young adult and family ministries together with service and social activities, need to be interwoven with discipleship, developing a closer personal relationship with Jesus and growing the individual faith of each parishioner.

Over the past 9 months, a group of parishioners have been meeting with me to take an honest look at where St. Monica is now and discern where the Lord wishes to take the parish in the future. 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. The DMI looks at spiritual health and growth through several themes such as:

  • How a parish helps someone grow spiritually?
  • How the parish tends to its resources in support of spiritual growth?
  • What are the personal spiritual and religious beliefs of parishioners?
  • What are the faith practices and behaviors of parishioners?
  • Do parishioners share their faith with others?
  • How well do adults share their faith with their children?

Let me begin providing some details about what the survey found.

The DMI results encompassed 55 questions and statements divided into several categories. For you “statistic wonks,” an overview of the St. Monica scores can be seen immediately below.  A larger, easier to see version can be found here. Click on the “expand” arrows located in the lower right hand side of the slide.

 

 

Where did St. Monica score well? Under, Community: How The Parish Stewards, Helps and Supports Spiritual Growth? .. St. Monica is performing better that medium-sized parishes, suburban parishes and the average of all parishes in the archdiocese and nationwide in 3 specific areas: (1) providing financial transparency, (2) making information available and accessible to parishioners and (3) giving parishioners the sense that they are included in parish decisions. Areas for growth include support of people in time of need and a sense that the parish is truly “welcoming” (and not just “nice”). “Providing parishioners with opportunities to serve” and “following up with people after they express an interest to be involved” were two critical areas where we could do substantially better.

Other areas where St. Monica scored well were in the category of Personal Faith Practices and Behaviors. Compared to other parishes, St. Monica scored relatively higher in terms of the frequency of parishioners who attend retreats, go to Confession, attend Eucharistic Adoration as well as participation of parishioners in study/prayer groups. I would point to this last item as representing a “Walking With Purpose” effect where a statistically significant of people who took the survey either attend WWP or know people who do. In other areas (devotions, attending catechetical classes, Mass attendance, attending parish social events and inviting others to do so)  St. Monica scored about the same as other parishes around the archdiocese and the country. Where we don’t do as well is in our individual prayer time, inviting people to Mass or in inviting people to consider the priesthood or religious life.

There were naturally areas where St. Monica needs to focus and improve. All items under “Ways The Parish Helps Me Grow Spiritually” were areas for growth. Parishioners felt that the parish could better help them grow spiritually through “sacramental preparation, retreats and workshops, through vibrant and engaging liturgies” and helping people with their prayer life.  “Forming people to be disciples” was a critical area to be addressed. This was especially interesting considering that St. Monica had recently brought in Catherine of Siena Institute to hold their “Called and Gifted” spiritual gifts inventory/discipleship seminar for the second time in three years.

Items under Personal Spiritual and Religious Beliefs showed an interesting dichotomy. St. Monica scored in the same range as national and archdiocesan parishes in the belief that “the Eucharist is indeed the Body and Blood of Christ,” that “Jesus died and rose again” and that “Scripture is the inspired Word of God.” Four items in this category were critical areas that might merit further discussion. Not many parishioners felt that St. Monica “helps me in my spiritual growth.”  Relatively few also felt that the teaching of Jesus Christ or the teachings of the Church are normative in their life. It begs the question, why is that?

Evangelization: What the Parish Has or Does that Helps Me Share My Faith With Others is a significant area for growth.   “Confidence in church teaching,” “providing parish events worth inviting others to,” “my willingness/ability to share my personal faith story” or “my willingness/ability to share the Jesus story with others” were items where St. Monica scored relatively lower than similar parishes, parishes in the archdiocese and parishes nationwide. Critical areas included the idea that an overwhelming number of parishioner do not sense “God working in their lives.”  Many also felt that “pastoral care of others” was not strong.

Two final questions really jumped out. Relative to other parishes, very few St. Monica parishioners/parents felt that “Helping my child grow in their faith in Jesus Christ is my critical responsibility.”  Correspondingly, few also felt that St. Monica provided “what I need to help my child grow in his/her faith in Jesus Christ.”

 

Ok, what next? I shall begin to outline the answer to that question next week.

 

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