Case Study: Best Practices in Parish Logistics

This is a follow-on to yesterday’s post, in which I pointed out problems.  Big ones.  Today let’s talk solutions.  Before I get on to the case study I want to share, here are a couple  links to the Jesus is Lord adult-discipleship program:

This works.  If you want a parish full of adult disciples, click through and take notes.

Something completely different, worth your attention if you are looking for a parent-involved discipleship program for teens, is YDisciple.

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My post for today is a variant on the business-school case study, operations-management edition — but instead of maximizing profit, let’s look at a parish that has made a goal of maximizing souls-served.  I like this particular example because there was no revolution: Successful practices were kept in place, and changes were implemented slowly and gently.

The Parish: St. Urban’s is a historic Main Street parish located in the business district of a mid-size city.  It serves several populations:

  • Weekday workers in the nearby office buildings.
  • Sunday morning parishioners who come in from the surrounding suburbs.
  • Active retirees who like weekday Masses, social events, and service opportunities.

The parish has an elementary school that serves several parishes in the region, and is favored by non-Catholics as well.  This is a traditionally English-speaking parish, but in the past decade the Spanish-speaking community, which is economically and socially very diverse, has increased significantly.

Solution #1: Change daily Mass times to meet the needs of parishioners.  A nearby parish offers before-work daily Mass.  St. Urban’s moved weekday Masses to noon four days a week, so that workers could attend during lunch break.  The fifth weekday is the weekly school Mass, which is held at a time suited to the school’s schedule.

Solution #2:  Provide whole-parish faith formation at a time suited to the local culture.  Wednesday night in the South is traditionally church-night.  The parish offers adult faith-formation courses in both English and Spanish that coincide with children’s religious education on that evening.  The pastor literally walks the grounds and invites loose parents to come inside and attend classes.

Solution #3: Identify and serve neglected parishioners: To serve the young, childless professionals of the parish, the parish offers a monthly gathering that is part-social, part-catechetical.  A men’s prayer group was formed that meets before work once a week.

Solution #4: Stack special offerings so they work with rather than against each other.  When the confirmation students asked for Adoration during their annual retreat, it was scheduled to follow the Saturday-evening Mass, so that parishioners at the vigil Mass could participate as well.  For Lent, a Wednesday midday Stations of the Cross, followed by Adoration all afternoon, then closing after quitting-time with Benediction and a communal meal prior to the start of religious ed, serves all three major communities of parishioners — downtown workers, retirees, and families coming in for evening faith formation.

Solution #5: If it works, keep it.  Renewal is directed primarily towards making minor improvements to existing programs or ministries, and adding-to, rather than replacing, what is already working well-enough .

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None of these solutions matter if the Gospel is not preached.  A well-run organization is better-able to achieve its mission, but whether that mission is the salvation of souls is another question altogether.   I share this example because if your goal is to turn adult Christians into disciples, figuring out the logistics matters.  There are many parishes doing good work in bringing souls to Christ, and it’s worth our time to recognize them and learn from them.

File:Clock of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, Damascus.jpg

Photo by Bernard Gagnon (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia CommonsClock on the roof of Our Lady of Dormition Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchal Cathedral, Damascus, Syria.

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About Jennifer Fitz

Jennifer Fitz is the mother of four fantabulous children, and author of Classroom Management for Catechists. She writes online for Patheos and for the Catholic Conspiracy. When she isn't blogging, teaching, or complaining about something, she likes to play outside.