Why parishes matter (and how you can make yours amazing)

By: OSV Newsweekly

Parish life is the primary way Catholics participate in the life of the Church, and yet experiences can vary widely from parish to parish. From small, rural churches that share one priest to larger parishes with multiple programs, all parishes have a critical role in passing on the Faith. Patrick Lencioni and John Martin co-founded the Amazing Parish movement to do just that: to help parishes better fulfill their mission in forming disciples for Christ.

The Amazing Parish model is built on three basic elements: first, prayer concerning all aspects of the parish’s life, especially asking for God’s guidance in the appropriate use of funds and the hiring process for parish employees; second, that a parish leadership team functions as a healthy organization, having fruitful meetings while offering support and counsel to the pastor; and third, that the parish is focused outward in discipleship and evangelization.

Our Sunday Visitor spoke with Lencioni about the movement that has been serving parishes since 2013.

Our Sunday Visitor: What was your inspiration for starting Amazing Parish?

Patrick Lencioni: I knew life was not fulfilling pursuing worldly goals, and I felt like I needed to do something for the Church. One of the gifts God gave me was organizational leadership consulting and teamwork consulting, and I saw that maybe I could do something there. I got together with John Martin, and we asked, “What does the Church need?” We first met the day Pope Francis was elected, and we came to the conclusion that parish life is one of the main things because that’s where so many people get to know the Church and the Faith. We prayed, talked to people and read. Then we launched our website and put together a conference, as a test to see if a few parishes would come, and more than 100 came from all over North America. We’ve had more than five conferences now, and over 600 parishes have gone through the program, and there’s great demand for more. We are humbled that the Holy Spirit is working through all this.

OSV: What is one of the first things you focus on when you work with a parish?

Lencioni: We work on the one thing all parishes have in common, which is what we call the “Sunday experience.” That includes the Mass and everything around it, what we call homilies, hymns and hospitality, or music, message and ministry. Basically, you have to welcome people and create a good environment for Mass; you have to sing and make it beautiful to go along with the Mass; and you have to help people understand how to live the message of the Gospel. So, that’s just the very tactical thing we do at our conferences, and it actually runs the gamut against the model of the Amazing Parish.

3 Building Blocks to A Better Parish
Amazing Parish cites three “building blocks” every parish needs to “revitalize the Church by equipping her pastors and leaders with the training, resources and support they need to create vibrant and thriving parishes.” These building blocks, found at AmazingParish.org, are:
 
A Reliance on Prayer and the Sacraments: These expressions of our faith are outward signs of our dependence on God and our need for that grace in our lives. Here we focus on the fundamental role of prayer and the sacraments have in an Amazing Parish.
 

OSV: What are some of the signs that a parish is engaged in a healthy level of evangelization and discipleship?

Lencioni: I would say active participation both in sacraments and in learning about the Faith and then going out and sharing the Faith with others. It’s not just internal, and it’s not all about a program; the people in the parish are going out and walking with others as they come to know Jesus. In a healthy parish, you’ll see both outreach in terms of serving the poor and programs to share the Gospel with people individually. Whether they are bringing people into the parish or going out in the community serving, it’s just alive and going out.

OSV: What are the challenges that come from implementing this model?

Lencioni: One of the hardest things for parishes is to figure out what to stop doing first. And having the courage and the wisdom to say, “We’re not going to do this program anymore, because it’s not really working.” Yes, there’s going to be a handful of people who say, “We’ve always done it that way,” but you’ve got to love them enough to help them understand why we’re changing, and you have to have the courage to take a different approach. One of the things we do at the conference is help people understand how to lead the parish through transition, because it’s one thing to come up with a new model to help people in your parish, and it’s another thing to actually implement it. Implementation is much harder. People have to come to terms with the pain they are going to go through before they experience the good stuff.

OSV: The leadership aspect of the Amazing Parish model largely seems to be based on business practices. How have people responded to the idea of running certain aspects of parish life like a business?

Lencioni: I think once they see what it means they are very excited. Because it’s not actually borrowing business principles, it’s using common sense, truth and wisdom and applying it to groups of people trying to get things done. It just so happens that businesses do that because, when you have a profit margin on the line, people ask what’s the best way we can get this done and get the most money. That same sense of urgency, rigor and high standards should exist in a greater sense in a parish, because it’s far more important in terms of bringing people to Christ.

OSV: Is there anything you would like to add?

Lencioni: The most important thing is that we are doing this out of love for the Church and love for priests. We’re just trying to provide a humble service.

I was a secular person serving secular organizations in the secular world, and I really wanted to serve my Church. And what a pleasure it is to do this; it feels like this is probably why God gave me the talents he gave me. I feel so blessed that I’m actually applying the talents that he gave me that I never thought I would be able to use to the organization that matters most.

We have great love for, respect for and humility around helping priests in this area. We’re not saying that their jobs are easy or that we’re better than they are. They’ve given their lives to the Church and to all of us.

We honor them, and we’re not coming at this from a standpoint of how to do their jobs. It’s to serve them by helping them recognize things that, [because] they are so busy, it’s hard for them to remember.

 

 

This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.

 

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