Pastoral Plan Development
One of the vital elements needed to provide for the spiritual needs of the parish is an infrastructure within which to do so. These systems are most often found within programs that parishes purchase from publishers or ministries. For example, a youth ministry program might use Life Teen, which provides the “how-to” (structure or infrastructure) to distribute the catechetical material to teens. Parishes like these programs because they are user-friendly. While this makes perfect sense in one way, it often causes problems as well.
Parishes often lack any universal infrastructure that encompasses all the ministries, has a common vision and produces a common result. We use these plans or programs in every facet of parish life except evangelization. That is to say, we have no universal plan or infrastructure to make authentic disciples of Jesus Christ within our parishes. We have assumed that taking a child through the traditional religious education process (including Catholic schools) accomplishes this goal, but the call for a New Evangelization helps us recognize that we are not accomplishing the mission. We must no longer assume that just because a teenager (or adult) receives all the sacraments that they have decided to become a disciple of Jesus.
Creating a Pastoral Plan is not an easy task. It is as difficult, if not more so, as creating a plan to build a new church. In the past six years of NEM’s experience in working with parishes to create a plan, most parishes have been tempted to look for easier ways of bringing about renewal in their parishes. Once the Spirit brings a new wind through the parish, they focus on keeping that fire going and lose sight of the plan before it is complete. What is the value of embarking on a building program for a new church when at the end of your efforts; you have only half a building?
From a business model perspective, stock owners invest their money in companies that provide a product or service that will provide a dividend. The dividend comes from people who will purchase the car let’s say, because it works and provides the quality the owner desires. The better the car value, the more you sell. If a car comes down the assembly line, and it doesn’t work as the designers of the production line intended, they will do one of two things — go out of business because no one is buying their product, or evaluate why things aren’t working and fix them.
If our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ and we are not producing them, we will go out of business!
Roughly, eighty percent of baptized Catholics in the United States are no longer practicing the Catholic Faith. This is a huge indicator that we have to go back and examine why we are not producing authentic disciples. We must resolve those issues and begin the work anew to produce our desired result – those individuals who desire to live with and for Jesus Christ now!
We believe that within this current climate in the United States, parishes must make changes so the parish can produce authentic disciples of Jesus. If they don’t go through the difficult work of morphing into authentic disciple factories, they will blow away when severe persecution comes. To accomplish this they must have a plan that will keep the process moving over time because the goal is far beyond attaining the sacraments.
The goal must be to have every ministry in the parish working toward, talking about and providing the model of being an authentic disciple of Jesus Christ.
This modeling must occur no matter what you do in the life within the church; everyone is committed to evangelization and then training those they minister to and with up to be a follower of Jesus.