For the vast majority of Catholics in the world, the faith is lived and learned and experienced in the local parish. The parish is the heart of the Church. But our hearts aren’t always that healthy. It’s an encouraging sign that there are a growing number of parishes and organizations who are making good progress toward getting “heart healthy” so the rest of the body can grow and flourish. This week I’ve been spending time with a dozen or so such parishes with our friends at Parish Catalyst in Los Angeles. I want to highlight three insights they focus on that can help every parish get moving in the right direction.
- Commitment to Community
The core of Parish Catalyst is its “Learning Communities.” Each Learning Community includes between 10-12 pastors and their pastoral teams, who collaborate in a process aimed at accelerating parish vitality and growth. The teamwork and intensity that’s fostered in close proximity is very special to witness.
Learning happens best in a community or association of parishes. Churches that work together grow together. While many parishes are being “consolidated,” and that may hurt, why not look for an opportunity to collaborate in a new way? That’s also why at Nativity we’ve organized the Rebuilt Parish Association, which connects parishes that want to work together and share ideas and resources to make the vision a reality.
- Commitment to Excellence
Excellence honors God, and God honoring parishes strive for excellence. Excellence is not the same as perfection or never making mistakes. Instead it’s about striving to create the best possible experience using the fullness of the community’s gifts and resources.
Excellence also evangelizes. People are drawn to music, ministry, and messages that are done well. Commitment to excellence is never self-serving, but for the sake of clearer goals and mission, stronger leadership, wider community engagement, and greater impact in missions and ministry.
- Commitment to Innovation
Cultural change requires innovation and influence. As church leaders, one of our tasks is identifying others committed to innovation who can then be the influencers of the next generation. For example, the parishes in Parish Catalyst serve as testing grounds for new approaches to ministry, which they can hone before sharing them with other communities. Innovation requires room and permission to try something new and permission to fail. A commitment to innovation has never been more important in the Church than it is right now.