All this week we have been in Denver for the first ever Amazing Parish Conference, and it was, well, amazing.
The brain child of several Catholic lay leaders including, most notably, best selling author and business consultant Patrick Lencioni, the basic idea was to bring together parishes from across the country to share ideas and best practices. About 150 parishes, 500 people, coming together from every part of the country, gathered in Denver. Their energy and excitement was refreshing and encouraging, and the overall experience simply delightful, as well as useful.
We spent two days reflecting on and discussing together 7 traits that all exceptional parishes share (at least according to those of us who helped organized this conference). Take a look:
1. A Reliance on Prayer
This is so obvious it is often overlooked. Of course parishes are places of prayer. However, when it comes to running a parish it is easy to forget that prayer must be central, that God wants us to turn to him every day, with every decision and before any effort.
2. A Real Leadership Team
No pastor, not even the best, can run a parish effectively (at least not for long) on his own. He needs a team who are collectively committed to working with him (not for him, with him).
3. A Clear Vision
No two parishes are the same; they all have unique challenges and different needs. But they all need a vision to best meet those needs and challenges.
4. The Sunday Experience
This was the piece that Tom and I presented at the conference. If people don’t have a great experience when they come to church on the weekend then whatever else the parish does, it is never going to be really amazing. This is the key piece to get right when it comes to growing healthy parishes and evangelization.
5. Faith Formation
It is the fundamental goal of the parish to be successfully forming increasingly mature students of Jesus Christ. This can be approached in many ways, and at all ages, but it has got to be at the heart of parish efforts.
6. Small Group Discipleship
Fellowship, pastoral care, discipleship, it can all most successfully happen in small groups formed at the heart of parish life.
7. Missionary Zeal
The fruit of an amazing parish will be the constant outflow of disciples who go out into the world, to serve and love others in the name of Christ.
This conference was one of several we have been a part of this year, and it remains to be seen what will emerge from these various initial efforts, more or less directed in the same direction of parish renewal.
For more information on The Amazing Parish project take a look at amazingparish.org