Change is inevitable, even in the Church. Technology moves at cyber speed, families are on the move more than ever before, and the culture around us seems to be more unrecognizable every day. In the face of all this challenging change, it is especially important to be grounded in deliberate values. That’s why we are using this space, over the next few weeks, to review our core values as a parish staff here at Nativity.
Our core values shape our culture, determine our decisions, and guide our steps (at least that’s the plan). Last week, we introduced the first value: simple. We don’t know what to do in every situation and we definitely don’t have all the answers, so we stick to our basics and keep it simple. Read that post here.
This week, we’ll be discussing a second value: adaptable.
Adaptability is about how we handle change without compromising our core identity or our unchanging faith. Humans are the most adaptable species on the earth. We can live in virtually any climate by changing just a few practices like diet and clothing. And yet, even with these changes, we retain our social nature and creativity. Our core identity and design remain steadfast.
At Nativity, we are unapologetically Roman Catholic. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our community life. We are unfailingly faithful to the Lectionary and Sacramentary, Canon Law, and liturgical rubrics, obedient to the Magisterium. Notwithstanding, we don’t always “look” very Catholic, if Catholic is defined as the cultural Catholicism of late 20th Century American suburban parishes. This fuels criticism from certain quarters (boy, does it ever), but is actually one of our core values. We have adapted our music and methods and even some of our ministries. We have adapted our strategies, we have rebuilt our facilities to meet and match our local culture and engage the unchurched, because what worked in 1968 doesn’t work anymore.
Being adaptable means (ironically) spending more time in planning meetings. Each Monday, our staff reviews every aspect of the past weekend from hospitality to parking to the facility itself. We have a separate meeting to review the weekend message (the homily). While it can be tempting to immediately begin working on the next weekend, setting aside time to review creates a system where honest feedback can be heard and changes made for the next weekend.
This can also happen in real-time during the weekend. We have four brief “check-in” meetings, one before the Saturday evening Mass, and one after (often the most important meeting of the four, because if there is an issue it will come up on Saturday), one before the Sunday morning Masses and one before the Sunday afternoon Mass. Regardless of what our plan was going into the weekend, we remain adaptable.
It also means being willing to experiment. Every so often, we’ll introduce a temporary change to our programs, operations, or weekend experience. Frequently, these experiments become permanent fixtures. Other times, they fail. What makes the failures worthwhile is what we learn from them.
Change in our culture is perhaps most apparent in technology. It’s not about competing with or imitating the culture. It is about using technology in ways that make it easier for people to hear our message.
For us, this means using social media and email to communicate with our members, online registration, check-in and giving, and the use of projector screens to display lyrics and Mass responses to enable those unfamiliar with the Mass to join in. Most significantly is our online broadcasting, reaching those in our community (and beyond) who otherwise would not experience church or hear God’s Word.
These are just a few examples of how we try to remain adaptable, keeping calm and carrying on in the head winds of relentless change.
Next week, we’ll be looking at a third value: growth-oriented.