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Parish Renewal: Making the Next Best Decision

Updated: Sep 23, 2021


In another one of my articles, I spoke about the need for any pastor or parish team to make small incremental changes when evangelizing. I advised that even a 1% change to key ministries could have positive and lasting effects for the whole community.


Admittedly though, I left out one important step in that article so that I could talk about it here.


You see, it is not enough to create positive and lasting effects at the parish level, which sounds surprising, I know.What we really need is for those small positive changes to be felt by the community.


This is so important.

From the point of view of visitors and parishioners then, even though a 1% change might not be noticed, the experience that the 1% brings certainly should be.

The parish must be able to feel a positive change from the actions initiated by you. Even if they cannot quite figure out what it is that was done, parishioners and visitors alike should be saying things like:


I don’t know what the choir did but they sound better to me.


OR


I’m not sure when it happened but now I genuinely like seeing the greeters at the door.


From the point of view of visitors and parishioners then, even though a 1% change might not be noticed, the experience that the 1% brings certainly should be.


THAT BEING SAID ...


There is an important principle to consider here whenever we implement our evangelizing strategies at the parish level.


Positive actions always have positive and negative reactions from the community.


If you need any convincing about this, simply ask any pastor who has been at work in the Lord’s vineyard for more than a month. He will tell you that no matter what he does, even if it is done with the best of intentions, and even if it is in response to a request, that decision to act will still have a negative reaction.


For example, imagine that the pastor asks the head of the music ministry to come up with a list of songs for the choir to sing during Lent. No doubt there will be some positive responses to this, but we would be naive to believe that there would not be at the same time negative reactions. After all, some will think that the best songs were left out, others will think that more songs should have been included, and still others will believe that it is never a good idea to plan such things.


WHAT SHOULD WE DO ABOUT THIS?


Well, most pastors and their teams tend to grow in two opposing directions.


One option is “to grow a thicker skin” and just “do what we think is right anyway.” And while this seems like a noble thing to do, over time, the negative reactions can pile up, eventually sabotaging otherwise good fruit.


The other option is to refrain from making decisions (and change) unless it is absolutely necessary. Needless to say, this has been the preferred option of pastors and their teams for a few generations now, and the result (as we can all see) is a lifeless parish.


A better solution is to use a tool like the Evangelization Decision Map we provide to our subscribers. These are mind maps that really help you to think through the reactions of any evangelizing decision for your parish.


What I like about simple worksheets like these is that they very quickly give you a visual representation of what could happen if you choose to go in one direction as opposed to another. But you don’t need to use ours. Simply grab some blank pieces of paper and start by placing your potential decision at the centre of the page.


Now, on either side of the decision, place the names of the various interest groups that might be affected by the decision, either directly or indirectly.


Finally, using a green pen or marker, draw a line from the centre decision to each group that will have a positive response to the change. Now write down exactly how you think they will experience the decision. Ask yourself, “How would they express their positive response? What would people within this interest group say to each other?”


Do the same with a red pen or marker. Simply draw a red line from the decision in the middle outward to those groups that will have a negative reaction. Now ask yourself the same questions. “How would the people within this interest group express their negative responses? What would they say to each other?”


Once completed, step back and look at the totality of the image. If you are with a team, begin asking one another questions like, “Is this change worth all of the negative responses that could occur?” Or “Is there another variation of the decision that could eliminate even some of these negative responses?”


What you’re aiming for is a decision whose positive responses far outweigh the negative, and if possible, actually encourages further positive change within the various interest groups themselves.


Remember, in parish communities, no decision to promote evangelization happens in isolation. It will either be a good fit for the community and its various pieces, or it won’t. Our job then, as leaders in evangelization, is to figure out whether it fits before the change takes place.


Take the time to walk through the exercise whenever you are considering any evangelizing initiative. Doing so will help you to have a better understanding of what might be coming in response. Because knowledge like that can only help you and your community in the long run!



in Christ,


patrick

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