Ten Things You Can Do NOW to Be Missionary Disciples
GO BACK TO THE BASICS
Make prayer the cornerstone of missionary conversion, but don’t assume people are comfortable with it – actively teach prayer techniques that open a conversation with God.
Consider these ideas for appealing to a variety of spiritual temperaments:
- Help people discover their “spiritual temperament” and the ways in which they can build a prayer life that responds to it.
- Explore prayer study programs such as Oremus from Ascension Press (https://shop.ascensionpress.com/t/category/study-programs/catholic-prayer/oremus)
- Invite various religious orders ( Carmelites, Jesuits, Franciscans, etc.) to visit your parish and introduce ways to pray that reflect their traditions.
- Start a ministry of intercessory prayer for your pastorate.
- Invite the homebound to pray
- Encourage prayer before the Blessed Sacrament
- Ask groups to intercede for your parish
“Without prayer all our activity risks being fruitless and our message empty.” (The Joy of the Gospel, #259)
HIT THE BOOKS
Start a conversation around missionary discipleship and mission-focused planning using all or parts of books that have inspired others
Start with this suggested reading list if you need some ideas:
- Create a parish-wide reading program and discussion groups focused on books that explore the Church’s mission and missionary discipleship. Ideas for books include:
The Light of Faith (Lumen Fidei), The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium), A Church of Mercy, Praise Be To You (Laudato Si’), and/or The Joy of Love (Amoris Laetitia), by Pope Francis
Rediscover Jesus, Rediscover Catholicism and/or The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic, by Matthew Kelly
- Create a reading program and discussion for parish leadership or the entire parish using books that explore mission-focused planning. Ideas for books include:
rebuilt, tools for rebuilding, and/or the rebuilt field guide, by Fr. Michael White and Tom Corcoran
Divine Renovation, Divine Renovation Group Reading Guide, and/or Divine Renovation Guidebook
Forming Intentional Disciples and/or Becoming a Parish of Intentional Disciples, by Sherry Wedell
Great Catholic Parishes, by William Simon, Jr.
Dreams and Visions: Pastoral Planning for Lifelong Faith Formation, by Bill Huebsch
The Better Pastor, by Patrick Lencioni
GO SURFING OR WINDOW SHOPPING
Browse the websites of parishes and programs that are having a truly transformative effect on discipleship. Or stay local and do a little parish “window shopping” by visiting other parishes from time to time to learn what they are doing well. Use this experience to reflect on your own parish.
These websites are a great place to start:
- Explore the Amazing Parish website (www.amazingparish.org) for ways to infuse mission and discipleship into your parish.
- Check out the great ideas collected by Parish Catalyst (https://www.parishcatalyst.org/) that other parishes are putting into practice when it comes to Leadership, Discipleship, Sunday Worship, Evangelization, and Reaching Millennials.
“The Lord’s disciples are called to live as a community which is the light of the world, to bear witness to a constantly new way of living together in fidelity to the Gospel.” (The Joy of the Gospel, #92)
TAP INTO LOCAL EXPERTISE
Reread some of the helpful blog posts that have been written for the Be Missionary Disciples website over the past year and a half, then reach out to folks at the Archdiocese to dig deeper.
“Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are ‘disciples’ and ‘missionaries,’ but rather that we are always ‘missionary disciples.’ ” (The Joy of the Gospel, #120)
ENTERTAIN SOME ANGELS
Do an honest self-assessment of your parish’s evangelizing spirit and hospitality towards outsiders. Better yet, arrange for visitors to give you their feedback!
Get some feedback on things like:
- the Sunday experience (hymns, homilies, hospitality)
- the sense of welcome outsiders feel
- the tangible witness to Christ others find in service and outreach at the parish
- the evangelizing quality of your web presence
These are all good ways to see how those you are trying to evangelize are responding!
“An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, He has loved us first, and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast.” (The Joy of the Gospel, #24)
BUILD SOME BRIDGES
Don’t wait to start building relationships with other parishes in your pastorate, or even between pastorates – find ways that people can get to know each other now!
Consider these ministries and gatherings that are a natural fit with this ideas:
- Host Dinners with discipleship in mind. Bring the different parishes together to break bread, to get to know each other, and do some shallow end team building, moving toward deeper end.
- Plan pastorate-wide visits to each worship site within the pastorate, with one parish acting as the “host” for the other parishes in the pastorate.
- Gather together the leadership and/or staff from the different parishes to pray together, share a meal, reflect on their faith journey and the ministry they are providing through their service, as well as the hope, opportunities, and challenges that lie ahead for the pastorate.
- Similarly, bring the same ministries from each parish together around a meal, shared ministry, and conversation. For instance, bring the choirs together for an evening of song in which well-known favorites are sung together, then a meal is shared and conversation is centered around the way in which music ministry is life-giving and draws one closer to Christ. Or bring the social action committees together for a meal and conversation about the needs that exist and how they are being met, followed by a service project.
- Build community by outreach to the poor and the marginalized. Do some great work of service and invite others in your pastorate, their neighbors and friends, to undertake this work of charity. Pray, instruct, do, reflect. That is something everyone can take part in.
GET TO KNOW YOURSELF AND YOUR TERRITORY
Use demographic tools and parish data to get a good understanding of your parish, as well as the mission territory and its needs.
- Play around with this fun and informative mapping application (password protected – contact the Office of Pastoral Planning for access)
- Revisit the 10-year parish data to identify trends that might be emerging (contact the Office of Pastoral Planning if you need another copy)
BE FORMED OR RE-FORMED
Open your mind and heart to the ways in which the Holy Spirit is leading you into deeper discipleship.
Participate in priest days of reflection and retreats, attend some sessions at the Mid-Atlantic Congress (MAC) held every February in Baltimore, or attend the fall Pastoral Staff Day with your staff – all of which can enrich your understanding of, perspective on, and ideas for your own missionary conversion and that of your parishioners.
“Yet we Christians remain steadfast in our intention to respect others, to heal wounds, to build bridges, to strengthen relationships and to ‘bear one another’s burdens’ (Gal 6:2).” (The Joy of the Gospel, #67)
FIND THE NEAREST INTERSECTION
Think of who you are trying to reach, find out how they communicate, and connect with them in those ways.
From bulletins to websites, emails to Twitter feeds, and Instagram to facebook posts, knowing how to reach people with news and information is an essential part of evangelization and community-building.
If you are not tech savvy, ask a young person to give you some insight so you at least know the tools that are in the tech toolbox.
Ask yourself and others involved:
- what was great about this gathering?
- what fruit will come from it – is it making disciples?
- is this something we want to reimagine or give up so that our time and effort is spent on those things that truly help us prepare missionary disciples?
Revisit those observations frequently and change course, if necessary.