Highly Engaged Parishes

Have you ever wanted to boost the engagement level of the people who belong to your church?

What would do it? Better sermons? Better building facilities? Greater use of technology? More (or less) music? Shorter services?

I've been asked by my pastor to work with him, his staff and other lay leaders on a parish-wide engagement initiative. We are tackling a huge question:

- How to energize and mobilize more of our parishioners to get in the game and contribute more of their time, talent, and treasure to the mission of the parish

To help get everyone's thinking juices flowing, we are all reading a book called Growing An Engaged Church by Rev. Albert L. Winseman, published by Gallup Press. The book's subtitle is good: How to stop "Doing Church" and start Being the church again.

The other day on the ODNet listserv, I was reminded of a humorous old saying about involvement and commitment:

"Question: What can you learn about "involvement" and "commitment" from a chicken and a pig?

Answer: In a ham and eggs breakfast, the chicken is involved. The pig is committed
."

I've always smiled at the truth in that good old chicken and pig saying.

Distilling the body of knowledge on engagement from Gallup, Winseman suggests an engagement strategy that includes three pillars:

1. Clarify the expectations for membership

2. Help the members discover what they do best

3. Create small groups

In the Roman Catholic Christian tradition, we talk about conversion. In this case, we are seeking a conversion of the heart, one that would be an awakening to the meaning of discipleship.

In one scripture passage, Jesus is asked "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

His answer: "Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."

Sounds to me like Jesus is asking for the pig, not the chicken.

As St. James famously said, You can't profess to truly have faith unless it's backed up by works.

~ "What good is it if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well," but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.." (James 2: 14-17)

If we want to change this place for the better, we can't merely sit and talk. Doing and Believing are both required.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, October 15, 2009

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