Fr Michael White and Tom Corcoran, the writers of 'Rebuilt' and 'Tools for Rebuilding' continue their keynote speech on Saturday of the Proclaim 2014 Conference:
To work out how to move members from consumers to contributors you have to 1) work out how you want them to move and 2) work out whether you are communicating that properly.
We ask our people to take these 5 steps:
Pray. Have a regular daily personal prayer time.
Join a small group. To be spiritually encouraged by each other's faith.
Serve. Serve in a ministry towards insiders (weekends at church) and in a ministry towards outsiders (nursing homes, homeless, poor, schools).
Give. Give financial support to the work of kingdom building in the parish.
Invest and invite. Evangelise by investing time in relationships on the fringe of the parish and then inviting them to come to church.
Take stock of what you are communicating to the people in the pews about what you want them to do. Do they know what you want them to do?
How do get people to move?
Pray. You need the power of God. The bigger the project, the bigger the ask, the more prayer you need. Often we will do a 40 hours of prayer before launching anything new.
By example. We have to move ourselves and do these 5 things too. How are you doing on these 5 things? We cannot ask anyone to do things that we are not willing to do ourselves.
You have to ask them to move. This is a huge deal if you haven't done it before. Often the way we ask is very important. Asking out of neediness ('please, please help') just doesn't work. But people will respond if you give them a vision. Show them the purpose. Tell them if you do this (x,y,z) then you will make an impact like this (a,b,c). Every opportunity you get, share all the good letters of appreciation with your members and remind them that if they join in they can make this kind of difference in people's lives too. There are seasons for asking. Some times of the year are better for asking than others. Work out what they are and use them. There are also seasons for theme asking, eg a series of weeks dedicated to asking people to join small groups, give more generously etc. Work out when they should be, eg not during grand final season when people want to get home and watch the game. When it comes to asking, preaching is air cover to the ground war.
Make movement accessible. Put rungs on the ladder and make it easy for people to try out new ministries. Be consistent. Point out how easy the minimum requirements are eg. To be part of the parking helper ministry – can you wave your arm? Yes, that's mostly all it takes. Ask for what is achievable, eg asking for a 10% tithe would be baulked at, but asking 'can you give at 1% to start with, and work on increasing it a bit at your next pay rise?' is far more likely to get a response. Invite people to try out new ministries as a helper for a single session. Then if they find something that interests them, invite them to give it a go for a 4-6 week period as a helper.
Set people up for success. Don't get them to serve alone, but as part of a team. Give them the training and the equipment they need. Reward them for stepping out of their comfort zone.
Celebrate movement. Make a fuss of those who give it a go. Every breathing person needs encouragement. Send them a note of appreciation. Thank them personally for giving it a go.
Persevere. Change takes time; Time that is measured not in days but in years.
Do beta testing. Roll out new things to only part of the parish (eg Sunday night Mass) and see how it goes. Then iron out any problems, and fine tune things, before extending the new thing to the whole parish. If it flops then you have minimised failure, if it works then you have set things up to succeed parish wide.
Question and Answer session
Changing the music. We started trying new things out at the Sunday night youth Mass. It was an easy place to start. However it may not always be the best place to start. Go to where no one else cares, where no one else is invested, and start there.
We use the 'one church one message' method throughout the year. But in summer time only there is a brief homily with a longer message after Mass. Since it is after Mass the usual regulations don't apply, and lay people can give that message. Yes, the bishop knows and his response has been 'let's see how it goes'. It gives the parish priest a bit of a break.
Any advice for those who have a resistant parish priest? Build a relationship with him. Start serving first, 'How can I help?'. Do anything he asks, and do it humbly. Don't think 'he'll never get there'. Take the opportunities to talk to him when God provides them. Win yourself a hearing.
'One church one message' has to be totally consistent across all preaching and parish ministries. For example if the message this week is daily prayer, then it would be preached on in the homily, be an influence on the music chosen, be the theme for children's ministry and youth ministry that week, be the subject of that week's small group discussions, and all those in the host team (car park helpers, greeters, those on the information desk etc) would be encouraged to talk about that topic should a conversation get beyond a greeting. Normally the problem is that a parish has scattered vision. Having too many choices paralyses people into non action.
What is your future plan for your podcasts? Currently we are only doing the groundwork now, and using the podcasts to introduce staff members. You should get Fr Michael on there too. We'll think about that.
Do you have a parish pastoral plan? When you started did you have a plan? No. We’ve been in the parish for 15 years. The first 5 years we had no idea what we were doing; only that it wasn't working. The next 5 years we spend learning and seeking help and trying stuff out. It has only been the last 5 years that we have started getting into momentum. Planning is important, but we often plan and then don’t do.
The fallout from the changes you made was clearly painful. How did you cope with that personally? It is very difficult to not take it personally. Yes, they will criticize and complain – expect it. Sometimes we will react badly to that. But it is all part of the deal. We want to make people happy. You want to make everyone happy – and you are not making people happy right now – but these people aren't in your face, they are at home doing other stuff and watching TV.
It is hard to be encouraged when day to day difficulties arise – but you have to have heart and enthusiasm.
We read in the Book of Esther about the heart break of the Jews in exile. But worse was coming, someone was plotting genocide. To combat this God raises up a simple Jewish girl as Queen and gives her a vision through the advice of a trusted friend. 'If you remain silent at this time and do nothing, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another place, but both you and your family line (parish) will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to the throne for just such a time as this.'
You are where you are today, prominent or obscure; you are in a position of influence, able to contribute. He has placed you exactly where you are for such a time as this.
The next blog-post will be about a panel response to all of the conference input, informed by the conference feedback slips.
Some of the workshops have been made available as podcasts via www.xt3.com
To access them visit http://www.xt3.com/library/view.php?id=17454
Some of the talks and workshops are now available from http://www.proclaimconference.com.au/resources.
Several video clips, transcripts, handouts and slide presentations are downloadable.
These Notes are only one person's version of what they heard, and they are not a literal transcript.