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Growing our Parishes:
Vision & Practices for Making Disciples
Daniel Ang
Email: DAng@parra.catholic.org.au
Blog: www.timeo...
• Parishes remain the primary experience of
Church for many Catholics
• A “critical moment” for the parish in the
Australi...
The pastoral reality
• A third of all Mass attenders are between 60
and 74 years of age
• Of all Catholics aged between 20...
The pastoral reality
• Migrants account for over 40% of all Mass
attenders
• Second-generation Australians, the children o...
The pastoral reality
• 13,000 Australian Catholics stop attending Mass
each year
• Across all age groups more than 20,000
...
Consequences
• The prospect of Catholic institutions, including
schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, nursing
homes ...
The problematic
• Many parishes:
o have few or no plans to grow
o have no explicit vision for making disciples
o assume pe...
God calls the Church to grow
“Go . . . and make disciples of all nations, baptising
them in the name of the Father, and of...
Where are we going?
• Parishes have not always made actual growth in
faith and the gaining of new members their
specific g...
Parishes and discipleship
• 60% of Australian Mass attenders reported only
some or no spiritual growth through their
exper...
Fallout of a ‘no growth’ mentality
• We draw on the same, small pool of laypersons
for ministry and service
• We struggle ...
Growth matters
• Interior growth goes hand in hand with
evangelisation, the commitment to reach out to
others
• We are cal...
Obstacles to Parish Growth
• Parishes called to be ‘schools of prayer’ (NMI 33)
but we assume people know how to pray
• We...
Sacraments alone?
“An administrative approach
prevails over a pastoral approach,
as does a concentration on
administering ...
Discipleship
“. . . baptisms, confessions, weddings, funerals, daily
devotions, anointing, and adoration. It’s all good
st...
Parishes and discipleship
• People can be ‘sacramentalised’ without being
evangelised
• If the concept of ‘discipleship’ i...
Obstacles to Parish Growth
• The teaching mission of parishes has generally
focused on catechesis of children
• We need ad...
Practices of growth
• Leadership for growth
• Parish leaders and ministry groups must have
the desire to grow, have a rene...
Practices of growth
• Parish planning
• Wanting to grow is not enough. We have to
plan and be organised to grow.
• Making ...
Practices of growth
• Recognise that the 90% of Catholics in your
parish who do not join us, our ‘unchurched’
Catholics, a...
Practices of growth
• Small groups
• “Community life” one of the most valued aspects
of parish life in Australia
• At the ...
Practices of growth
• Prayer focused on the outreach of the parish
• Prayer brings us to what is most important in
our liv...
Summary
• We have surveyed the pastoral reality (parishes
key to our future)
• Retrieved the need for our parishes, minist...
Summary
• Affirmed the need for leaders with a heart and
vision for growth
• Parishes with explicit and articulated purpos...
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Growing our Parishes: Vision and Practices for Making Disciples - Daniel Ang

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God calls the Church and our parishes to grow. However, today many of our parishes lack a vision for making disciples, have few or no plans to grow, and can assume that their current members are growing and new disciples are being made, despite evidence to the contrary. In other words, our parishes can be more hopeful than honest. This workshop will address the pastoral reality and current practice of our parishes, offer a renewed vision for making disciples and evangelisation, and suggest practical actions that parishes can take to change the culture and focus of their ministries and groups. It will draw on research into best practice for Church growth both here in Australia and abroad and facilitate a conversation about the nature of parish leadership in this time of change and challenge for faith.

Daniel Ang is Director of Pastoral Planning for the Diocese of Parramatta. He was co-author and coordinator of the Parramatta pastoral plan, Faith in Our Future, and now oversees initiatives of renewal and planning in a parish and diocesan context. He teaches ecclesiology and ministry at the Parramatta Institute for Mission, holds a Bachelor of Arts/Commerce from the University of Sydney and a Master of Divinity from the Sydney College of Divinity. Daniel is an executive member of the National Pastoral Planners Network and published in a number of peer reviewed journals. He is a married layman with one son.

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Growing our Parishes: Vision and Practices for Making Disciples - Daniel Ang

  1. 1. Growing our Parishes: Vision & Practices for Making Disciples Daniel Ang Email: DAng@parra.catholic.org.au Blog: www.timeofthechurch.com Twitter @DanielAngRC
  2. 2. • Parishes remain the primary experience of Church for many Catholics • A “critical moment” for the parish in the Australian Church • 5.4 million Catholics in Australia • 662,000 Catholics attend Mass on any given weekend (a 12.2% attendance rate) The pastoral reality These statistics are taken from Robert Dixon, Stephen Reid and Marilyn Chee, Mass Attendance in Australia: A Critical Moment. A Report Based on the National Count of Attendance, the National Church Life Survey and the Australian Census (Melbourne: ACBC Pastoral Research Office, 2013).
  3. 3. The pastoral reality • A third of all Mass attenders are between 60 and 74 years of age • Of all Catholics aged between 20-34, only 5-6% of these attend Mass These statistics are taken from Robert Dixon, Stephen Reid and Marilyn Chee, Mass Attendance in Australia: A Critical Moment. A Report Based on the National Count of Attendance, the National Church Life Survey and the Australian Census (Melbourne: ACBC Pastoral Research Office, 2013).
  4. 4. The pastoral reality • Migrants account for over 40% of all Mass attenders • Second-generation Australians, the children of Catholic migrants, are far less likely to practice than their parents These statistics are taken from Pastoral Research Office E-News Bulletin, ‘Issue 18: Who goes to Mass? - First results from the 2011 NCLS - 2 December 2012’. Available online at http://www.pro.catholic.org.au/pdf/ACBC%20PRO%20E-News%20Bulletin%2018.pdf. Accessed 18/8/14.
  5. 5. The pastoral reality • 13,000 Australian Catholics stop attending Mass each year • Across all age groups more than 20,000 Australians every year cease to identify themselves as Catholic These statistics are taken from Dixon, Reid and Chee, Mass Attendance in Australia: A Critical Moment, 4; and Robert Dixon and Stephen Reid, ‘The Contemporary Catholic Community: A View from the 2011 Census’, Australasian Catholic Record 90/2 (2013): 144-146.
  6. 6. Consequences • The prospect of Catholic institutions, including schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, nursing homes and aged care facilities but fewer parishes where worship of God enjoins a community of believers • We need our parishes to grow as they are integral and indispensable to spiritual identity of the Church
  7. 7. The problematic • Many parishes: o have few or no plans to grow o have no explicit vision for making disciples o assume people are growing and disciples are being made despite evidence to the contrary
  8. 8. God calls the Church to grow “Go . . . and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you’ - Matt. 28:19-20 “ . . . to pray and labour that the entire world may become the People of God” – Lumen Gentium 17
  9. 9. Where are we going? • Parishes have not always made actual growth in faith and the gaining of new members their specific goals • Without such clarity of purpose, parishes can be resigned to a ‘decent minimum of religious conformity’ and too many undigested experiences of Mass and the Church
  10. 10. Parishes and discipleship • 60% of Australian Mass attenders reported only some or no spiritual growth through their experience of parish life • 72% of Australian Mass attenders reported that they would not or did not know if they would invite someone to their parish These statistics are taken from NCLS Research, Denominational Church Life Profile: The Catholic Church in Australia. A Report from the 2011 National Church Life Survey (Strathfield: NCLS Research, 2013), 10; 17.
  11. 11. Fallout of a ‘no growth’ mentality • We draw on the same, small pool of laypersons for ministry and service • We struggle with succession in ministries leading to burn out and fatigue • We become trapped in a self-affirming culture neglecting our God-given purpose to evangelise • We risk becoming communities content or resigned to grow old rather than move forwards
  12. 12. Growth matters • Interior growth goes hand in hand with evangelisation, the commitment to reach out to others • We are called to grow in person and community (spiritually and numerically)
  13. 13. Obstacles to Parish Growth • Parishes called to be ‘schools of prayer’ (NMI 33) but we assume people know how to pray • We can assume our parishes are welcoming but not attend to the experience of the newcomer • We can assume those coming for the sacraments are, ipso facto, disciples
  14. 14. Sacraments alone? “An administrative approach prevails over a pastoral approach, as does a concentration on administering the sacraments apart from other forms of evangelisation” - Evangelii Gaudium 63
  15. 15. Discipleship “. . . baptisms, confessions, weddings, funerals, daily devotions, anointing, and adoration. It’s all good stuff, it’s how some Catholics grow spiritually. For others, it’s what they do instead of grow . . . For certain, the sacraments give us grace to put us in right relationship to God and his life in our soul, nourishing and strengthening us for our discipleship walk. But they’re not mean to replace it” - White and Corcoran, Rebuilt, 77
  16. 16. Parishes and discipleship • People can be ‘sacramentalised’ without being evangelised • If the concept of ‘discipleship’ is reduced to liturgy or Mass attendance alone, then even the practice of attending Mass is likely to weaken over the long term as the very point of a sacramental life is lost on those participating
  17. 17. Obstacles to Parish Growth • The teaching mission of parishes has generally focused on catechesis of children • We need adult formation as adult Catholics witness to younger Catholics what a mature faith looks like • Sources of adult formation normally limited to the parish bulletin, a homily, the sign value of the sacraments . . .
  18. 18. Practices of growth • Leadership for growth • Parish leaders and ministry groups must have the desire to grow, have a renewed belief in Jesus and his Church (‘disciples make disciples’) • A parish vision for growth (clarity of purpose) • What is the vision for your parish over the next three years?
  19. 19. Practices of growth • Parish planning • Wanting to grow is not enough. We have to plan and be organised to grow. • Making no plans for growth results in little or no growth every time • When done well, planning processes allow a parish to let go of those activities and groups that do not make disciples
  20. 20. Practices of growth • Recognise that the 90% of Catholics in your parish who do not join us, our ‘unchurched’ Catholics, are not strangers nor are they statistics • Skill and empower practicing Catholics to start the conversation of faith with their relatives, friends, neighbours
  21. 21. Practices of growth • Small groups • “Community life” one of the most valued aspects of parish life in Australia • At the very bottom of this scale was “small groups” and “reaching out to others” This information was presented by Dr Claudia Mollidor, ‘Parish Life – Who’s Involved and Why?’ at the Pastoral Research Office Conference: ‘Beliefs and Practices of Australian Catholics’, 20 February, 2014.
  22. 22. Practices of growth • Prayer focused on the outreach of the parish • Prayer brings us to what is most important in our lives of faith • Therefore, we should pray that the mission of the parish will be effective, that our people will reach out to others with joy, and that relationships will be transformative (a lack of prayer leads to a lack of time)
  23. 23. Summary • We have surveyed the pastoral reality (parishes key to our future) • Retrieved the need for our parishes, ministries and parish groups to set themselves the goals of spiritual and numerical growth • Discussed the consequences of a ‘no growth’ mentality and assuming discipleship in our pews
  24. 24. Summary • Affirmed the need for leaders with a heart and vision for growth • Parishes with explicit and articulated purpose • Adult formation that focuses on discipleship and conversion • Small groups to create bonds of faith that grow discipleship

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