GROW: Parishes seeing positive results from planning process

| December 4, 2013 | 0 Comments

An archdiocesan pastoral planning initiative, GROW, has been in place for a year, and participating parishes are seeing positive results.

As a result of the GROW process, “we are moving forward with several initiatives that are in direct response to the wants and needs of the people at St. John the Baptist,” said Bonnie Jungels, principal of the parish school in Jordan. “We will have opportunities to grow our faith, build the parish and spread Christ’s message.”

The initiative — which has been updated and is now called GROW 2.0 — builds on the parish visitation process and flows from the archdiocese’s 2010 strategic plan, which sets criteria for long-term parish viability and calls for more efficient use of resources within and among parishes and schools.

The program is offered by the archdiocese through the Office of Parish Services in conjunction with Catholic Finance Corporation and TeamWorks International — a company of consultants and coaches who work with mission-focused organizations to build capacity for long-term success.

Getting on board

GROW 2.0 emphasizes the importance of evangelization.

“We realize that parishes may have different emphases, charisms, and ministries, so there are legitimate differences and diversity among parishes,” said Mark Dittman, director of the parish services office. “But ultimately, the goal of every parish and the goal of pastoral planning in every parish should be evangelization.”

Parishes that are members of the southern Region 2 vicariate gathered last November for the first meeting in the process. St. John the Baptist in Jordan was among them.

Like the other participating parishes, St. John the Baptist formed a committee of key people involved in the parish.

“We met several times to get a thorough understanding of what the process would entail,” Jungels said.

GROW includes three meetings — two evenings and one full day. Before the first meeting, TeamWorks and Catholic Finance gather demographic and financial information from the parish and prepare a report for the meeting.

Participants — which include pastors, trustees, parish business administrators and other parish and parish school staff members — receive a detailed GROW toolkit outlining the process.

Before the second meeting, which is held three months after the first, an online parish survey is completed.

“We helped create a survey that was then given to parishioners, school families and staff,” Jungels said. “Next, we spent a great deal of time exploring and analyzing the report TeamWorks created for us with the detailed data and information pulled from survey answers.”

Committees set targets for a parish pastoral plan after reviewing the survey results at the second meeting.

The GROW process — especially now with more emphasis on evangelization — is meant to complement the Rediscover: initiative coordinated by the archdiocese. Both come out of the archdiocese’s strategic plan.

The process identifies four seeds for growth, intended to be a bridge between GROW and Rediscover: — hospitality, prayer, study and generosity.

The intended outcome of incorporating these into parish ministries is evangelization, Dittman said.

“Rediscover: is intended to reawaken the faith in the passively en­gaged or disengaged,” he said. “And GROW is ultimately about preparing parishes to proactively engage people.”

“We haven’t been through [a planning process], said Cindy Reckinger, parish administrator at St. Patrick in Inver Grove Heights.

“That’s why we thought this would be a good opportunity.”

The survey results were very positive, Reckinger said.

Those who responded feel that St. Patrick is a very welcoming parish, very hospitable, and has a great liturgy program, she said.

The formal pastoral plan is finalized at the third meeting.

The St. Patrick committee set several goals based on the GROW process, including improving Mass attendance and increasing the num­-

ber of people who volunteer at the parish, as well as improving the church building’s wifi and sound systems.

“We’ve seen the survey data influence the final parish plan,” Dittman said. “And open the eyes of parish leaders.”

“One of the main things we hope to achieve is engaging more parishioners in the life of the parish —those disengaged and/or disenfranchised,” said Father Bob Hart, pastor of St. Patrick.

“We are looking at several options, including in-home dinners or developing neighborhoods (of registered members) within the parish.”

“The process was definitely worth it; it gave us a view of the demographics of our area as to what we have out there and what we can work with,” Reckinger said. “It’s also given us the vision of what we need to do spiritually,”

Committee members from St. John the Baptist created a priority list of things that stood out from the information they received from the GROW process.

“We then created ‘action cards’ under categories such as communication, stewardship and evangelization,” said Jungels. “These ‘action cards’ have mission-driven goals that address parishioner needs — including growing our faith, building the parish and spreading our faith.”


Hospitality workshops provide resources for parishes

One of the seeds for growth identified by the GROW pastoral planning process is hospitality.

Representatives from 41 parishes attended Hospitality 2.0 workshops held in early November. They expanded on similar workshops held last May to help parishes assess how they are doing in several areas related to hospitality and learn how hospitality can be an effective means of reaching out to less-engaged Catholics.

The workshops were held at St. Michael in Farmington, St. Mary in Stillwater and St. Vincent de Paul in Brooklyn Park.

The facilitator of two of the workshops, Paul Bernabei, talked about both principles and practices that can help Catholics be more welcoming people.

“He emphasized that we need to accept others for what they are fundamentally, a child of God, and not based on what they can or cannot do for us,” said Father Brian Lynch, parochial vicar of St. Mary and St. Michael parishes in Stillwater. “He linked this to the original message of Christianity; the message that made Christianity attractive to so many who were on the margins of society.”

Each participating parish was given a Hospitality 360 Toolkit that includes resources that are designed to be customized by each parish to meet its particular needs.

Resources include articles on hospitality, “Quick Cards” with simple ideas to enhance hospitality right away, question cards to help parishioners get to know each other and more.

Every parish in the archdiocese will get a hard copy toolkit, even if it did not participate in the workshops. All of the resources included are available online (pdf).

There are tools included for both parishioners and parish leadership.

Parishes can mix and match resources to help parishioners develop a more hospitable community.

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