In theory all parishes are more or less equal. Yet inevitably in any city it is easy to find a parish (or a few) that seems to attract faithful from all over the place.
What is it that draws people to a parish?
A Denver-based organization has the answer and the tools to help pastors turn their parishes into thriving communities.
The Amazing Parish was founded by Pat Lencioni and John Martin in 2013 to help make parishes lively centers of mission. Lencioni is a management consultant and Martin a well-regarded business consultant. They took their experience working with businesses and management teams and applied it to the Catholic parish.
Kevin Cotter, the Executive Director of Content for The Amazing Parish, told Aleteia, “Years ago a parish had multiple priests. They helped each other out. They would help each other with their homilies, turn to each other for advice, and listen to each other’s ideas. Today a parish usually has one priest, or multiple parishes are served by one priest and usually the parish structure has not shifted to reflect this new reality.”
The Amazing Parish focuses on the parish pastor. Cotter explained, “we try to set him up for success,” by helping the pastor create a solid support team.
With the right team a parish can go from being, what Cotter calls, “in maintenance mode” — doing the same things that have always been done and not knowing or imagining things could be different — to “mission mode,” boldly trying new things to reach new people in order to fulfill God’s work.
To do that The Amazing Parish holds two conferences every year that bring together an array of Catholics who are skilled at going out into the world to do God’s work in new ways. The conferences feature talks by Lencioni and other presenters, including various experts in parish revitalization. Both Father James Mallon, author of Divine Renovation, and Fr. Michael White, co-author of Rebuilt, speak at The Amazing Parish conferences.
When a pastor registers for the conference he is contacted by an outreach team that helps him select his parish leadership team and bring them to the conference. For four months after the conference, the outreach team works with the pastor by phone and e-mail to help put into practice the things learned at the conference.
If attending a conference is not feasible, all The Amazing Parish conference and support materials are available for free on the website, and pastors can sign up to be contacted by the outreach team — also for free. “We work on a ‘give it away’ model,” Cotter said.
Cotter said the reason materials and support are available for free is Lencioni and The Amazing Parish team want all parishes to be able to become thriving centers of spiritual life that have an impact not just on the baptized members of the Church, but their local geographic communities. They also want every parish — urban, suburban and rural — to be able to access the materials and adapt them to their own reality.
Although it may seem that The Amazing Parish takes American business principles and applies them to parishes, Cotter says that is only part of the approach. A big part of revitalizing a parish is looking at “how are we spiritually led?” Cotter said. “If a parish is a mission center, if staff can’t talk about their spiritual life, how can we expect others to do the same?”
An Amazing Parish conference is currently underway in Milwaukee. Upcoming conferences can be located through the website.