“I go back to the Gospels a lot . . .the more I encounter Jesus in the Gospels I encounter someone who is certainly not afraid of conflict and not afraid of tension because He saw it as an opportunity for growth.” –Kristin Bird
Episode Summary: Deacon Keith, Executive Director of M3 Ministries, and Kristin Bird, Executive Director of Burning Hearts Disciples, and Rachel Espinoza, Editor and Liturgical Training Consultant at LTP, explore the reality of conflict within parish life and discuss ways to navigate through it and strategies for creating an environment for healthy, instructive conflict.
Vatican Website Hacked (6:55)
Introduction to the Topic of Conflict (11:30)
Conflict in Parish Life (13:13)
Conflict as Misalignment of Expectations (15:17)
Healthy vs Unhealthy Conflict (16:54)
Examples of Healthy Conflict (29:40)
Self Knowledge & Team Awareness as Tools for Healthy Conflict (39:42)
Creating Environments for Healthy Conflict (50:06)
Need to Talk?
If you have an ongoing conflict at your parish that you would like to talk to us about, or if you have questions about evangelization or parish renewal, just reach out to us:
“You are never going to fail if you do something that builds trust.” —Rachel Espinoza
Episode Summary: Deacon Keith, Executive Director of M3 Ministries, and Kristin Bird, Executive Director of Burning Hearts Disciples, and Rachel Espinoza, Editor and Liturgical Training Consultant at LTP, discuss how to help walk with others through the thresholds of pre-discipleship conversion. They explore each of the thresholds, discuss what folks at each threshold might need, and share some practical advice on how to help others move through these key moments in their journey toward an intentional relationship with Jesus.
Spring Sports in Wisconsin (Timestamp 1:14)
Introduction to the Pre-Discipleship Thresholds (6:19)
What are Thresholds? (11:30)
The Threshold of Trust (19:47)
The Threshold of Curiosity (38:12)
The Threshold of Openness (49:55)
The Threshold of Seeking (62:00)
Implications of Thresholds for Parish Life and Evangelization (73:00)
Need to Talk?
If you have questions about evangelization or parish renewal, just reach out to us:
“We have to ask ourselves this question: Am I as passionate about this person’s spiritual fullness . . . as I am excited about what they can do in all these areas of ministry I am involving them in. —Rachel Espinoza
Episode Summary: Deacon Keith, Executive Director of M3 Ministries, and Kristin Bird, Executive Director of Burning Hearts Disciples, and Rachel Espinoza, Director of Family Faith Formation & Evangelization for St. Clement Parish talk about how to nurture the disciples that you have in the parish–especially in the early days of parish renewal when this small band of men and women get called on to handle a disproportionately large amount of the work necessary to move forward with renewal.
Visiting Othewr Parishes (Timestamp 6:30)
Introduction to Topic (10:21)
Critical Distinction Between Engaged Parishioners and Disciples (16:05)
Causes of Disciple Burnout (25:25)
Importance of Charism Discernment to Avoid Burnout (34:05)
Obstacles to Creating Shallow Entry Points for Parishes (42:20)
Examples of Leadership and Disciple Discernment (49:00)
Warning Signs of Burnout (58:29)
Investment and Accompaniment to Prevent and Deal with Burnout (61:09)
Need to Talk?
If you think you are burning out and need someone to talk to, just reach out to us:
Jesus understood this and taught his disciples when they struggled to exorcize a mute spirit from a young boy. “This kind,” Jesus said, “cannot be driven out by anything except prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:29)
Some demons are troublesome, and when they sink their venomed fangs into us, they do not want to leave. Such a demon is often present in diocesan and parish life, wielding its dark influence to deaden and block our desire and ability to experience new life, transformation, and renewal.
I call it the demon of programs.
Though the denizens of Satan’s fallen realm prefer to work in the shadows, masking and hiding their presence whenever they can, still the discerning eye can spot their furtive and elusive presence. There are signs that one’s parish or diocese has fallen under the power of this programmatic demon to a greater or lesser degree:
A tendency to see the right program as the primary solution to problems or the primary driver of engagement
A repeated habit of executing programs with little personal preparation or followup with participants that ends up minimizing (or missing completely) the personal interior journey of the individual and the absolute importance of personal response to grace.
An absence of forethought in how the various programs offered by the parish could build upon one another to help lead a person on a spiritual journey toward Christ, into discipleship, and then into a lifestyle of missionary discipleship.
An organizational bias in favor of hiring and promoting administrative and operational gifts and skillsets, coupled with an excessive tendency to value and reward programmatic execution over spiritual fruitfulness.
Get with the Program
Now is the time when many of you who are reading this begin to push back and think things like “But we need good administration” or “we’ll never get anything done if we are not organized.”
And I completely agree with you.
Of course, spiritual growth and programmatic excellence are not mutually exclusive, but let’s face it, the Catholic Church is huge, and to meet the demands of the breadth of our members, we have become adept at creating programs and processes that move large amounts of people from one place to another (e.g., in our Catholic School systems, sacramental preparation programs, and catechetical offerings especially). This is especially true of the Church in North America, which largely grew from the influx of immigrants coming to the continent. To handle the flow of our people, we built structures (physical and organizational), processes, and programs that focused on producing fully initiated Catholics who could integrate with the surrounding secular culture.
We’ve inherited that programmatic mentality today, and often our first instinct when faced with things like declining attendance, fewer resources, and lack of participation is to “tune up” our programs and find ways to increase their efficiency.
And this is where the program demon enters.
In a parish or diocesan culture dominated by the programmatic demon, the efforts of pastoral leaders, staff, and key volunteers revolves largely around the efforts and activities central to running events, processes, and programs with little (or a substantially reduced) focus on where participants might be in the spiritual journey toward discipleship before the event in question and where they might be after!
The truth is that programs, events, homilies, and the like don’t make disciples. They can be particular moments of grace and catalysts for conversion, and they might even, through the grace of God, help someone surrender their heart Christ and become believers in Jesus and His church. But by and large, growth into the lifestyle of Jesus and His kingdom, learning and living the life of discipleship requires a particular kind of connection to those who are already disciples.
In other words, programs don’t make disciples, people make disciples. Or as I like to say, disciples aren’t mass produced; they are artisanal products. They’re handcrafted. This was fundamentally the model of spiritual multiplication that Jesus used!
Calling Max Von Sydow
So how can we exorcize the program demon and be set free from the Paradigm of Programs that often dominates contemporary parish and diocesan life in the West? The answer is as clear as it is radical! We must raise up a generation of men and women with missionary mindsets and practical skills who can accompany others fruitfully on the spiritual journey. This will be necessary not only to help set our parishes free, but this same approach will be necessary if we are to live fruitfully the Church’s mission to the world!
This is precisely what M3 Ministries offers to parishes and dioceses. And in the course of the last several years, we have seen first-hand how the presence of these ‘parish-literate missionary band of evangelizers’ challenges the current culture and brings their missionary perspective not only into their worship of God and daily life, but also into the meetings and plans of the parish community.
If we want to be free of the program demon, we must equip men and women who:
• Possess a deep understanding of The Great Story of Salvation (the Kerygma)—including how the Gospel Message applies to them, and how their story and The Great Story intersect.
• Demonstrate a desire to share the Kerygma (the core Gospel Message) with others and walk alongside of them into relationship with Christ.
• Understand the spiritual journey toward discipleship (the pre-discipleship thresholds) and have experience listening as disciples for where someone might be in those thresholds.
• Possess integrated knowledge of the evangelization process and can think about parish life through the “lens” of that process.
• Can concretely invite someone to surrender their lives to Jesus.
• Demonstrate comfort with the power, presence, and person of the Holy Spirit, and intentionally “partner” with the Spirit to release the power of the Kingdom of God in both natural and supernatural ways.
Of course, parishioners don’t need to be formed in
all these areas to be effective witnesses to Jesus. New disciples and longer-term
followers of Christ whose lives have been re-energized and renewed by the Lord
can profoundly touch the lives of others in Jesus’ name—without the benefit of
such missionary formation. However, a parish or diocese rooted within a
Paradigm of People consciously chooses to raise up these kinds of missionary
leaders, not as a pre-requisite or requirement to serve in a missionary capacity,
but so that the missionary activity of the whole parish will bear greater fruit.
In other words, leaders in a people-focused paradigm don’t hold back their
people from missionary activity until they complete all of the “necessary”
formation, but rather seek to build up the missionary skills and identity of
every parishioner so they can become even more effective and fruitful in
sharing Jesus with others.
If you’d like more help moving from a Paradigm of Programs to one that focuses on People, check out the latest book from M3 Ministries’ Executive Director, Deacon Keith Strohm. It’s called Ablaze: 5 Essential Paradigm Shifts for Parish Renewal. You can purchase it from Amazon.com by clicking on the link below the image.
And just like the mute spirit in the Gospel of Mark, if you want to exorcize your community from the program demon . . . don’t forget prayer and fasting!