November 2017 Evangelization Exchange – Kledzik

Planning for Conversion: Encountering and Accompanying Families

by Diane Kledzik

Efforts to encounter and accompany families on the road to missionary discipleship, modeled after Jesus’ invitation to “Come and see” (John 1:46) and “Follow me” (Matt 9:9) can be quite challenging. When families seek to live and grow their faith in our parish communities, engagement depends on addressing their needs and hopes. Gathering insight into the spiritual longings of families and their individual members takes more than one schedule, one meeting and one staff person.

It starts with a question and reflection…
What if we ask parents and family members on a regular basis, “How can we help you raise your family/child in the faith?” Start this conversation when meeting new families in the parish, during an in-person “interview” process to plan a family’s faith journey for the coming year, when working car-line or parking lot ministry, when meeting with parents during sacramental ministry or when sitting with families as an event spectator. Hand-written or online surveys and polls also help families to reflect on this question and provide useful feedback for parish leaders. (Sample interview template PDF.)
It continues with attention to Our story
What if we give the necessary time to listen to and to encourage the telling of personal faith stories and the desires of their heart? Ask each individual to describe their relationship with Jesus up to this point. Talk about ways they would like to grow in their knowledge and practice of the faith, in knowing Jesus, in their prayer life, and in serving others. Share faith and life at all parish meetings whether it be the finance council, middle school youth ministry, potlucks or small Christian communities.
It requires a team
What if a team of people are formed and trained to assess family needs and address those needs? This is not the job of one family minister, catechetical leader, pastor, teacher or youth ministry leader. Under the leadership of these staff members, parishioners can be trained to pastorally encounter and accompany families in reflecting and planning. Through gifts discernment, invite people in the pews to consider serving on this team and then take the time to train them for this role.

It requires many paths

What if one service project, conference, mission trip, course of study, or prayer practice is not the best for everyone in the parish? Determine what resources are needed to make options available to meet discerned needs. Current models of faith formation and ministry may take on a new structure, necessitating change in parish staff roles. Since engaged parents are more likely to accept their responsibility for forming their children in the faith, be ready to partner with them in new ways to bring home the faith. Imagine the possibilities of incorporating Godparents, sponsors and mentors in the development and implementation of family faith plans.

An initiative like Strong Catholic Families (SCF), a partnership process of four Catholic organizations, creates an atmosphere and utilizes tools to make these connections with families through a Foundational Parent Session and follow-up listening sessions. A Parent Response Form helps families to indicate areas of partnering they desire from parish leaders and the SCF team responds. The Family Faith Inventory guides families in reflecting on their current experiences in several areas of family faith. Upon completion of the inventory, families develop their own family faith plan, based on their satisfaction with scores they assigned in each area: family and community, prayer and worship, faith formation, and justice and service. The SCF team continues to accompany families, connecting them with processes, people and programs to meet their faith needs.

Diane Kledzik is in her 20th year at the Diocese of St. Petersburg, currently serving as the Associate Director for Evangelization, Small Christian Communities and Adult Faith Formation. Prior ministry work consists of 14 years in Youth Ministry on the parish and diocesan levels. Diane has a Certificate in Youth Ministry and an Advanced Studies in Ministry Certificate from the Center for Ministry Development and holds an MA in Pastoral Ministry from St. Thomas University in Miami, FL. She has served her parish as catechist on the Infant Baptism Team for 16 years and is on the newly formed Life Teen Core Team. Diane serves on the National Strong Catholic Families Team, the NCCL Representative Council, and is a Board Member of the North American Forum for Small Christian Communities and Paulist Evangelization Ministries.

Catholics. Disciples. Missionaries. is an ongoing series on forming missionary disciples in our parishes and community. Follow the series here.


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