- As Community: the parish serves and the basic way in which active Catholics interact with each other in a strong relational way
- As Community of Communities: the parish serves as the basic way in which active Catholics involved in small groups and ministry circles interact with other groups and circles in the parish
- Parishes are merging and cluster parishes are opening in the Northeast, Midwest and Central States
- New parishes are opening in the South and Southwest
- Urban parishes often have influxes of new parishioners in the form of young adults and young families. These younger people often may not think to register in a new parish.
- How do we help Catholics re-build or strengthen their identity with the Church?
- In all these cases, parishioners are being organized in even larger groups
There are both Generational and Social factors that can impact how someone relates to the Church and a parish community.
- Young people “tinker” their way to identity
- Experimentation with life through one’s twenties and thirties
- Commitments (including church) come later in life
- Identity is formed from a variety of networks: family, school, church, friends, work, interests, entertainment
- Contemporary schedules, particularly in terms of professionals
- Faith is something “personal” (and not organizational)
- Institutions are seen negatively
- Faith is important, but not “essential,” to my life
- We now live in a universe where people see themselves as “consumers”
- People will tend to “shop” for religious experience and identity
- Authority has only limited effect on people’s thinking because the context for “authority” cannot be easily contained
How do we reach people in a modern world full of competing interests for people’s time?
- The modern world is one of exploring and searching
- Our teaching has to be asserted in an open, allusive and friendly way
- This is what happens for the most part in the Catechumenate in which people grapple with faith and come to a deeper sense of discipleship
- In contemporary society, the only criterion that people seem to be using for choices about faith/religion is that of experience
- Suburbanization: one picks and chooses according to one’s desires
- New way of growing up means a gradual acquiring of an identity through exploration
- Identity used to come from one’s cultural and familial patterns.
- Today identity is something that people construct; it is, to some extent, a product of choice and decision.
Mega-churches and Small Groups
Evangelical and other Protestant Churches have helped to popularize the Small Group model. As Pastor Rick Warren said, “The Sunday morning service is simply a funnel. It’s the most visible, but it is honestly the least significant part of the Church.” The Saddleback Church counts over 3,300 small groups located in ninety-five Southern California cities. (American Grace – Putnam and Campbell) Many churches welcome prospective members by offering them membership in a Small Groups which helps the prospective member get to know other parishioners and become a new member. What can Catholic Parishes learn from our Protestant brothers?