Solve the Challenges of Parish Change through Creative Channels

by Marti Jewell

Our world is filled with new and unexpected challenges. We need to know that our Church is alive and well, there to support us, even in difficult times.

Whether in traditional parishes with their own pastor, linked parishes sharing a pastor, or mega-churches, Catholics are meeting changes in the Church with amazing creativity. Those parishes that are emerging as the most vibrant and alive are rooted in celebrating, welcoming, Eucharistic communities.

If your parish is undergoing pastoral changes, there are some things you can do to ease the transition. A healthy community involves the participation of the whole community, ordained and nonordained, lay ecclesial ministers, professionals, and volunteers, working together to achieve a shared vision for their parish. Therefore, it is important to promote the practice of “co-responsibility” called for by Pope Benedict XVI. Does your parish encourage lay-led ministries and the development of new parish ministries? Many parishes are discovering the growing appreciation for the common baptismal call to discipleship and evangelization with different expressions among clergy, lay ecclesial ministers, and lay parish leaders. One way you can support this growing interest is to recognize the need to provide formation and training for parishioners.

In addition to the changing face of pastoral leadership, changes in the makeup of the parish community should also be considered. You will find that today’s parishes are increasingly multicultural. Promoting an intentional effort to embrace multicultural membership is a good way to ensure a welcoming environment. Many parishes are also finding ways to welcome more people into catechesis by adapting traditional religious education practices, such as offering intergenerational faith formation. Finally, your parish can work to reach youth and young adults through cross-parochial ministries and integrating young adult leaders into the life of the parish.

Pastorally excellent leaders are realistic about the challenges and changes facing us. At the same time they are optimistic that together we can form vibrant communities of faith. Be creative! It will be a blessing.

Marti Jewell

Marti Jewell

Marti R. Jewell, DMin, now on the faculty of the School of Ministry at the University of Dallas, was the director of the Emerging Models Project from 2003 to 2009.

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