missionary discipleship

Crafting Adult Discipleship Paths

This article on creating an adult discipleship path for your parish was written by Marcel LeJeune, founder of Catholic Missionary Disciples, and is used with permission. The article also may be found here on the CMD blog.– Susan Windley-Daoust.

Why Every Parish Needs A Deliberate Plan of Parish Renewal & What It May Look Like!

If you wanted to build a tower, would you start to build it without a plan? Maybe because you know some elements of what a good tower should have, you just start piecing them together, without a blueprint or a study if it will work. No? Probably not. Yet, this is how most parishes operate. Without a clear plan on how to build disciples, they try to "make disciples" and when things don't go as expected (e.g., there isn't much conversion or spiritual maturity), they don't know why things went wrong. Jesus put it this way:

"Now great multitudes accompanied him; and he turned and said to them, “If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build, and was not able to finish.’" 

Luke 14:25-30

In other words - discipleship requires planning. With this in mind, try asking yourself a few questions.

What is your parish's plan for the average parishioner? How are we reaching out to others to fulfill the mandate to "make disciples of all nations"? What do we do when someone wants to join the parish? If you don't know what your answers are, then the chances are that there isn't an intentional plan or strategy of how to do pastoral ministry. Honestly, very few parishes have an intentional plan of action for how we determine where someone is and how to move them to the next step in their journey. This is what we are going to tackle in this post.

Before you go any further, familiarize yourself with our pathway of discipleship. It is the way in which we can start to discern where we (and others) are on our journey with Jesus. Once you are familiar with this pathway, then the planning process below will make more sense.

It isn't enough to know where someone is and what they need. We also need to have a plan on how we then move someone along the path, in the context of parish ministries. Part of the process needs to be discernment of what each person needs, so that it is all built on communication and relationships. As we stated in previous post on the pathway of discipleship - people don't neatly fit into our categories we assign them to. So, be open to what God wants of each person and not stuck to a plan. The people are the reason we do ministry - not the plan!

With that being said, I want to offer a diagram and try to explain what a Parish path of ministry might look like:

Parish Path of Ministry Image

A few notes on the plan:

  1. Notice that every stage should include the following:
    -Intercessory Prayer
    -Mission / Vision / Strategy
    -Disciples further ahead on the path to accompany others
    -Healing, where needed

  2. The Sacraments undergird every part of our ministry. 
  3. The examples of what may be a part of each category (e.g. - Alpha, CCO Discovery, etc. which are under "Evangelization") are just that, examples. There are many ways in which we could use a programmatic element in each stage - but nothing replaces relationship.
  4. The plan is meant to overcome some of the assumptions we make in our parishes, such as:
    -Those who are "involved" have already had a conversion to Jesus.
    -We need to do everything, even if it doesn't fit our mission.
    -Catholic parishes just don't operate with a plan.
  5. The goal is to move people intentionally through the process of spiritual conversion and maturity. Without a plan, we will operate with a hodge-podge of programs, events, and classes. With a goal, we know where someone needs to go and how we can move them there.
  6. Too often we get comfortable in our spiritual journey. This kind of intentional plan can hold us accountable to keep moving forward - if it is used properly and relationships are oriented toward spiritual growth and maturity.
  7. The ultimate goal is to become missionary disciples who make other missionary disciples. We can't just be content to keep all the good stuff to ourselves, we have to share it with others & then equip them to do the same with still others.

This is another part of the process that we use with our clients at Catholic Missionary Disciples. If you feel this is what you would like your parish to look like (& are a staff member or pastor of the parish), then we would love to help you make it a reality.