missionary discipleship

Parish-Wide Mission focus

Parish Mission Structuring Model

The parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different                contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community. While certainly not                the only institution which evangelizes, if the parish proves capable of self-renewal and constant adaptivity, it continues            to be “the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters”.#26 This presumes that it really is in                      contact with the homes and the lives of its people, and does not become a useless structure out of touch with people              or a self-absorbed group made up of a chosen few. The parish is the presence of the Church in a given territory, an                      environment for hearing God’s word, for growth in the Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach,                worship and celebration.#27 In all its activities the parish encourages and trains its members to be evangelizers.#28  It            is a community of communities, a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey, and a centre            of constant missionary outreach. We must admit, though, that the call to review and renew our parishes has not yet                  sufficed to bring them nearer to people, to make them environments of living communion and participation, and to                  make them completely mission-oriented.

                                                                                                                      --Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), #28

This model of missionary discipleship and evangelization focuses on the spiritual vision for the parish and for that geographic community it serves.

It’s helpful to recall that we have one mission, and that is the Great Commission: go and make disciples of all nations, and how to employ organizational leadership in each parish for the mission that fulfills that vision. That implies the vision as well: a world where every person rejoices that Jesus Christ is Lord and is received at the Eucharistic table. This is abundantly underlined in the gospels—that Christ is for all—as well as Acts (Peter: “truly God shows no partiality”)—as well as Paul’s letters. Will everyone say yes? Probably not, for many reasons. But that is out of our control. What is in our control is acting upon the call to offer and help people know that God loves them, Jesus Christ died for them, and they are called and empowered to follow him through the Holy Spirit in his Church. People must become intentional disciples and disciple-makers. Each parish’s assigned geographic area is our mission field.

Each parish, then, as an outpost of the Church of Rome founded on the rock of Peter by Christ himself, needs to deliberately take the time to pray for what this vision looks like in their geographical parish. After the prayer, each parish needs to assess what they are doing in ministry and outreach.

The “success” of each parish as a designated outpost will depend upon how deliberately each prayerfully engages structuring and prioritizing for mission before maintenance. But this is not easy, especially in an age of clustering and shifting models of being parish.

There are many tools to help you do exactly that:

My office (Missionary Discipleship) can be engaged to help do workshops and facilitate meetings and conversations that help you articulate what the vision is in your parish/cluster, and what is the mission. Then each branch of ministry should be examined to see if it serves the need of the larger community, both in purpose and in effectiveness. This work is offered for free to the diocese. swindley@dowr.org

Parish Success Group combines assessment of needs, developing a deep mission focus, and implementation according to the teaching of the Church through coaching individual parishes and self-selected cohorts of parishes and more. PSG’s founder, Rich Curran, spoke with those gathered at Ministry Days in June of 2020. We are continually seeking parishes interested in being part of a multiple parish cohort for mission development and implementation. 

L’Alto Institute offers parish partnerships to help cast a vision, create or adapt a discipleship path, align ministries, and form parish leaders for renewal. Tim Glemkowski, the founder, spoke at our Pentecost Celebration in 2019 as part of the Millennial Church conference. 

The Amazing Parish is a conference based process that provides coaching for months after the event, equipping pastors and a parish leadership team with tools and processes for making mission-based decisions and assessment, and some parishes in our diocese have taken advantage of that process with great benefit.

M3 Ministries is run by Deacon Keith Strohm, and does consulting with parishes regarding how to change parish culture (which involves developing and adhering to a mission mentality operating through discipleship).

Catholic Missionary Disciples is a consulting firm run by Marcel LeJeune, a long term Catholic campus minister at the largest campus ministry in the country (at Texas A&M). CMM focuses on coaching toward making parish leadership disciples who make disciples themselves. 


Two of the most well known books on organizing and implementing parish mission are Fr. Michael White and Tom Corcoran’s Rebuilt, and Fr. James Mallon’s Divine Renovation. Both tell the story of how they worked moved a parish from a maintenance culture and structure to a mission fueled by discipleship culture. Each book spawned a ministry to help other parishes do the same, with very helpful discerning and implementing workbooks and ministry-focus books (on youth ministry, small group ministry, etc.) See www.rebuiltparish.com and www.divinerenovation.net .

Two other books I want to recommend are Tim Glemkowski’s Made for Mission: Renewing Your Parish Culture. This book certainly has the stories in it, but is more about structuring the process of renewal. It also defines terms (as he says, buzzwords don’t help anyone), and is deeply rooted in the theology of the Church.

Another is Keith Strohm’s Ablaze: Five Essential Paradigm Shifts for Parish Renewal. This book does an excellent job in making clear why this work is hard. But it also has a very visual sense of how you can discern if the culture is changing, and how it changes. The book is worth the cultural snapshot inventory in the back.

Please contact me for further information.