missionary discipleship


Resources for Missionary Discipleship during Covid-19

The pandemic is still with us, but the mission of the Lord’s Church has not changed. These tools are sensitive to pandemic realities and the call of the Lord to grow the Kingdom like a mustard seed, tend to those in need, and lean on his grace and mercy. There is a great deal we can and need to do, right now. People remember who was there for them in crisis: these tools will help you find ways to be in communion and accompany people trying to find the Lord in very difficult times. While this page is for pastors and parish staff, many if not most of these can be implemented by people in the parish. Please contact the relevant Curia member for support in implementing these tools.

1)  Spiritual growth, support, and outreach

Promote and join the Encountering Jesus: the 30 Day Prayer Challenge. Do you want your parish to become a "school of prayer"? Do you want your 2021 to be better than your 2020? Then rest on God's promises to those who reach out to Christ in prayer, and join us in this 30-day daily prayer challenge. Encourage your parish, family and/or friends to pray through the Gospel of Luke in one month through 15 minutes daily of Lectio Divina (sacred reading). This free 12-page booklet challenges you and shows you how to pray through lectio, and gives you daily scripture prompts and space for short prayers each day. There are also weekly reflection challenges. 

Feel free to download, print en masse, and give away to your parish as Christmas gift, mailing, New Year's Resolution gift, small faith sharing group challenge, and more. There are two booklets: the same inside, but one has a black and white cover and the other a color cover. The pastoral center does have free printed copies of the black and white cover booklet for parishes taking this challenge: first come, first served. This challenge will be supported on our diocesan facebook page in the month of January.

Connect and grow through Alpha or ChristLife (online or in person).  Alpha and ChristLife (similar processes but different organizations) are excellent tools for helping people consider, and then encounter, the person and proclamation of Jesus Christ.  Although designed for people who have little background in Christianity, many Christians find the process very moving, and an excellent reminder to "get back to basics."  This is a sharing the gospel tool, focusing on questions, responses, witness, common challenges to the Christian message, listening, friendship, and prayer: less catechetical than adult formation.  Both processes have a strong training component for hospitality and "table facilitation": this is NOT just watching videos.  And both strongly resemble the Inquiry (first) period of the RCIA process.

Both Alpha and ChristLife have developed a way to offer their process through Zoom online. After seeing the first adopters in action this Spring, it is clear that when in person in not possible, the online model does work well. In fact, it actually can be more appealing to some participants. Both processes are completely free to offer, although you will want a Zoom Pro account ($15 a month). Please contact Susan Windley-Daoust if you are interested in offering either for more information. swindley@dowr.org

Creating Discipleship Quads in your parish. If your parish does nothing else (the sacraments are presumed!), investing in small groups for spiritual growth and friendship that are designed to replicate and expand in a year helps parishioners where they are and creates a stronger parish. Discipleship Quads can be done with social distancing in place, and even online via Zoom or other videoconferencing platforms. Discipleship Quads typically are four men or four women who meet weekly and share life and challenge each other to a deeper life in Christ for about one year, with the intention of considering seriously running their own quad the following year. More details, free resource curriculum, and online adaptation tips: click here.

Sustaining Parish Community during Covid19.  In July, the diocese hosted a conversation on what parishes can be doing moving forward to foster and strengthen Christian friendships despite Covid19 restrictions. If you would like to view the Zoom conversation, click here (password. 1Godisgood!). If you would like to read the summary of the conversation with links, click here.

Offer Life in the Spirit Seminar Online. A devotion to the Holy Spirit can and should be encouraged during this unsettled time. This can be done for free using Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Jitsi Meet (a free open source videoconferencing platform) and available videos (As by a New Pentecost, or The Wild Goose series) via YouTube. People gather online, pray, watch a video together, and the facilitators may either offer a witness or discuss and pray. To consider how to offer this via technology, see the "Small Groups Online through Jitsi Meet" handout: click here. If you would like to discuss how to best run a Life in the Spirit seminar, you are welcome to contact Dcn. John Hust, diocesan liaison to Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Dcn. John Hust's email: jhust@dowr.org

Building a culture of witness online. The book of Acts, our daily readings this season, is completely full of apostles giving witness. A parish could do something fun and touching with that by creating their own "facebook page of Acts," and encourage people to post a 30 second answer to the question, Why am I grateful for Jesus Christ? or Where in my life do I see the face of Christ? People can do this on their own, and share it within a facebook group. People could also be interviewed via Zoom, recorded, and then posted. It would be best to model what this looks like with a few people first, and post those examples. These witness responses could be supplemented with or substituted by stories of people's witnesses available online, for example, linking to episodes of The Journey Home EWTN interviews of converts, click here, or
Catholic Evangelization Outreach's local witness talks at the Church of the Resurrection: click here. 

Divine Renovation Ministries has a free digital download of best practices for "Responding Well to the New Covid-19 Reality." This free resource requires an email address. Find it here: https://divinerenovation.org/rkreality .

Managing Coronavirus Anxiety and Mental Health. The mental health toll on the American population due to this virus has been enormous, with double digit increases in reported anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. Please consider reaching out to those in need--up to 40% of each congregation--with resources for help.

Catholic Charities of Southern Minnesota offers counseling through Telehealth. People can receive professional counseling through Catholic Charities via Telehealth (a secure videoconferencing system) throughout Southern Minnesota. Please make people aware of this excellent resource.  https://www.ccsomn.org/family-and-individual-counseling/

National Catholic Partnership for Disability (NCPD) has a number of Covid19-related resources on faith, life, and mental illness. One is a video for those feeling escalated stress, anxiety and how to handle it, suitable for posting on a website, facebook page, or linked to an email: https://ncpd.org/resources_and_toolkits/resources-healthy-life-ministry

Anxiety and Depression in a Covid-19 world. This article from Biola University (a Protestant university in California) has an excellent faith-friendly article on Covid-19 and an at home treatment of anxiety flares. https://www.biola.edu/coronavirus/community-resources/health-and-wellness/anxiety-and-depression-in-a-covid-19-world

Covid19 and Parishioners Living with Disabilities. The pandemic has hit this population, as well as caregivers, harder than most. The National Catholic Partnership on Disability has assembled a diverse variety of resources for people and families living with disabilities on handling a wide variety of Covid19 challenges, church related and otherwise. https://ncpd.org/pandemic . Many of their in-house resources are available in Spanish: https://ncpd.org/espanol .

An encouragement video on the power of personal witness may be a good way to nudge people to participate: Sr. Miriam James Heidland, SOLT, "The Power of Personal Witness": click here.

Christian support for finances in the family. Both Compass Catholic Ministries (https://compasscatholic.org/) and Financial Peace University (www.fpu.com) offer faith based financial support, which many people need desperately in 2020. They both have programs that can be run as courses in a church context. Explore both for details.

Catholic in Recovery online groups. Catholic in Recovery realizes that times of stress and isolation are particularly difficult for those in recovery from addictions, and those people who live with them. CiR has expanded their virtual support groups during this time. Catholic in Recovery is a 12 step process for those in recovery from addictions, or related/friends with someone in recovery, designed to work in tandem with traditional 12 step groups. You can attend without having been part of a Catholic in Recovery group before; you will be welcome. https://catholicinrecovery.com/virtual-meeting-schedule/.  There are also groups available in Winona and Austin, please find their leader contacts here.

Support for those caught in pornography.  The statistics prove that more people than ever are viewing pornography during this pandemic.  Parishes, please post regularly our diocesan website for people who want encouragement and tips on how to stop viewing pornography: https://cleanheart.online/diocese-winona-rochester  There are also online confidential 12 step pornography recovery groups for men at Catholic in Recovery here:  https://catholicinrecovery.com/virtual-meeting-schedule/.

Online Faith Formation resources. This list comes from Peter Martin, Director of Faith Formation and Marriage, Life, and Family, and may also be found on the Faith Formation page:  click here.

2)  Parish check-in tools

Creating a pandemic phone tree: As important as the social media push is right now, many people need a personal call to check in during this crisis. This is actually more important. The basic need is for human and spiritual contact, although a phone call is the best way to know who has other needs in your parish. This is a medical, and/or economic, and/or mental health crisis for the majority of people in southern Minnesota right now. This emergency phone tree could be done through farming out phone numbers to call people at home, or creating a an onsite phone bank for a day or two (if there are social distancing measures used, and if there is NOT a shelter in place order). Feel welcome to use this "how to create a phone tree" document to contact everyone registered in the parish with staff and volunteers. Click here.

Saint Paul Evangelization Institute has an excellent slideshow on the benefits of creating a calling ministry at this time. See it here.

Parish outreach assessment tools. As the pandemic continues, needs change. Although nothing is a substitute for a personal check-in via phone, the following suggestions can help parishes consider how to adjust its work to the needs of parishioners and community in this pandemic.

a) Weekly check-in surveys. Gloo offers a free, short, mildly adaptable survey to send your parishioners via email or text once a week to assess the spiritual and emotional temperature of your parish, feedback, and concrete numbers about income loss, mental health, illness, etc. They also allow you to end the survey with a URL redirect that takes you to your website--a pastor's note? a schedule for the coming week? promotion to an online parish event? etc. Finally, they crunch the numbers for you automatically. Survey responses can be set up to be anonymous or with an option to include the person's name. Gloo has partnered with Barna, an evangelical-based stat analysis organization, and the image on each survey does look somewhat evangelical. However, the questions work in any Christian church, and other questions could be added for specificity. Finally, there is an option to create a survey for the wider community to discern how your parish/cluster can support them. For more information on either Weekly check-in, click here.   

b) Check-in form embedded in the parish website. This could be done in many website hosting programs or through Google forms. One example is included here for your consideration, from Blessed Sacrament Church in Oshkosh, WI: https://www.mbsoshkosh.com/covid-19-outreach . If you have a gmail account, you can use Google Forms, which will assemble results for you: click here. 

3)  Liturgy explanations regarding current protocols

Public/private Mass and spiritual communion primers. Please consider sharing this PDF flyer for sending to parishioner homes by email attachment or through the mail: click here. We also have Facebook post images on the same topics; share as needed. Why do priests offer mass, click here; how to do spiritual communion, click here.

4)  Improving or starting social media outreach

Basic social media outreach for parishes during Covid-19 distancing. Now more than ever, every parish should have a Facebook page and use it to engage their parishioners and the larger community. A two page primer with the basics (starting from zero) may be found here: click here.

Intermediate level social media outreach during Covid-19 distancing (Facebook live, advanced posting, Zoom, etc.). Click here.

NEW. Intermediate level online small groups using Jitsi Meet. Bible studies, prayer groups, council meetings, and more can be arranged through Jitsi Meet, an open source videoconferencing platform. It is free, has strong security measures, and easy to use for the basics. Click here.

How to create and use a parish or parish cluster Facebook group (as opposed to a public Facebook page). Click here.

5)  Outreach to a larger community

10 Contagions for a Pandemic of Kindness. Ideas to live every day in the power of the Holy Spirit, and how. Click Here.

Operation Adopt a Street. Many people are asking what they can do to help in this crisis, and this is one way to empower people to do needed outreach from home. While it is most helpful for people who are low-risk and willing/able to pick up groceries, it can be adapted for people who are truly home bound but open to talking with people. Click here.

6)  Training for Mission, Pandemic and Beyond

The diocese has partnered with two organizations to help us adapt and thrive in a Covid19 world, Parish Success Group and Revive Parishes.

Our Fall Ministry Day is October 15 and online, “New Wine into New Wineskins: The ‘How’ of Missionary Discipleship in Our New Reality.” We are hosting Rich Curran, the founder of Parish Success Group (PSG). Rich has a genius for integrating the theory of mission with practical implementation, and this day will cast everything in the light of Covid19. He will also return online and help parishes navigate the challenges of Covid19 and effective ministry on a quarterly basis until Summer 2021. Information is coming soon. Please contact Todd Graff (tgraff@dowr.org) for more information.

“Master classes” for parish improvement and success. We encourage parishes to consider attending one of PSG’s live “master classes” online, on a variety of topics that show parishes how to make practical changes to improve mission and making disciples, even in a pandemic. There are classes in English and Spanish. The number of participants is capped to allow conversation and specific teaching. More information coming, but see the options here: https://www.parishsuccessgroup-training.com/

Revive Parishes training. The diocese has partnered with Revive Parishes, an impressive video-training set of courses geared toward renewal of parishes for mission in every aspect of ministry, from discipleship to fundraising to service to preaching to crisis management. This is available to you for free (upon email registration) through our diocesan branch of the website. These courses will be facilitated by directors of ministries throughout Fall 2020 and Spring 2021, but they are also available for parish staff and volunteers to engage on their own. Please contact Susan Windley-Daoust (swindley@dowr.org ) for more information.