Church Life

Decision Making for Disciple Makers in a Parish Setting

Many parishes run into one major problem: space. How do you figure out who goes where, who gets dropped, and how to choose one event or ministry over the other? At our parish, we developed a discipleship approach to dealing with our space issues.

Our leadership team acts as a great filter, reviewing any new program, event or ministry as a team in order to decide if it is a good fit for our parish. They can plow through these proposals if they are do not fit our parish mission or is just not feasible. Mission gives you permission to say no! Then everything is broken down into Liturgy/Sacraments, Faith Formation, Parish Life, Outreach, and Community categories and is prioritized in that order.

When Christ taught his disciples the Our Father, it contained not just good focus for prayer, but also our priorities- God first, then our needs. We follow a similar pattern.

Our first focus is on making God’s Name holy in worship through liturgy and sacraments, and then in faith formation. When assigning rooms, our facilities team makes sure anything having to do with worship and formation are given the highest priority. The second focus is on the people. “Parish Life” is the umbrella term for our Ad Intra ministries like Marriage and Family enrichment. Outreach and Community are Ad Extra ministries that serve those outside the parish, like our food pantry, Habitat for Humanity, and Saint Vincent de Paul Society, as well as hosting things like Boy Scouts, Interfaith, AA meetings and other support groups.

The discipleship matrix helps us assess the healthy balance of each category by applying discipleship principles to all our considerations. I find the Win-Build-Send model of Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) to be extremely helpful. Are we winning people for Christ, building parishioners into maturing Christians, and sending them out to win others for Christ?

Looking at worship, are there opportunities for Win? Are we creating space for people on the margins or outside the faith to come in and worship God? We created a monthly event called Glorify to do just that. It combines Praise and Worship music with Eucharistic Adoration, and a short message oriented towards receiving Christ’s gift of salvation.

Turning to formation, I bet your parish is a lot like mine. We are composed entirely of Build classes and offer few things for Win and nothing for Send. Bible and doctrine studies for insiders who “get it” are necessary, but the tendency is for Build to dominate. So we launched a Win class for marginal believers on Sunday nights, and for Send we started an annual mission to Honduras that does medical, sacramental and catechetical work.

Parishioner Dr Romero peers into a child's ear who probably hasn't seen a doctor her whole life as a villager in the mountains of Honduras.

Parishioner Dr Romero peers into a child's ear who probably hasn't seen a doctor her whole life as a villager in the mountains of Honduras.

Even when a program or group is not explicitly Christian, like the Boy Scouts, we want our parish to be present and active in the community as a blessing. So we create space for them while making sure they do not push away opportunities for worship, formation or serving the poor.

The Win-Build-Send matrix helps us balance each category. We cannot ignore Outreach or Community ministries and only focus on Liturgy, but we also need to a way to make each ministry point to Christ.

I canceled our longest running Bible study to make room for our first Spanish adult faith formation group that actually evangelizes. We had no “Win” and too much “Build,” so the decision was easy to make, though not without pushback. People were upset at me for canceling their study, but when space is limited, this discipleship matrix provides not just consistent policies but is a powerful Christ-centered, mission-driven approach to resolving these issues.