As you approach Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD, you drive up a curving road through trees to a beautiful contemporary facility atop a hill in the gently rolling countryside. The building presents you with many doors to allow you to enter the combination sanctuary, cafe/gathering space, children’s sanctuary and offices. There is plenty of room for social interaction outside the sanctuary itself, which is a serene and beautiful space. The large space bustles with energy and hospitality as time approaches for the celebration of Mass. The campus and activities are a lot to manage. Yet this does not deter the staff who remain intensely focused on mission – bringing people to Christ. As Brandon Hollern, Director of Finance and Technology says, “Church of the Nativity changed my life and I am here to help change others lives.”
Love God. Love Others. Make Disciples.Church of the Nativity
The congregation of Church of the Nativity is growing, and parishioners are encouraged to be active in several ministries. The welcoming culture has evolved from a model pastor Michael White and Associate Tom Corcoran devised as a way to indicate steps to discipleship. Literally named STEPS, the acronym describes behaviors that are indicators of faith journey for parishioners.
Serving in ministry
Engaging in a small group
Practicing prayer and sacraments
Sharing your faith with others
These steps are the framework for indicating if ministry efforts are working to engage people in the parish and in their faith. The parish uses their system technology to gather this information based on parishioner activity. Then the staff can use the information to interact personally with people. They have enabled a series of notifications in the system so they know what actions to take. For example, welcome newcomers and follow up with them to invite them to an activity or group. Or personally contact someone who has been missing from their regular activity.
A framework such as “STEPS” provides an excellent way for parishes to identify priorities and set goals. Whether or not a parish uses the particular STEPS that Nativity has defined, the concept gives parish leadership a common language and possibly a way to encourage parishioners to step more deeply into their faith journey by making them aware that there are steps, or phases or thresholds to experience. Once defined, parish priorities can be supported in parish systems, by establishing the steps as milestones to report, and then observing the key activities of people who are in the system. It is good stewardship to be able to focus ministry efforts where they are working and where they are needed.
Hollern has set up MinistryPlatform as the parish system of record for a full “360 – view” of parishioners. “Everything we do is tied back to our database. Our website, our app, all stem from MinistryPlatform.” He sees the system as part of ministering to the people: “We are using technology to engage those people who are not in our community to get into our community, and engaging those who are in our community to grow deeper in their faith.”
Terry Poplava is a multi-disciplined executive with extensive sales, product marketing, strategy and leadership experience in supporting faith organizations. Terry’s professional experience includes organizational leadership, corporate development and growth, consulting with and training church leaders, and leading strategic and priority planning for churches and dioceses. He currently serves on the advisory board for the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche in St. Augustine FL, as cantor at St. Andrew parish in Myrtle Beach, SC. and recently as Chairman of the Finance Council at St. Mary the Virgin Mother parish in Hartsville, SC.