As parish leaders, you are all challenged with the awesome and sometimes overwhelming responsibilities of parish ministry. The urgent temporal needs of managing parish facilities, organizing and implementing catechetical programs, and scheduling resources for Mass often preoccupy our focus and attention. These are all important ministries and deserve our attention, but they are a means to our mission. The ministries are all parts of your ultimate purpose as parishes – to make disciples! Forming disciples and fostering a culture of missionary discipleship must be the priority.
“The parish is where the Church lives. Parishes are communities of faith, of action, and of hope. They are where the Gospel is proclaimed and celebrated, where believers are formed and sent to renew the earth. Parishes are the home of the Christian community; they are the heart of our Church. Parishes are the place where God’s people meet Jesus in word and sacrament and come in touch with the source of the Church’s life.”
USCCB Communities of Salt and Light, p. 1
You want to be mission-focused: forming, serving, and equipping people to be missionary disciples. This means you must harness technology so that you can be more relational. Use data and systems to provide a complete view of parishioners in one place so the system can help to inform your personal interactions.
Across the United States, mission-focused parishes are prioritizing 3 areas of ministry in addition to the daily and weekly parish activities, programs, and liturgies:
- Welcome and New Parishioner Engagement
- Personal and Group Prayer
- Parishioner Accompaniment and Care
These three areas represent a shift to greater awareness and interaction with parishioners, which adds more for parish leaders to do. With the same number or fewer people to carry out the operations and mission of the parish, your software systems must help you do more than track contact and contribution information. The systems need to help enable your ministry and help you know where to focus your personal interactions. This can be done with an intentional combination of personal and systems processes.
MinistryPlatform from ACST Catholic is designed to provide you with the support and function to enable more personal ministry. The highly flexible system has an integrated app named PocketPlatform and is built with an open API, which means there is an ecosystem of applications that all connect to the database managed in MinistryPlatform. This matters because it all supports the move from maintenance to mission so that your leaders can be data-informed ministers.
Welcome and New Parishioner Engagement
Welcome visitors, thank them for attending liturgy, and invite them back! Maintain contact so you know they came back. And offer ways for them to be more involved in the parish (and get them involved as soon as possible). Sounds simple, but this is often lacking at parishes.
This ministry requires that you prioritize ways to get visitors to provide you with their contact information without asking them to stand up at Mass! Set up a welcome desk and/or a text number with an offer for a thank-you gift (such as a prayer card or a book) and ask for their email address and name to receive it.
With this information, the extensive email and text capability of MinistryPlatform provides a way to set up a series of welcome communications and invitations. Extend it further by having MinistryPlatform initiate a process in Growth Method for more scheduled personal interaction and opportunities to participate in the parish. Keep parishioners informed and engaged through the app PocketPlatform. Invite them to groups and provide prayerful content such as daily devotions. This can all be integrated with and managed through MinistryPlatform.
Personal and Group Prayer
Encourage everyone to pray! By providing daily or weekly prayer content or links to prayers, along with the option to sign up for prayer and discussion groups, parish leaders can establish a culture of praying always and everywhere.
Use MinistryPlatform communications to send a scheduled weekly or monthly email inviting people to participate in prayer. Include a link to a prayer guide and a link to sign up for the Prayer Group. Use the Group Life feature to manage the small group, and Facilities to schedule and set up rooms for group meetings. Add the prayer content to PocketPlatform so that people can pray or participate in their group from their phones. Going to World Youth Day or conducting a mission trip or pilgrimage? Use Go Method to help manage planning, scheduling, and tracking the process. Manage your parishioner information all through MinistryPlatform.
Parishioner Accompaniment and Care
Stay in touch with parishioners. Know when to celebrate an anniversary or when to follow up on a sacrament. Know when something has changed in a parishioner’s habits that might indicate a need for prayer or care, and receive alerts to reach out in person.
With MinistryPlatform as your central system providing a complete view of parishioners, you can send personalized communications scheduled by the system. Set up future emails and visits to the family of a newly baptized child, newlywed couple, or grieving spouse. Note changes in regular activity such as giving and set an automated action to offer prayer based on the change. Where there is personal care at home or for hospital visits, use the Care Case feature to securely note activity and status for your pastor and key ministry leaders.
Explore ACST Catholic solutions and how they can aid your parish in encouraging discipleship
About Terry Poplava
Terry Poplava serves as General Manager, ACST Catholic. As a cradle Catholic, his faith was lukewarm until he was confronted by the intense challenge and commitment he heard in the message about Stewardship. “What do I own and what owns me?” which led him to executive roles at Our Sunday Visitor and Catholic Leadership Institute before his current focus on serving the Catholic Church at ACS Technologies. Terry has extensive experience working with churches across the U.S., supporting their planning, stewardship, and engagement efforts