Where did the Neighborhood Church Move To?

by | Sep 17, 2016 | Formation, Reflections


Photo courtesy of Vincentian Parish Missions website Ireland http://www.vincentianparishmissions.ie/

The neighborhood church did not move! People moved!

They moved to parishes where they find nourishment. Or, they moved away from any parish at all.

I deliberately use the term neighborhood church. I am old enough to remember a time when Catholics answered the question “where do you live” by naming the parish rather than the neighborhood.

But the times have changed to the point that Catholics who have left the church make up the second-largest religious group in the United States.

According to a recent Pew study, more than two-thirds of Catholics said the quality of sermons played an important role in their choices of a parish, and 71 percent said feeling welcomed by church leaders played that role.

While many religious communities are worried about playing more contemporary music or building a better Web site or being more active on social media, the truth is that the people in the pews are looking for a significant spiritual message on Sundays and a community they’ll feel at home in.

In a new release from Ave Maria Press Great Catholic Parishes William Simon and his team studied 244 Catholic parishes to determine what made them exceptional. The study found that all of the parishes shared four foundational practices that led to a profound sense of belonging within their parish communities and a deepening commitment to discipleship:

  • Share leadership by using clergy and lay staff with the best talents and skills to direct the community
  • Foster spiritual maturity and plan for discipleship by offering a variety of formation programs and ministry opportunities to reach parishioners at differing points in their lives
  • Excel on Sundays by dedicating significant time, energy, and money to liturgical celebrations that parishioners and visitors find welcoming
  • Intentionally evangelize by challenging insiders to look outward and providing service programs, social events, global mission opportunities, and pastoral care at key sacramental moments that focus on inviting outsiders to deeper relationship with Christ and the Church.

The four take-aways offer much food for thought.

Share your thoughts!

PS. For a sample of some recent Vincentian writing  and programs on parishes visit the Vincentian Parish Mission•Ireland and Vincentian Parishes and the New Evangelization on our partner site.

Tags: Church, parish