From Committee Culture To A Policy Of Promotion:

From Committee Culture To A Policy Of Promotion:
How Can The Parish Foster The Formation And Initiative Of Its Members That They May Be Fully Alive?

First of all, if being fully alive is the goal, what does it mean? Ultimately is it not merely, “their time is now filled with parish activities,” or, “they enjoy their lives,” or even, “they have their priorities straight,” such that they help out at the parish or any other ulterior motive. The goal is Christ, who, “came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly.” “For to me, life is Christ, and death is gain. I glory in the Cross of my Lord, Jesus Christ.”

So there is the goal, the way there, and the strength to live it out: Jesus, “is the way, the truth, and the life.” But what does that mean practically?

It means lots of things, because it means being Spirit driven; God is active and blowing in each of our lives, giving us life and prompting us to grow by using the gifts He created us with in cooperation with His grace.

So key to everything is grace, which requires listening, which requires silent listening, even some discernment at times, to have direction and to be tapped into the power to move and produce fruit, “apart from me you can do nothing.” But again, what does this mean and look like practically? And how should the parish administration cooperate with grace, how can policy help this fruit grow?

What it ultimately looks like is that more and more parishioners are producing fruit, and this fruit contains seeds to produce new believers. This fruit is simply every good thing they enjoy in their lives, every gift they’ve been given to give, as well as every other action and choice they make, enjoyable on a worldly level or not, being informed and empowered by the Source of Charity, which is none other than the Eucharist, Jesus Himself.

That means arts and crafts, that means running groups, that means family time, that means finances, or financial education. It means movie nights, field trips, devotions, paintball, nerf, swimming, having neighbors over, boating, bible studies, ice cream, ultimate frisbee, card and board games, skateboarding, counseling, grief support, marriage prep, educating children, educating adults, forming fraternities, playing pickup basketball, having All Saint’s parties and going trick or treating. In short, it means doing everything and anything that is or can be good, being informed by the gospel and filled with love given by Christ in the Eucharist, but especially that which God calls you to do.

The parish can help effect this culture shift from maintenance to mission, filling needs to stewardship, committees to life in the Spirit in several ways, beginning with step:
0. Fostering prayer. Prayer is hard. We need to value it, protect it, teach it, prioritize it, or we will fail before we begin. “Unless the Lord builds the house, in vain do its builders labor.” Then:

Provide and promote vision
People need something they can imagine in order to get started. Then they need promotion to feel brave enough to try.
Make this vision official policy
Committees are still and always will be necessary, dedicated individuals volunteering together to accomplish large and/or long term tasks, but not everything needs to have a committee to lead it, or needs to be so big.
Beginning with allowing, and continuing by encouraging individuals to have, and carry out their own dreams for fun and other goods should be the default instead of redirecting to this or that committee.
Oversight will need to be different (clear expectations and trust will be involved) and failure may be more frequent, but it will be better for more people to find their own solutions than for a few to be loaded with everyone’s responsibilities, or worse, to leave those responsibilities and gifts on the table or in pockets.
Chart a course/pave the road for startups
Craft itinerary/ies (see separate document) for individuals and groups: i.e. here are some ideas of how to get started, what to do, where to go from here.
Draft clear expectations and requirements, i.e. the lines to color within, so as to clearly assign liability and prevent loss or damage.
This includes what they must do and not do, and what they can expect the parish to do and not do. Might also include help managing expectations, e.g. just because you do this and we help you doesn’t mean it will turn out the way we hope, but filled with hope we try, and in failure we assess. In all things, we plan our best, and leave the results in God’s hands.
Back up promotion with enablement: i.e. here are certain
Resources, e.g. advertising
at your disposal to assist you. There are limits on what they can do, but these can help you get started.

Overall, by giving the Holy Spirit free reign in our parishes, and working to remove obstacles to it, rather than siloing particular initiatives chosen by a few into committees, will bring more people close to God and accomplish far more good work. When it takes a committee to get anything done, few want to do anything, and many are happy to leave it to those few to do for them. When, rather, you have a desire in your heart from God, a gift you want to share, a dream you want to see, or just some fun you want to enjoy, you should be encouraged and assisted by your parish family to cultivate it and help it “produce 30, 60, and 100 fold.”
And one of the big fruits is that the parish, even a big parish, begins to feel more and more like a parish: where united in and by God, Who is love, people know and love and care for each other.
Itinerary/ies: some suggestions how to have a group, or even just an event

Getting ideas
Pray. How has God made you? What do you like to do? What are your gifts and talents? What do you wish you could do? These are ways God is inviting you to share, whether you lead a group or just join one. Don’t bury your talent! Don’t stifle the Spirit!
What needs doing in your parish and/or town? How can you and others help?
Check the bulletin board and website and other places for what’s going on already.
Check out good parishes, Newman centers, youth groups, schools,, etc, what are they doing that you’d like to do?
What do local businesses and parks offer? What have you got to work with?

Inviting people
Have something clear in mind to do that you’re inviting people to join in.
Set a set time and place to do it.
Invite people.
By name when possible, but don’t be afraid to reach out to strangers.
In person is best, but phone calls can work. For texting, messaging, or emailing to work, you really already need some kind of relationship established.

Day of:
Have whatever equipment, drinks, snacks or other things you’ll need or want.
When everyone is gathered, cheerfully welcome them.
Briefly refresh – introduce the event. Then open with prayer e.g. thanks for coming to play (basketball), so glad you could make it. First, let’s open with prayer.*
Get to know each other, if others come later, be sure to welcome and include them too.
Set up.

At the end, or when enough people have to leave, pause and do the following:
Offer a quick prayer of thanksgiving.*
If it’s a recurring event, schedule the next one or decide on when the regular time to meet is if not already said in the initial invite. If it doesn’t work, make adjustments.
If you’d like to do this or anything else again, share contact info.
Thank everyone and say goodbye.

*see attached sample prayers for example

Some suggestions:
Do some research and find a patron saint for your group/event, even if it’s just for a quick St. __ , pray for us. But it would be great to share a bit of their life when there’s naturally room to do so, and incorporate them more in the prayer of the group.
Food is magic, if you can provide supper or lunch, or breakfast for that matter, or even just a snack, many more people are willing to come spend time.
Different people have different gifts and talents. You don’t have to do everything, e.g. Some people have a talent for being charismatic and fun, see if you can get one of them onboard to help you invite people. Some people love organizing details, if planning’s not your thing, see if you can find someone to help clarify and communicate things so that they happen.

Many people want to simply use a megaphone, i.e. “father, could you make an announcement?” There are several problems with this:
First and foremost, it distracts from the primary work of prayer at the most essential and supreme prayer, and one time we’re all together to do so.
It’s spoon-feeding: having announcements encourages laziness: if people won’t put in a little effort to look for what’s going on, they won’t want to sign up for your event either.
It’s the 21st century, we can do better.
Broad blanket statements seem like they should be very powerful because they reach so many people at once, but in reality, most ignore them. Instead rather, the most powerful connection is a personal invitation. People who weren’t planning on coming, who indeed have already forgotten an announcement will come to something good when invited personally especially by a friend, even if they’ve never tried it before.
When this policy of promotion becomes successful, there will be far too many things going on to possibly announce all of them. What will instead be promoted is, “There is so much good stuff going on, all the time! Put on by people just like you! Look here, (here,) or here for more!
Tables in the entryway, or commons/social hall now. And during the week:
Bulletin board
Facebook, including a hub for facebook groups (limit these to a few headings, or it will become unnavigable)
The bulletin

In case of failure, some help:
Don’t feel bad. You did well, putting yourself out there and trying something new!
Let’s take a real good look at it. What were your expectations? Were they realistic/why did you expect these things to be done this way? How did you factor for them to happen that way?
Was something missed, mistakes made? What could help in the future?
Sample prayers

A very common format for an opening prayer is to:
Open with the Sign of the Cross.
Speak a couple sentences of spontaneous prayer, usually
Praise God for His goodness.
Thank Him for the day, health, and/or ability to do today’s activity.
Ask him for help in doing so.
…(though Our Lady’s intercession) as we pray… and then lead a familiar, standard prayer, e.g. Our Father, Hail Mary.
Lead: St. (patron(ess) of today’s activity), all respond: pray for us.
Sign of the Cross.

Closing prayer can be very similar:
Open with the Sign of the Cross,
Speak a couple sentences of spontaneous prayer, usually
Praise God for His goodness.
Thank Him again for the day, health, and/or ability to do today’s activity, etc.
Ask help for people in need, perhaps those not able to do the kind of activity you just enjoyed.
as we pray… and then lead a familiar, standard prayer, e.g. Glory be.
Lead: St. (patron(ess) of today’s activity), all respond: pray for us.
Sign of the Cross.

Some common prayers
Our Father
Our Father,
Who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Hail Mary
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Glory Be
Glory be to the Father,
and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen.
Grace Before Meals
Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive, from thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Grace After Meals
We give thee thanks for all thy benefits, O Almighty God, who lives and reigns, world without end. Amen.
May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Saint Michael Prayer
Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against
the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God,
cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl throughout the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
Anima Christi
Soul of Christ, sanctify me,
Body of Christ, save me,
Blood of Christ, inebriate me,
Water from the side of Christ, wash me,
Passion of Christ, strengthen me,
O good Jesus, hear me.
Hide me within your wounds,
keep me close to you,
defend me from the evil enemy,
call me at the hour of my death,
and bid me to come to you,
to praise you with your saints,
forever and ever. Amen.
Hail Holy Queen
Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of mercy,
our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To thee do we cry,
poor banished children of Eve:
to thee do we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate,
thine eyes of mercy toward us,
and after this our exile,
show unto us the blessed
fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God,
that we may be made worthy
of the promises of Christ. Amen.
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known
that any one who fled to thy protection,
implored thy help,
or sought thy intercession,
was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence,
We fly unto thee,
O Virgin of virgins my Mother;
to thee do we come, before thee we stand,
sinful and sorrowful,
O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
despise not our petitions,
but in thy mercy hear and answer them. Amen.
Guardian Angel Prayer
Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here, ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.

The Angelus (traditionally prayed at 6am, noon, and 6pm. Many churches ring bells to remind the faithful)
The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
And she conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary, full of grace…
Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
Be it done unto me according to thy word.
Hail Mary, full of grace…
And the Word was made Flesh.
And dwelt among us.
Hail Mary, full of grace…
Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God,
that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray. Pour forth, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy grace into our hearts, that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ, thy son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by his passion and cross be brought to the glory of his resurrection, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
Regina Coeli (used instead of the Angelus during Easter)
V. Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
R. For He whom you did merit to bear, alleluia.
V. Has risen, as he said, alleluia.
R. Pray for us to God, alleluia.
V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
R. For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.
Let us pray. O God, who gave joy to the world through the resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, grant we beseech Thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His Mother, we may obtain the joys of everlasting life. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
Morning Offering
Dear Lord, I do not know what will happen to me today — I only know that nothing will happen that was not foreseen by you and directed to my greater good from all eternity. I adore your holy and unfathomable plans, and submit to them with all my heart for love of you, the pope, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Amen.
Prayer of Surrender
Lord Jesus Christ, take all my freedom, my understanding, and my will. All that I have and cherish you have given to me. I surrender it all to be guided by your will. Your love and your grace are wealth enough for me. Give me these, Lord Jesus, and I ask for nothing more. Amen.
Examen prayer (most often used at the end of the day, but can be used anytime)
1. Place yourself in God’s presence. Give thanks for God’s great love for you.
2. Pray for the grace to understand how God is acting in your life.
3. Review your day — recall specific moments and your feelings at the time.
4. Reflect on what you did, said, or thought in those instances. Were you drawing closer to God, or further away?
5. Look toward tomorrow — think of how you might collaborate more effectively with God’s plan. Be specific, and conclude with the “Our Father.”