What is the First Step in Renewing a Parish?

By Pat Lencioni

Parish renewal is a popular topic these days, for good reason.  The local parish is the place that most Catholics come to worship God and receive the Eucharist, as well as the other Sacraments.  For the majority of us, it is the physical epicenter of the practice of our faith.

The big question is, how does a parish go about renewal?  How does it even begin such a process?  There are two answers to that question.

First, and most important of all, is the realization that renewal is a spiritual endeavor, and must be centered around faith and prayer.  That might sound like a statement of the obvious, but the point is that better management and programs and theories cannot work without the complete and utter dependence on God’s providence.  Too often we go about the work of the Church forgetting that it must begin, end and be infused with prayer.  Every step of parish renewal needs to be brought before Jesus, acknowledging that we do nothing on our own.

The second step of parish renewal, before we start talking about programs and music and hospitality and outreach – yes, before any of that – is the establishment of a real team of leaders, beginning with the pastor himself.  Without a pastor who is willing to lead, and without a pastor who is willing to build a small team to help him in the daunting task of running a parish, the best programs and ideas will be almost impossible to sustain.

In today’s Church, pastors are often overwhelmed with questions and requests and duties, large and small.  Without the support of a group of trusted men and women around him, pastors so often burn out.  They need a team for delegation, for counsel, for support during difficult times, and even for fellowship.  No CEO, no school principal, no coach should go about leading alone.  A parish is no different. 

Wait!  A parish is different than those organizations.  It’s more important than any company or school or enterprise. After all, people’s eternal souls are at stake in a parish.  And because Jesus is our model in all things, including parish life, and because He, the Son of God, surrounded Himself with a trusted team, our pastors should certainly do the same. 

Let’s pray for our pastors, that they will embrace prayer, leadership and teamwork in the pursuit of parish renewal!


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Makes Sense

Thank you for this great post. I am currently pastor of a midsize parish working towards renewal and I am reminded constantly of the necessity of my own life of prayer and calling my people to prayer, both during the Liturgy and in their daily lives. It is difficult trying to build a team of trusted leaders: please pray that the Lord will move those whom He has blessed with gifts that could serve our parish so well to come forward and place their gifts at the service of God and their brothers and sisters. Please pray for me and for all pastors. In the Lord, Fr. Jordan Kelly, OP