For the last few decades, the Church has been reminding us about the importance and centrality of evangelization. In 1983, St. John Paul II urgently summoned the world to a New Evangelization — a call to engage in a renewed proclamation of the Good News for the people in our time. Pope Benedict XVI gave new force to the work that St. John Paul II began by calling a world synod and creating a new council for promoting the New Evangelization, and evangelization as a missionary thrust continues in the pontificate of Pope Francis.
Here in Detroit, we began unpacking what it meant to present the Gospel with “new ardor, method, and expression” a little over a decade ago. Since then, the New Evangelization has taken shape through the Unleash the Gospel movement. Today, guided by the pastoral letter and the rich repository of teaching given to us by the Church in the last 50 years, we stand on the threshold of a new chapter in the history of our local Church, ready to unleash the Gospel through Families of Parishes. We are being called to collaborate in deeper and more intentional ways in order to better advance the mission Christ has entrusted to us.
The Mission Direct structure, as outlined in the Families of Parishes Playbook , gives us the opportunity to evangelize in new and exciting ways, especially through the three areas of Engagement, Family Ministry, and Discipleship Formation. Together, these three areas help us to implement all stages of the Detroit Model of Evangelization — Attract, Encounter, Grow, and Witness — in order to equip and send forth individuals and families in mission. Let’s explore each of these areas and see how they can work together.
The Engagement area includes the following ministries: Evangelization, Hospitality, RCIA, Ministry Placement, Ecumenism, and Communications. Together, these ministries provide an opportunity to engage people beyond the parish campuses. Through mission-focused communication and shallow-entry activities, new people are welcomed into our midst. Through hospitality ministry, newcomers are welcomed personally and connected to the parish. Through evangelization, individuals encounter Christ and are invited into a life of discipleship. Through ministry placement, their gifts are discerned and nurtured, and they are sent forth to bring new people into the faith community. Hospitality and evangelization ministries seek opportunities to invite individuals to RCIA. Ecumenism strengthens our relationship with other Christian communities and provides the opportunities to work on common goals.
The Discipleship Formation area includes Faith Formation for all ages, Sacramental Prep, Youth Ministry, and Small Groups. These ministries are focused on the “Grow” stage of the Detroit Model. Individuals who have been welcomed and evangelized through Engagement ministries are then invited to continue their journey of faith through Discipleship Formation. Small groups play a key role in the Grow stage and facilitate a way to accompany individuals in their journey of faith. They provide a great environment for forming disciples as they provide a safe place for continued encounter with Jesus, the development of authentic friendship, and honest sharing.
The Family Ministry area of Mission Direct provides us with the opportunity to assist families in ways we could not before. The ministries included in this area are: Marriage Ministry, Family Ministry, Infant Baptism, Family Support Groups, and Childcare. Marriage takes on a new level of importance when viewed in light of its critical role in the domestic Church. The vision for Marriage Ministry in Families of Parishes is to expand it beyond marriage prep. Marriage Ministry will provide enrichment to strengthen marriages in all their stages and support marriages that are struggling. Family Ministry helps parents cultivate habits of discipleship and provides workshops and resources for the many areas of family life that need support and nurture (i.e., Christian parenting, Internet and technology usage, the dangers of pornography, etc.). Family Support Groups assist and support struggling families. Infant Baptism preparation, in light of this Mission Direct area, focuses not only on immediate preparation for the sacrament, but also laying foundations for the domestic Church. Childcare is the key to successful family programming as it enables parents to engage in parish life.
The ministries in these three areas of Mission Direct have great potential to grow the Church, but their success will depend on the degree to which they collaborate with each other. Imagine the following scenarios:
Parents who bring their children for infant baptism are invited to attend a workshop on domestic Church hosted by the Family Ministry Coordinator. After the workshop, they are invited to an Alpha course hosted by the Evangelization Coordinator. Upon completion of Alpha, they are invited to a Family Small Group, organized by the Small Groups Coordinator. The Communications Coordinator tracks their engagement within the parish and flags the Childhood Faith Formation Coordinator when their children are of catechetical age. The Family Ministry Coordinator provides resources to the parents to help them evangelize their children at home and make Jesus the center of their family. The Childhood Faith Formation Coordinator reaches out to the family to invite their children to begin faith formation.
The Director of Engagement, together with the Communications Coordinator, creates a social media strategy to attract and engage young adults within the geographical region. They are invited to a shallow-entry activity hosted by the Evangelization Coordinator. When they arrive, they are welcomed by the hospitality volunteers and the hospitality minister follows up with each of them to inquire about their needs and desires. The Communications Coordinator tracks their engagement in parish activities and helps to move them from one stage of evangelization to the next. The Small Groups Coordinator follows up with the young adults to invite them to join a small group
Individuals who complete an Alpha course are invited to a “discipleship night” hosted by the Director of Discipleship to explore the options they have for continuing their journey of faith. They are invited to attend a Bible study, adult faith formation opportunities, or one of the many small groups that exist in the Family of Parishes. About 6 months later, these same individuals are invited to a Called & Gifted seminar hosted by the Ministry Placement Coordinator. The Ministry Placement Coordinator follows up with these participants to place them in ministries according to their gifts and the needs of the Family of Parishes.
As you can see, these Mission Direct areas are uniquely poised to breathe new life into our Families of Parishes. For Families who have limited resources, these ministries can be scaled down and combined; however, the same concepts can still be implemented, just on a smaller scale.
The New Evangelization called for by St. John Paul II will certainly have a new expression and new ardor as we embark on Families of Parishes. As with the first evangelization in the early Church, the Holy Spirit will continue to guide and inspire our next steps.
St. John Paul II, pray for us.
St. Anne, pray for us.
Blessed Solanus, pray for us.
To learn more about each of these Mission Direct areas, visit the
EGW online community