“Beginning with the end in mind” is an aphorism that has been around for a very long time. How do we apply that phrase to ministry? We must take intentional next steps as we plan for the “here and now”, and thinking of the big picture can only help our ministry as we plan opportunities for individual faith growth.
When you walk in a garden or a yard with stepping stones, each step is clear and easy to approach as you move to your next destination. Ministry provides an opportunity for distinct stepping stones. Take some time to reflect and pray about the following questions:
- How is this ministry intentionally planned to help someone take the next step in his or her faith journey, no matter where they are at?
- How is God part of the planning and implementing of the steps?
- Who, besides yourself, is praying for these stepping stones?
Ministry that carefully places these stepping stones is both collaborative and intentional, thinking of what is immediately coming up while also planning for the long run. Each time you plan a ministry opportunity, think of someone walking along a path to something greater. Consider what needs to be in place for an individual to feel welcomed, included, and valued.
Think of the first stepping stone. Imagine yourself as a newcomer at a parish event. You may feel vulnerable when opening yourself up to experiencing something through another’s eyes, but this is the exact practice needed to begin a journey accompanying others. Consider these questions:
- How is the parish prepared to meet a newcomer where they are at?
- What is offered for people of different interests?
- What would attract a new person to the next stepping stone?
- What would an intentional invitation to “something more” look like?
- What process or tools does the parish have in place to follow up with the individual?
To effectively use this approach, you should focus both on having the stones in place and what it will take for people to want to take the next step. Consider quick points of connection to help people feel welcome and part of the community. Include prayer and teachable moments, formally or informally, in your events, Provide an opportunity at your events for an individual seeking deeper community to find it.
This could look like, at the conclusion of a service event, asking an individual when they saw the face of God in a person they were serving. You can also ask more questions to allow that person to share more, and reflect on the beauty of the Catholic Social Teaching. From there, you could invite that person to something like an extended service project, a small group, or a formation presentation offered by the parish. Ensure that someone at the parish follows up with this individual and connects with them at the next event they attend.
All parish offerings can be stepping stones. Service events, participation in a small group, faith growth opportunities, the sacramental life of the Church, retreats, and other offerings provide the opportunity for a personal encounter with the Lord and growth as a disciple. Reflect on these questions for your ministry:
- What opportunities for growth are available?
- How do we intentionally connect to the larger parish offerings?
- How might a person’s gifts be discerned, recognized, and affirmed?
- How can others be prepared to personally invite and walk with another along a journey of faith?
As parishes plan to accompany individuals along a faith journey, stepping stones should be planned for and utilized. Opportunities at the parish should build upon one another and lead along a ministry path. As a Church, we must intentionally “begin with the end in mind.”