Prince of Peace - Parish Renewal Strategy
Prince of Peace Catholic Church
6439 Spout Springs Road, Flowery Branch, GA 30542
Prince of Peace is a large suburban parish in the Archdiocese of Atlanta that has transformed its parish programming to focus on discipleship. Prince of Peace has 10,000 parishioners; approximately 3600 participate at Mass each weekend. The parish has 6 weekend Masses, which are relatively full. The parish has a large retirement community in the area and a large population of active young families.
The staff includes two priests, seven deacons, an Assistant to Priests, a Director of Operations, an Admin to Operations, a Finance Manager, a Director of Youth Ministry, a 5-person team dedicated to EQUIP (programs offered to people of all ages to grow in their knowledge of the faith), a Worship Director, a Worship Coordinator, a Creative Content Specialist, a Nursery Coordinator, a Coordinator of Onboarding and Engagement, and a Facilities Team.
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Transition to New Strategy
The parish renewal was sparked by three things: reading Archbishop Vigneron’s pastoral letter, Unleash the Gospel, attending an Amazing Parish Conference, and attending the Divine Renovation Conference in Halifax, NS. As a result, the parish decided to get rid of their old parish structures and create new ones that focused on helping people encounter Christ and live as disciples. The primary changes involved 1) having the whole parish go through Alpha, and 2) creating a discipleship path called The Way which is based on the Divine Renovation model.
For a year, Prince of Peace put all their ministries on hold and ran Alpha 5 days a week. It was required for all leaders; if a ministry wanted to continue to operate, they were required to go through Alpha. At that time, 3500 people went through the Alpha course.
Prince of Peace is dedicated to equipping persons with the tools necessary to live as a disciple in the modern world, to take what they learn there and apply it in real life. THE WAY is a discipleship path designed to do just that:
- Alpha – The beginning of THE WAY is Alpha, where participants encounter Christ and discuss life's biggest questions in a relaxed, welcoming environment. Prince of Peace offers sessions for Adults, High School, Middle School and Elementary aged people. Couples can choose to sit together and experience Alpha together or they can choose to sit separately to fuel conversation away from the sessions. Prince of Peace runs Alpha 3 times per year.
- Lead Alpha - After attending Alpha, parishioners are invited to volunteer to help others experience Alpha.
- Connect – After Alpha, parishioners are invited to join a Connect Group. Connect groups are small groups of 10 to 20 people who gather regularly in various settings (homes, coffee shops, pubs, or even in the church) to live out their faith as a family of believers who pray together, grow together, celebrate life together, and learn to tell the story of what God is continually doing in their lives. Parishioners can use the website to find an existing group or build a new one. Prince of Peace has a team of dedicated Connect Mentors to give support, encouragement, and guidance to Connect Group Leaders.
- Equip - Equip offers people of all ages the opportunity to grow in their knowledge of the faith. Equip Adults offers a full complement of sessions on the scriptures and our Catholic tradition that inspire and motivate parishioners to explore the vast riches of the faith. Equip Families offers monthly on-campus sessions and weekly at-home lessons during the school year for families with children grades K-12 and supports parents in their role as primary teachers of the faith to their children. Equip Sacraments provides guidance and support that is not a “one-size-fits-all” model for those who seek Christ through the sacraments, as they grow in their faith in the church community and become committed disciples.
- Serve - Serve is the part of the journey where parishioners engage in organized efforts of service and ministry. Service opportunities are listed on the parish website. A Serve leadership team discerns the needs of the parish and in conjunction with other leaders provides opportunities for service.
- Go – Go is not a program or a study, but a way of life. It is about journeying with someone through THE WAY. It is about reaching out to people in daily life and actively accompanying them in a way that brings them closer to Jesus Christ.
- Develop – Develop is a team of people who function as a resource to other leadership teams of THE WAY, preparing and coaching them in accomplishing each leadership team's contribution to the overall mission of Prince of Peace. The parish also has monthly formation for leaders that includes evening Mass, a meal, praise and worship, and a 10-minute reflection on the how they encountered/shared Christ that week.
Prince of Peace has instituted quarterly witness talks at Mass by Connect Group Members in order to testify to what the Connect Group has done for their faith.
In addition, Prince of Peace has transformed their weekly parish bulletin into a monthly newsletter called BranchingOut that shares witness stories and articles on discipleship. BranchingOut features parishioners sharing how they have recently experienced Christ in a new way or for the first time. It highlights recent or upcoming events and includes a note from the pastor. The newsletter is distributed the first weekend of every month as parishioners exit Mass.
In the course of transitioning to a new parish structure, Prince of Peace abolished their weekly faith formation and instituted the Equip Families program which structures faith formation in monthly on-campus sessions (in age brackets) and weekly at-home lessons during the school year for families with children grades K-12. The content for this program focuses on a particular theme each year (i.e. Creed, Sacraments, etc.), and the parish website has monthly blog posts with an overview of the monthly curriculum including video links. This program puts formation of the children back in the hands of parents and supports them in their role as primary teachers of the faith. In order for a family to participate in Equip, all family members are required to go through Alpha. Equip families provides parents with a tool box to teach the faith to their children. The on-campus children’s gatherings are focused on encounter. Prince of Peace also has Middle School and High School Connect Groups.
Away from campus, families are encouraged to meet together in small group settings to build upon the monthly on-campus sessions together so that children have other adults to influence their faith lives.
Prince of Peace no longer advances people to sacraments based on age. The parish has established a process to help parents discern if their child is ready to receive a sacrament. Each family is assigned a Discernment Companion to journey with the family and answer questions along the way. The Discernment Companion meets with the family and individually with the child, which gives the young person space to ask questions and be honest about wanting to receive the sacrament. If a child has questions or indicates resistance to receiving a sacrament, the Discernment Companion sends the child back to parents or grandparents to ask questions and have real conversations.
The parish also has numerous other activities to help families encounter Christ and live as disciples. Prince of Peace offers “Encounter Nights” with Eucharistic adoration and a speaker. It also has family Masses with a meal afterward.
As a result of having all leaders go through Alpha, the culture of parish meetings has changed. Each parish meeting begins with a discussion of two questions: a) How have you encountered Christ since we last met? b) How are you making a choice to live as a disciple? These reflections yield fruitful discussions and help the leaders stay focused on the mission.
Equip Families has created a sense of community among the families. The most successful are those who have bonds with other families. The Discernment Companion process is bearing much fruit because it is allowing youth to ask real questions and come to real conversion. The parish has witnessed some youth move from being totally disengaged to becoming leaders of other youth.
The quarterly witness of Connect encounters with Christ and what Jesus is doing in their lives. People are starting to know each other’s names, they are thirsting for more, and are reaching out to one another.