St. Francis of Assisi - Discipleship Strategy
St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church
861 Wildwood Lane, Grapevine, TX 76051
St. Francis of Assisi is a large suburban parish in an affluent area of Texas, about a 5 minute drive from Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. It is a part of the Diocese of Fort Worth; 20% of the population is Catholic in this geographic area. The parish has 3000+ families and 80,000 people in their parish boundary. The average household salary has 6-digits.
The Mission of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church is to build a church of missionary disciples by preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and reaching the poor. They strive to achieve this through a Clear Path of Discipleship.
Average weekly Mass attendance is 3000+ individuals. They have over 300 liturgical volunteers, over 50 parish ministries, 90+ volunteer music ministers. They serve over 1400 families each year through outreach. The staff includes: 1 priest, 3 deacons, a Business and Financial Manager, a Parish Secretary, an Accounts Payable Coordinator, a Facilities Coordinator, a Coordinator of Digital Marketing and Events, a Coordinator of Digital Media & Communications, an Evening Receptionist/Nursery Coordinator, Outreach Ministry Coordinator, a Preschool Director, a Safe Environments Coordinator, an RCIA Coordinator & Tribunal Advocate\\ Funeral Coordinator (pro-tem), a Parish Census Coordinator, a Director of Catechesis and Evangelization, , a Coordinator of Children’s Catechesis, a Coordinator of Hispanic Ministry and Catechesis, a Coordinator of Middle School Youth Ministry, a Coordinator of High School Youth Ministry, and a Director of Music and Liturgy.
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In its commitment to forming missionary disciples, St. Francis utilizes a two-pronged approach. First, the clear path to discipleship is outlined in three stages:
- Encounter Jesus and have a life-changing personal relationship with Him. St. Francis uses ChristLife’s Discover Christ course for this stage. The course is taught “live” rather than using the DVDs that come with the program. The series is meant to help participants wrestle with the big questions in life, share thoughts and questions, and explore the invitation to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
- Grow as a disciple with other disciples. This stage is achieved through home-based small groups. Small groups (Connect Groups) are made up of individuals who have encountered Jesus and are ready to commit to structured and deep transformation as a disciple pursued with other disciples.
- Serve in Jesus’ mission for the Kingdom with one’s unique gifts.
Second, St. Francis has developed a Membership Series to help move parishioners from one stage of discipleship to the next:
Membership 101 Start Here: This is a 2-hour dinner for new members or those who feel disconnected. At the dinner staff explains what it means to be a member of St. Francis, explains ministries/resources, and provides a road map to the journey of faith. This dinner is offered 3 times per year.
Membership 201 Next Steps: This 90-minute class is for people who have had an encounter with Jesus and wonder what is next for them. It covers 3 basic habits of a disciple and encourages members to join a Connect Group.
Membership 301 Find Your Ministry: After an encounter with Jesus and possibly joining a Connect Group, St. Francis parish members are encouraged to attend a one-day Called & Gifted workshop. This intensive workshop is designed to help members discover the gifts that God has given them and includes an assessment to help members discern the unique ways their gifts might serve the Church.
Membership 401 Find Your Mission: Ananias Training is a two-part workshop that trains people to walk with others on their journey of faith, specifically by using skillful listening and intentional conversation and questions. It helps participants recognize the stages of another’s spiritual journey through compassionate listening, talk about their relationship with God, share how they came to be a disciple of Jesus, and share Jesus’ own story in response to the spiritual hunger of another. Ananias Training is a process designed to form parishioners with no previous training in “the art of spiritual accompaniment.”
St. Francis also has a Newcomer’s Weekend the 2nd Sunday of every month where members of the parish community share parish information, distribute a small gift, and answer any questions newcomers may have about St. Francis or how they can get more involved.
St. Francis hosts Connect Events several times a year, a 1.5 hour mixer where people meet and connect with others to start a Connect Group, or a small group of people in the same stage of life and same part of town who meet regularly to share Christian community. Groups are asked to initially commit to meet together for eight weeks. This time is spent getting to know each other and walking through a short study series on Christian community. At the end of the eight weeks, group members decide to either continue with the group, or wait and join a different group at another time. No pressure, no questions asked.
St. Francis utilizes podcasts and videos to help form parishioners. The parish will be building a podcast studio at the parish. In addition, the parish hosts numerous formation events, including a mini-series for parents on topics that resonate with average people in the pew (i.e. Getting it right in Marriage, Feeling Overwhelmed?, etc.).
Middle School and High School Young Church are high energy events hosted on Sun nights 6-8pm. These events are free and open to Catholic and Non-Catholic students. In addition to Young Church, middle school and high school students have the opportunity to attend a yearly retreat and opportunities to join same grade, same gender discipleship groups which are facilitated by an adult. Students commit to 7 monthly meetings a year.
St. Francis strives for continuous improvement in their mission. They are not afraid to tackle the tough questions of what to eliminate and they are constantly focusing on keeping evangelization at the center of their efforts.
The parish has seen the most fruit from the Discover Christ series and its efforts to increase their organizational health. The parish website offers a place for parishioners to post testimonies of God has been at work in their lives. The parish experiences growth of approximately 360 new families per year.