As part of the All Things New
strategic pastoral planning initiative, Catholics in the Archdiocese of St. Louis are being invited to pray and offer their feedback about the future of the archdiocese.
The Disciple Maker Index survey will allow people to share their thoughts and hopes for the Catholic Church here in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Survey results will give the archdiocese a clearer picture of the needs of the local Church.
The results are expected to be a driving force in deciding what will happen within the archdiocese in the future, said Father Christopher Martin, vicar for strategic planning. “It’s the way we can hear the most people in the archdiocese in a timely fashion,” he said.
The Disciple Maker Index survey will be available at allthingsnew.archstl.org beginning Ash Wednesday, March 2, through April 4. The survey should take about 10 to 15 minutes to complete and examines each respondent’s personal beliefs about the Church, level of participation in the sacraments and other parish-based activities and experience of the parish.
The goal is to couple survey results with current statistics and demographics related to parishes and schools in the archdiocese, Father Martin said. “It helps in the discernment process to say here are our numbers, and here is the lived experience of the people in the pews in this area,” he said. “That will lead us to two questions: What are our strengths, and what are our opportunities for growth? If we begin that conversation on the parish level, then we can expand that to a regional and then diocesan level.”
The Disciple Maker Index survey was developed by Catholic Leadership Institute in 2013 with the guidance and input of bishops and priests nationwide and the expertise of professional survey teams. It provides insights into the level of missionary discipleship in the parish and the effectiveness of the Mass experience, preaching and other aspects of parish life. The survey is available in 19 languages and dialects and has been administered at parishes across the United States and Canada.
There will be other opportunities for Catholics to offer their feedback beyond the Disciple Maker Index survey, said Father Martin, including several subcommittees helping to guide the conversation and discernment process. Additionally, 372 listening sessions will be held at parishes across the archdiocese in October and November 2022. The sessions are expected to include proposed models for the future structure of the archdiocese.
Each pastor has been asked to assemble a team of five key parish leaders to help guide the discussions at the parish level. Each team will be provided a workbook and conversation guide to help process feedback from the Disciple Maker Index and steer discussions related to future ministry.
The Disciple Maker Index is one measure of examining how Catholics in the archdiocese are approaching the faith with a discipleship mindset. So what does it mean to be a disciple, exactly?
“It’s somebody who has encountered the Lord in a personal way,” Father Martin said. “It’s a person who is growing in relationship on a continual basis and feels equipped to share the faith with others.”
Years ago as a young priest, Father Martin was asked by another priest while on retreat to describe his experience of God’s love in his life. He awkwardly fumbled through his answer, giving a theological explanation.
The priest retorted: “He said, ‘I was asking you to tell of your experience of it. If you’re called to be another Christ and reveal the Father’s love, what good are you if you give a theology lesson?’”
Father Martin realized he needed to work on articulating his personal experience of God’s love. “The disciples preached a person, then a theology. Jesus equips each of us to share the Gospel — which is our own lived experiences of being in relationship with Jesus Christ. And we’re inviting people into their own relationship with the Lord.”
Disciple Maker Index survey
Here are examples of questions from the Disciple Maker Index survey:
Which of the following best describes where you are on your Catholic journey?
• My relationship with Jesus Christ is the most important relationship in my life
• I have personally encountered Jesus Christ and am growing as a disciple
• I practice my Catholic faith, but do not know Jesus personally like a friend
• I consider myself Catholic, though faith is not a significant part of my life
My parish equips me to have conversations about my faith with family and friends by …
• Providing high-quality events and other opportunities to which I can invite people
• Growing my confidence in the Church’s teachings so I can answer other’s questions
• Exhibiting care to members of our community (not necessarily Catholics)
• Teaching me how to share the story of Jesus
• Teaching me how to share my personal witness story
• Helping me recognize how God is working in my life
What is your most preferred method of bringing others closer to Christ?
• One-to-one conversation
• Leading by example
• Going door to door to invite others
• Being visible in the community
“(A disciple is) somebody who has encountered the Lord in a personal way. It’s a person who is growing in relationship on a continual basis and feels equipped to share the faith with others.”