“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” --Hebrews 13:2
Showing a true welcome to anyone who attends our parish is so much more than just opening the door, smiling and saying hello. In order to show true hospitality, like a good host, we must work to make our parishioners and guests truly welcome anytime they are with us, for the duration of their time with us. This means we have to know them, their interests, what engages them and how we can meet their spiritual and physical needs. In order to show true hospitality, we must have a parish plan for how we can walk with people in Christian community as we welcome them into our parishes.
Below are simple tips from the annual parish stewardship manual to help your parish practice simple hospitality. not all of these are oriented specifically towards welcoming people back after the dispensation from attending sunday mass is lifted, but they are overall best practices that help us create a consistently welcoming environment in our parishes. if we are in the habit of hospitality, this will aid our evangelization efforts.
- Are there greeters at the entrances, welcoming people and perhaps giving them a worship aid?Is there a place set aside for people with special needs, e.g. wheelchairs, etc.?
- Are listening devices provided for the hearing impaired? Is the sound system adequate so that everyone can hear the readings, homily, and Eucharistic Prayer wherever they sit?
- Are people encouraged to greet one another before the liturgy begins?
- Do the homilies emphasize community, the Lord's welcome and forgiveness, and compassion?
- Is the liturgy sensitive to the various ethnic communities in the parish?
- Do the priests greet the people after Mass as long as people are around?
- Are there cards in the pews that newcomers and visitors can fill out and place in the collection basket? Are they assured of a follow-up contact?
- Is there an Inquiry Process for the RCIA that is quick and easy to begin?
- Are there opportunities after Mass for people to gather for a time and greet one another? Are they encouraged to say hello to someone they don't know? Do priests and other staff members stay around and encounter people who seem to be alone or uneasy?
- Is there clear signage as to where the parish is located, along with the other facilities of the parish?
- Are the grounds well kept? Is the landscaping attractive and well-tended?
- Is the night lighting adequate for safety around the building and in the parking lot?
- Is the vestibule of the Church welcoming, with up-to-date information, with no out-of-date fliers or left-over envelopes and fliers hanging on the board?
- Are the restrooms clean, well-stocked, and functioning properly? Is there a changing table in the restrooms? Are the restrooms handicapped accessible?
THE PARISH OFFICE/MEETING PLACES
- Is the office person/secretary welcoming, warmly greeting the person coming in?
- Is parish information readily available that the office person can provide, such as a list of the staff, their positions, and direct phone numbers?
- What happens when a person asks to speak to a priest? If a priest is unavailable, does the office manager graciously take steps to set up a future appointment with a priest or offer
- Is a priest contactable for sick calls and hospital needs?
- Are the poor who come to the office/rectory door treated with care and respect?
- Is the telephone answered by a live person, not an answering machine? When an answering machine is used, does it include messages in English and Spanish when the demographics of the parish require it? Do all employees check their messages regularly?
- Is information given for contacting a priest in emergencies after hours?
- Is the parish website attractive and user-friendly? Are the Mass times easy to find? Does the parish use social communication media?
- Is it welcoming, easy to get around to find contacts and information one needs? Is there too much information? Is it accurate and kept up to date?
- Are parishioners encouraged to be welcoming, warm, open, and compassionate at Mass and at other occasions?
- Are parishioners encouraged to invite others – Catholic or not – to come with them to all types of parish events?
- Is there a follow-up visit to the homes of new parishioners by a member of a welcoming committee of the parish? Is printed parish information provided that includes the name and number of that visiting parishioner who can serve as a contact person with the parish?
- Is the Church open frequently so that parishioners and others may visit the Blessed Sacrament? Are these times known in the parish?
For more resources on Parish best practices, download the full Annual Parish Stewardship Planning Guide.
Leader Training and Formation
One of the ways we can improve our welcome is by making sure that key leaders at our parish are well equipped with an evangelical spirit. by focusing on fostering our own missionary zeal, we become more aware of opportunities to proclaim the good news and become more attentive to the movement of the holy spirit in our planning efforts. below are recommended resources to train leaders in the best practices of evangelization.
Revive is a free online program that you can ask parish leaders to go through. Courses on evangelization, discipleship, loving and serving the poor and becoming everyday apostles are just a few of the courses available to help develop a baseline for our leaders to be able to better understand and model evangelization in everyday parish life.
Equip Parish Missionary Discipleship Program
Equip is a 13 week discipleship small group program that uses an experiential learning model to help form parish leaders in the basic skills of evangelization. Because Equip is meant to be led in small groups of 4-6 people, each member of the group must participate in sharing their own faith and takes turns leading the content. the equip program models the missionary discipleship content that it teaches.
If you're interested in about using Equip to help forming leaders at your parish to evangelize, contact Brian Miller, Director of Evangelization and Discipleship at [email protected]
As we seek to invite parishioners back and begin our efforts to evangelize, it is essential that we identify to whom our efforts are directed. The Office of Evangelization and Discipleship has created this tool to help identify 6 typical groups of people in each parish. Of course, there are many breakdowns of demographics within these audiences, but identifying who each of your programs target and how they aim to help them encounter Christ, grow in their relationship with him and then witness Christ to others helps us to be more targeted in our approach, rather than having a one size fits all model.
download the full parish audience tool. For help using this tool, contact Brian Miller, Director of Evangelization and Discipleship at [email protected]
path of discipleship
How do we move our lay faithful into being dynamic missionary disciples?
A parish must have programs that help the members of each demographic move down the path to becoming a missionary disciple. using categories for developed by Sherry Weddell in Forming Intentional Disciples describing the stages on the journey to intentional discipleship, and categories developed by focus describing the stages of discipleship, a "path of discipleship” helps a parish understand the various core programs and audiences that they must design their outreach for.
Part of our parish planning should recognize that different people are in different stages of discipleship and conversion on their journey. Using this methodology can help your parish identify the programs needed to meet the individuals of your parish no matter where they are on your journey.
The graphic below (created by the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Omaha) is a helpful visual representation of these stages.
For help creating a path of discipleship plan in your parish, contact Brian Miller, Director of Evangelization and Discipleship at [email protected]
For further recommendations or assistance in implementing any of these programs, please contact Brian Miller, Director of Evangelization and Discipleship at [email protected]
Alpha - Catholic Context
Alpha is an evangelization program geared towards reaching those with major questions about the faith and even the existence of god. By asking the big questions in life (like who am i? is there a god, etc...) this program seeks to move participants to a decision point to embrace the christian faith.
The Search is a program that answers many similar questions to alpha. it was created by the Augustine Institute to be authentically Catholic and help introduce those on the peripheries of parish life to Jesus Christ. learn more.
ChristLife equips catholics for the essential work of evangelization so that all people might personally encounter jesus christ and be transformed into his missionary disciples.
They developed the christlife evangelization process, which is a relational way to make missionary disciples by helping people discover, follow, and share jesus christ. our ministry partners with parishes, priests, clergy, religious and lay leaders who are seeking to answer the church’s call for the new evangelization through a proven method of parish evangelization and outreach.
CCO - Faith Series
The cco™ faith study series has been designed in order to proclaim the gospel, equip the faithful and commission them to become missionary disciples. These materials are used in a small group setting and allow for a relatable and dynamic proclamation of the catholic faith. they are easy-to-lead and have proven effective in bringing about personal conversions. learn more.
Formed is an online catechetical resource created by the augustine institute that is a great resource for your parish to utilize along many different points of a path of discipleship plan. The Archdiocese of St. Louis has a partnership program that makes Formed available at a discounted rate. Learn more here. In addition to offering individual parishioners subscriptions, we recommend hosting events using formed.org content. Contact Brian Miller, Director of Evangelization and Discipleship at [email protected] for assistance.