CLI Symposium Deliberates a New Reality for the Church

Dear Friends,

Like many of you, over these past few weeks, I have witnessed the gradual return of fellow parishioners to our parish pews. I get a sense that many who have returned feel as if they have “come home.” But, as we all know at this point, “home” looks a little different than it did 15 months ago, and it will be reshaped in the coming months and years as we all settle into this “new” normal.

Based on our ministry over the past 30 years, Catholic Leadership Institute is in a position to offer its data-driven leadership approach to help the Church reshape what the “new” normal of parish life will look like in the future. Parish leaders have traditionally approached its success or potential evangelization opportunities based on either anecdotal narratives or financial statistics. Our lived experience has proven that more comprehensive metrics can help to show what we believe does and does not work.

55 Global Leaders Debate Measuring & Enhancing Parish Vitality

As I shared in a previous communication, CLI hosted a virtual symposium to further this conversation in early May. This unique gathering brought together 55 leaders from the United States and Western Europe, including clergy and lay leaders from the parish, diocesan, academic, philanthropic, apostolate and movement context.

This virtual symposium sought to develop a universal framework for relevant metrics for measuring parish vitality. At CLI, our research has shown that parish vitality can and must be measured. This measurement is even more critical at this moment in the life of our Church.

Themes: Metrics, Unique Parishes, & LEADERSHIP

There were many themes that emerged from the virtual symposium that we hope will provide a roadmap for future efforts to measure parish vitality. Some of the highlights of these themes included:

  • Parish vitality can, and should, be objectively measured.
  • How we do what we do is as, or maybe more, important than what we do.
  • The context of the parish, particularly demographic, is important and can inform how metrics are prioritized.
  • Clear and consistent definitions of metrics are important as various terms are used interchangeably by Church leaders.
  • Leadership is essential to vitality and measurement.

Of the key learnings from the virtual symposium, perhaps one of the most compelling was the importance of gathering diverse leaders to offer multiple perspectives on this important issue. For many of the participants, the virtual aspect of the symposium enabled greater participation by a wider audience.

What’s Next: Publication, Pilots, & Prayers

In the coming weeks and months, Catholic Leadership Institute will publish a white paper summarizing the outcomes of the virtual symposium. Additionally, the working framework for measuring parish vitality will be refined and piloted using a newly designed tool in parishes and dioceses.

We are grateful for all of those who participated in this virtual symposium as well as the support of the Porticus Foundation for their investment in this process. Please continue to pray for the ministry of Catholic Leadership Institute as we embark upon this next chapter in the life of our Church.

p.s. If you are interested in reading the white paper, email us, and we will be sure to inform you when it is published!

by Mike School

June 17, 2021

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