Parish Steps Forward Thanks to the Disciple Maker Index
Fr. Eric Schild is the wonderful and energetic pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Maumee, OH.
Three years ago, when he became the pastor, he had questions: “As a pastor, so much is thrown at you and at a new place… where do you begin? What do you do? How do you gather the info to know the next steps? What does this parish need? Now what?”
Thanks to the encouragement of a priest friend, Fr. Eric’s parish took the Disciple Maker Index (DMI). The results are stellar:
- The parish and school are growing
- Mass attendance has well exceeded pre-pandemic numbers
- Capital campaign is going strong
- Collections never wavered and have increased
- The DMI identified an opportunity to better connect; now, their parish is closer than ever
Three years later, they are doing it again.
Below you will find Fr. Eric’s deeply powerful words about why the Disciple Maker Index is critical at this moment in the history of our Church. If you know a parish considering taking the DMI, this quote is a must read.
The Power of Planning
Fr. Eric is a dedicated pastor who truly believes in the power of a strategic plan and thinking about the next steps for his parish. When he began his new role as pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church, he wanted to know what his parishioners needed. He didn’t want to assume or guess. He wanted to truly know.
Thanks to the encouragement of a brother priest served by Catholic Leadership Institute, Fr. Eric learned about the Disciple Maker Index survey to assess the spiritual health of his parish.
Benefitted by Data-Driven Decision Making
When transitioning to a new pastoral role, knowing the landscape, strengths, and needs of a parish is invaluable. Fr. Eric affirms how Catholic Leadership Institute helped him dive into the data, dissect it, and worked alongside his team to put together an amazing priority plan. A highlight for him was the ability to compare his parish against other parishes and dioceses around the country who have also taken the Disciple Maker Index.
This plan guided this parish through COVID, inspired direction and purpose, and brought accountability to Fr. Eric and his people. The plan’s goals, milestones, and dates drove them to accomplish what they set out to do.
No More Putting Out Fires
Before the Disciple Maker Index, Fr. Eric shares, “This parish just didn’t know where they were going yet. They had to constantly be putting out fires. If you don’t have anything guiding you or a vision for the future, pastor and staff will burn out. The DMI changed all of that.”
The heart of their plan is a sacred purpose of Engage, Encounter, and Transform. Now, everything the parish does is brought back to these three priorities. Does this idea engage? Will this activity inspire encounter? Will this ministry transform relationships with Christ?
Great Growth – DMI Echoes Parishioner Needs
St. Joseph is growing as a parish and a school. Fr. Eric attributes this growth to their DMI-based plan and the hearts and hands of the parishioners making it happen. No one was afraid to dive headfirst into the areas where they scored lower than expected. They have focused on hospitality: they now keep their parish offices open on Saturdays and Sundays to invite parishioners to ask questions, say hello, and to better see and know their staff. They have explored ways to deepen spirituality: they have worked to make Confession more available. They established creative new Mass times to better meet the schedules of their parishioners.
“I was told that this parish wanted to continue to go deeper in terms of spirituality – DMI echoed that.” said Fr. Eric. Their parish has become more connected than ever as they continue that journey.
The parish provides regular updates through homilies, in the bulletin, and via the Pastoral Council, who became the keepers of the plan. Each meeting, they track against the plan to determine if they are on target or not, which has been immensely helpful in staying true to their goals.
Why a second time?
Three years later, St. Joseph Catholic Church is taking the Disciple Maker Index again. Catholic Leadership Institute strongly encourages regular participation in the DMI. Fr. Eric Explains why: “It’s the right thing to do. We need to be honest with how far we have come and how far we have not come.” Taking the DMI again allows Fr. Eric and his staff to remain focused so they can move forward. A results-oriented parish, they want and need to know where they are making progress and where they need to take a hard look at their efforts.
Moving Words about the DMI
The DMI has taken an increasingly significant and impactful role as pastors deeply desire a snapshot of their parishes post-Covid. They are focused on jumpstarting parish life in the wake of Covid, with a great desire to hear from parishioners out of concern for the future of their parish.
Fr. Eric’s words are poignant:
“Nobody likes to hear bad news, and that can be paralyzing. But the WORST thing we can do as a Church is to remain paralyzed. Paralyzed by Covid, paralyzed by fear, paralyzed by feedback, paralyzed by fear of what people think. Paralyzed by anything. Our Church is not in a position right now to simply remain stagnant. If we ever want to grow and move and progress, we have to take a step forward; we have to know what our parishioners think. We have to. Together, we cannot be afraid to confront the brutal facts. If we instead choose to just hide behind a veil, then we are not helping our people best know and truly love Christ to the fullest capacity. We are holding them back from deepening their relationship with Christ. When we are paralyzed in that way, we are not truly serving our people.”
All I can ever hope for is that more people deepen their relationship with Christ, which transforms them on their journey to heaven. The DMI helps us go step by step, know the next step, and move forward. This is not about numbers; it is about our need to do what we need to do to encounter Jesus and to deepen that relationship to fall more in love with Christ. If we do that – then amazing things happen.”
I invite you to keep Fr. Eric and St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in your prayers as they continue to make amazing things happen!
Linda has been a dynamic partner, igniting parishes across the
entire Diocese of Pittsburgh alongside Catholic Leadership Institute.
Igniting the parish means focusing on evangelization and discipleship.
Equipping parents with the tools they need to pass the faith on to their
children and grandchildren. It means fostering vibrant faith
communities of leaders of all ages and demographics who come together on
Sunday —and transform the world in God’s name the rest of the week. It
means more Catholics – of all ages – fill the pews each Christmas.
Your generous support inspires more ignited parishes and more leaders like Linda!
“A parish where I worked for 12 years had a very dynamic priest—one
of the best evangelists I’ve ever met. He was so good, he set the whole
town on fire with the Gospel. And people loved it. We had so many
people—young and old and everyone in between—flocking to our doors.
So far, so good, right? But the day came when that priest was reassigned…
What happened? The parish slowly went on life support, because it was centered on just one priest. Not on the mission and ministry of Christ.
But what if there was a structure, set up in such a way that if one priest—however charismatic—were to leave, there would be a system in place to make sure the parish doesn’t fall apart?
Right now, most parishes don’t have that. But I believe CLI is in a position to do something about it…
Greater potential can also be achieved among lay leaders, by helping them realize that a parish is not just a place to which we go but, more importantly, a place from which we go.
For the parish is not a destination. It is a way station, from which the lay person can fulfill the work of the laity to make the world holy. Again, this is something I believe CLI can play a key role in encouraging.
We hear it, see it, and feel it. And what the Church is tasked to do in all this is offer spiritual sustenance to those starving for message and meaning in their lives. This requires special insight and creative ways of thinking - ways as many and varied as the parishes themselves.
So, we have to go out. We have to start reaching people and inviting
the Church into their lives. We can’t count on them coming to us. We
have to go to them. And that’s way bigger than any individual. We have
to involve the Body of Christ to reach the Body of Christ.
CLI looks at the big picture to help parishes chart the future. Its highly skilled leaders know how to assess and encourage qualities of leadership and discipleship in many others, no matter what the setting - urban or rural, rich or poor, promising or challenging. Empowering clergy and laity alike to figure things out. Igniting their parishes to engage future generations.”
This Christmas, I hope you reflect upon Linda’s words: we must go out. We must invite and walk with people, following the light of the Christmas star that always leads to Jesus Christ and always ignites our parishes.
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