Process not Programmes

Some of the amazing ladies at the heart of our parish

Five or so years ago, my approach to adult faith formation was all centred around the programme. I remember offering the Catholicism programme, shortly followed by a school of prayer, shortly followed by a school of faith. We’d get halfway through one, and then start to think about what our next programme was going to be.

You soon realise that, on the whole, the same people are taking up these opportunities. Out of 1000 people going to Mass every week, around 100 of them would at one time attend a programme.

There are a few mantras we are using in our approach to evangelisation and discipleship in the parish. One of them is: process not programmes.

This is something that hit us strongly at the Divine Renovation conference last June. Fr James Mallon speaks about how our typical approach to formation in the Church has been fixed and terminal, instead of intermittent and ongoing. In other words, for certain moments in life, e.g. preparing for a sacrament, we have a course of preparation, but that ends, and there is no ongoing process for discipleship. In my parish five years ago, we offered adult formation programmes, but with no overall vision for what we wanted them to achieve, or who we wanted to reach.

Now, we have a much clearer vision for reaching the whole parish. We are using Alpha as our central approach to evangelisation. Our longer term plan is to introduce Connect Groups (mid-size communities of 20-25 that meet fortnightly for food, worship, teaching, discussion and prayer). We know from the experience of St Benedict’s Parish in Halifax that these will require some momentum as well as well-formed leaders. At the moment, we envisage the starting point for Connect Groups as around 2-3 years away. (To hear a truly brilliant intro to Connect Groups from Fr James Mallon and Ron Huntley, see the Divine Renovation podcast here).

In the meantime, our plan is two-pronged, and it is all about building momentum and desire for community and formation. For most people, this involves discipleship groups. We are offering five levels building towards missionary discipleship. Mostly, small groups from Alpha stay the same, and we offer a new level each term. In other words, the groups are not permanent. They cover a certain discipleship topic for a length of time. But the expectation is that you keep moving forward, that you participate in a discipleship group of the next level when you are able to sign up for one.

The other half of the coin is the formation of leaders. To establish fruit-bearing Connect Groups, we know we need to invest in people in whom we can spot desirable attributes for future leaders (we use the FACT acronym: faithful, available, contagious, teachable). We have created a list of the skills and knowledge we want to nourish in these people, and we see them as our parish’s future disciple-makers. Our plan is to form a connect group with these people, building them up until we are ready to form a second one, with a new leadership team of four leaders.

I have to say… this approach is miles away from our programme-centred approach of five or so years ago. It has goals; its focus on discipleship is much sharper; it is oriented towards forming the disciple-makers of the future.

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3 Responses

  1. This is genuinely dreadful. You started out so well a few years back, but you have lost the true faith. Alpha is protestant. Stop pushing your protestant agenda (even Catholic Alpha). Try being Roman Catholic, and stop brainwashing unsuspecting and uncatechised Catholics with your counterfeit church narrative..

    The great irony is that you say ‘process not programmes’, but you are pushing as many flawed post-concilar style initiatives as you can muster, and as if they were going out of fashion.

    Have you not worked out yet that all the post-conciliar evangelisation initiatives have failed since Vatican II… this is why you are scrabbling around to pick up the pieces. Unfortunately you then make the same mistake as all the others before you over the past 60 years.

    If you are not striving to create orthodox Roman Rite Catholics (which you are not in any way, shape, or form), then you are wasting your time, and deep down I am sure you know this.

  2. Transformed in Christ says:

    Hi Linen on the Hedgerows. If you have any specific criticisms of what I am saying please feel free to post. I would be happy to discuss any specific problems you have with what I am writing. But your criticisms are generic and frankly, insulting. Claiming that “all the post-conciliar evangelisation initiatives have failed since Vatican II” is clearly false and therefore meaningless. If you have a specific criticism to make, please do so charitably; otherwise, I will stop publishing your comments.

  3. You know very well that all post-conciliar initiatives have failed since Vatican II because, although they seemingly have succeeded by drawing some people into the Church, they have kept them trapped in the kerygma stage or early stages of spiritual childhood. This is why we have a grace deficient mainstream church.

    You are now making exactly the same mistake. You are making the same mistake because you are so poorly formed in the true faith, that you have no clue what to do about it.

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