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Deadline for Grant Applications - January 15, 2017.  Download essential ChurchGROWTH materials and information:

Grant Application Instructions

Project Summary

Project Overview Slides

Planning Guide

Is ChurchGROWTH new to you?  According to a recent report from the Pew Research Center, religion continues to be marginalized in American culture.  Among the Pew research findings:
  • The share of Americans who say they are "absolutely certain" that God exists has dropped eight percentage points, from 71 percent to 63 percent, since 2007, when the last comparable study was made.
  • The percentage of adults who describe themselves as "religiously affiliated" has shrunk six points since 2007, from 83 percent to 77 percent.
  • The shares of the U.S. adult population who consider religion "very important" to them, pray daily, and attend services at least once a month have declined between three and four percent over the last eight years.

Another recent survey concluded that for the first time in the history of America, 55% of Catholic Americans have left the church and 77% of these have little intention of returning.  Oddly, this is at the same time that Pope Francis is the most influential person in the world - digital or real, parents remain the most influential person in the lives of young people and a friend's invitation is still the most effective way to get someone to come to church.

So what is going wrong?  A closer look reveals that while some Catholics have been generously sacramentalized, too many are less effectively catechized.  And even less are adequately evangelized.  For too many, the discipleship process has broken down.  Pope Francis insists that Catholic disciples must give witness to their faith in Jesus 24/7/365 at home, online, at work, and in the community.  A faith restricted to the church campus for one hour a week on Sunday cannot survive.  What does all this say?  Spiritually speaking, our culture is a growth market.  If Geico knew that they were serving less than 25% of their client base and had a 400% growth potential, employees would be pursuing growth!  Why aren't we talking about growing?  Why don't we have a plan?  If you want to grow, but don't have a plan, the ChurchGROWTH project is for you.

GOAL:  Quite simply, this project will help parishes that want to grow.  ChurchGROWTH parishes will develop a plan for evangelization which can reverse recent attendance declines in a variety of ways:

  • take advantage of existing welcome opportunities that come every Christmas, from Ashes to Easter, as well as at weddings, baptisms and funerals
  • establish a ministry of welcome and make hospitality everyone's business  
  • align the megaphones of social media within the parish for outreach and evangelization
  • foster faith at home using new, high quality online resources   
  • use small groups to help the entire congregation to encounter Christ, follow Christ, enjoy Christ and share Christ  
  • reach out to newcomers and inactive Catholics 
  • mobilize Catholics to live faith out loud and plant the seeds of compassion in the community

 URGENCY:  We are victims of our own success but the urgency of the situation is increasingly clear to any who observe the average age of Mass attendees.  Despite that fact that we live in a society starving for meaning where people are isolated and families are struggling.  Doing the same thing and expecting a different result is insufficient to the signs of our times.  Churches should be growing and the Baptized must be mobilized to grow in faith by sharing that faith.

FOCUS:  Invite Catholic leaders to move from a consumer paradigm to a discipleship paradigm for parish life.  We have to re-imagine the parish as a community for intentional disciples.    It will support innovations in Christian discipleship - at home, online, and in small groups.

PROCESS:  The Office for Evangelization and Parish Life will partner with the other departments in the Division for Evangelization and Catechesis as well as members of the diocesan evangelization commission to support parishes interested in moving from a consumer paradigm to a growth paradigm in the following steps:

  1. Prepare - Study Forming Intentional Disciples - The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus by Sherry Weddell with other parish leaders.  Consider insights from this book and other resources via facilitated online conversations with these other practitioners in preparation a spring conference.  Attend the parish ministry conference ChurchGROWTH: Forming Intentional Disciples on April 29-30, 2016 at Christ the King Seminary.  What does it mean to pursue growth?  What is the connection between discipleship and growth, or discipleship and parish vitality?  Can this approach reinvigorate the programs and ministries of the parish?  Parish leaders will receive training and obtain sufficient resources to examine and apply the discipleship process to key areas of parish life.
  2. Equip - Choose a focus and develop a plan for enhancing intentional discipleship in a specific area the parish life and measure its impact on the broader congregation.  Some parishes may select a target population outside the congregation and develop a strategy for connecting, welcoming and engaging that population.  Courses will be offered in regions across the diocese on Catholic evangelization, and ways to foster faith at home and with social media.
  3. Connect - Identify a target population and equip leaders and parishioners reach out (e.g. loosely involved parishioners, newcomers and visitors, young families or young adult seekers).  Appoint a communications coordinator or social media manager.  Adopt proven strategies for  outreach to newcomers (e.g. New Mover services, life-mentoring, neighborhood gatherings).
  4. Welcome - Perceptive parishes see the importance of welcome, and form a team and make a plan for intentional hospitality.  This can include:  Ash Wednesday outreach ideas; hospitality training for ministers of first impression, education for the congregation who are agents of first welcome, establish a visible welcome center with informational materials, guest surveys and contact cards for placement strategically around the campus - worship space, reception area and meeting rooms.
  5. Engage - Parishes will implement a customized plan of action to develop active discipleship in the congregation beyond attendance at Sunday worship.  This can be done in a variety of ways including one of several small group programs, support for faith at home, social media, as well as mission opportunities for people of all ages to reach out in compassion through corporeal works of mercy and action on behalf of justice so that Catholics can live out their baptism in the world.


SPONSORSHIP AND DIRECTION:  Through the generosity of Our Sunday Visitor and other donors, most of the costs will be covered for all participating parishes.  In addition, parishes will receive incentives in the form of grants for qualifying projects that shift the parish from a consumer paradigm to a growth paradigm.  Over the two years of this project, the diocese will gather thought-leaders with practitioners to derive insights and best practices which will benefit parishes across the diocese so that all parishes can see their potential for growth.

What about you?  What about your parish?  What is keeping you from growing?
For more information on how to create an evangelization plan and grow again, contact:

Dennis Mahaney
Office for Evangelization and Parish Life
Division of Evangelization and Catechesis
795 Main St.
Buffalo, NY 14203