How to Build a Clear Path of Discipleship

Does your parish actively help you evangelize? Many of us are accompanying someone we know in their faith journey, but most of us are doing this without the help of our parish community. Often the most support comes when our “someone” is ready to enter the Church.

Imagine if your parish provided a place for you to build relationships of trust with those in your life who are disengaged from their faith. Or if they had a ministry that proclaimed the Gospel and fostered conversions through an encounter with Jesus. What if your parish taught you how to evangelize and it gave you a space to celebrate and commiserate with others who are trying to do the same?

Around here, we’d say that parish had a Clear Path to Discipleship. But how do we go from the current muddle of ministries that exists at most parishes to a Clear Path? That’s what I want to talk about today. There are six phases of building a Clear Path, and we have an episode on each for you!

Phase 1: Assessment

What is the purpose of your parish’s current ministries? The Phase of Assessment involves challenging assumptions about the current state of the parish, examining existing programs to identify gaps in reaching newcomers, and discerning where ministries can shift to better facilitate the conversion process. My guest, Rachel Gifford, Director of Catechesis & Evangelization at St. Mary’s Parish, highlights her parish’s journey through the Phase of Assessment.

Phase 2: Discernment

“Lord, what will be our parish’s process for making missionary disciples?” The Phase of Discernment involves trusting in God’s plan, being attentive to the presence of the Holy Spirit, and purposefully listening for divine guidance in daily activities. My guests, Fr. Damian Zuerlein, Dcn. Doug Lenz, and Ann Lenz from St. Frances Cabrini discuss how as they brough change to their community, they remained open to God’s direction and surrendered to His will, even when faced with challenges and uncertainties.

Phase 3: Implementation

What part of the clear path do we build first? The Phase of Implementation involves putting your strategy into action, adapting to real-world circumstances, and learning from the process to refine and improve the approach.  My guest, Jonathan Sanchez-Hidalgo, Director of Evangelization and Discipleship at St. Charles Borromeo shares his experience navigating the complexities of implementing programs within a parish setting. He highlights the importance of community involvement, the need for flexibility and initiative, and the ability to learn from failures.

Phase 4: Communication

Who needs to know what we have decided? How do we tell them? The Phase of Communication involves actively sharing the parish’s clear path with the community through various means and methods in order to reach different audiences effectively. My guests Jake Olson and Fr. James Keiter from Our Catholic Family describe how they navigated the phase of communication. They talk about leveraging different communication methods, the significance of personal witness and stories, and the need to communicate the clear path repeatedly to ensure understanding and engagement among parishioners.

Phase 5: Alignment

How do existing ministries connect with our clear path? The phase of alignment involves evaluating and adjusting ministries to better serve the community’s mission and goals. My guests Nicole Cook and Kristi Preisman from St. Columbkille describe how they began by talking with their ministry leaders to understand roles, strengths, and areas in need of improvement. They determined how each ministry aligned with the overall mission of the parish and identified areas where ministries needed to adjust. Their goal was to ensure that each ministry at St. Columbkille plays a meaningful role in helping people connect with God and take their next steps in their faith journey.

Phase 6: Expansion

What is the next step to build or expand? The phase of expansion involves growing your clear path in a way that responds to the movement of the Holy Spirit. My guests Jenny Wiswell and Fr. Marcus Knecht from St. Gerald discuss their experience with expansion. They emphasize the importance of recognizing and responding to the diverse needs of parishioners at different stages of their faith journey. They underscore the importance of discernment, communication, leader recruitment, and staying humble and receptive to feedback.


For more on the Clear Path, read the book, A Clear Path to Discipleship: How to Make Missionary Disciples in Your Parish

4 Responses to “How to Build a Clear Path of Discipleship”

After listening to Phase 1, I was impressed with the great effort that St. Mary’s Parish made to become missional. The reality is that becoming a missional parish is not easy. It’s a lot of work and prayer!

So good Jim and Rachel! Took notes and passed it along!! Can’t wait for more!!

I just listened to the Assessment Phase with Rachel and Jim. Wonderful job! It was especially helpful since our team just attended the Archdiocesan workshop on Building A Clear Path.

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