Posted tagged ‘Getting Started – Parishes’

Phase Three, Fully Functional

July 30, 2010

Hello Again,

So, what does Phase Three look like?

Continue to pray, pray, pray! By this point, praying without ceasing should be your habit!  🙂

Recruit classroom catechists for the once-per-month gathering.  This can be tricky.  Put announcements into the bulletin.  Post fliers in the Church, on your door even.  Call former catechists,  current or former teachers.  Parents themselves can be a great catechists.  Some parents like the idea of being able to teach their children, especially when it comes to things like first reconciliation and communion.

Train catechists.  This is sadly a neglected aspect in most parish catechetical programs.  Catechists need to be trained.  They need to be spiritually nourished.  They need the basics of classroom management, how to use different learning styles, etc.  In other words, talk to an elementary ed teacher to get ideas or search online.  They need to know your expectations, parish policy and procedures, as well as you need to be there constantly to support, encourage, and train them to be better.

Hold a kick-off/information session for parents.  In short, explain the program if it hasn’t already been explained, make sure parents know who their child’s teacher will be and where the class will be held, answer questions, and be sure to get father to have the parents renew either their marriage vows or the promise that they made at their child’s baptism.  For much more on this, go to the Family Formation Coordinator’s Manual.  Do not for one minute underestimate the importance of the kickoff and especially the renewal of marriage or baptism vows.  Do it every year.  It renews and re-energizes the parents every time giving parents the grace to be their children’s  primary educators.

Implement the program parish-wide as the only option for religious education. If you are truly practicing what you are preaching you will realize that the time will come when the only way to do catechesis in the parish is to do family catechesis.  Again this happens in God’s time, but  it is the ultimate goal.  If you have two competing programs running against each other, one family catechesis and the other not,  for any extended period of time, especially when one touts itself as being THE way to catechize based on the teachings of the Church, you are sending a mixed message.  Family catechesis, and ultimately Family Formation, won’t be fully effective unless you live up to what you are preaching.

Encourage your families! Your role should be much more of a cheerleader than it ever has been in the past.  If you are excited they will be.  Be there to support, encourage, and call parent’s on to be the best they can be.

Lastly, watch for the blessings as family faith formation becomes a way of life!

God bless you and your parish.  We are praying for you and that the Holy Spirit bring great fruit to all your efforts.

Yours in Christ,

Matthew Brounstein

Phase Two, Part Two

July 27, 2010

Hello Everyone,

So, what other things happen in phase-two of getting Family Formation up and running in your parish?  Well, read on.

There are two ways to implement Family Formation in this phase.

Have a pilot group of families be part of Family Formation while you continue to run your current program.  In this situation, these families become your best cheerleaders.  Be sure to get a good cross-section of families including some home school families, Catholic school families, public school families, the families you see at church for everything, and those who show up only occasionally.  It is one thing for you to be on board and father to be on board, but you want people to promote the program who have actually been through it.  Pilot groups are very successful because not only do they work, but people talk to other people about how well the program works!  Some things that you can do for a pilot group are sacramental preparation, Little Lambs with Sunday Celebration, or the normal Family Formation program.

If you feel you have built a strong enough foundation through Phase I, start cold turkey! (Make sure your pastor is supporting you in this.)  Make Family Formation the only option for your families.  See the points listed in Phase Three, in upcoming posts, for help in becoming fully operational.  This has been done by many parishes, including our own, but make sure you have all your ducks in a row before you do this and make sure the Holy Spirit is leading you to this option.  If not, do the pilot group.

Lastly, continue to engage your pastor in your plans and progress.  He does not need to be in on the planning and implementing, but he does need to be the voice that pushes your progress forward.  Father is the captain and every parish needs a captain to give  pep talks and guidance.  You can help father by suggesting to him to come to one or more town hall meetings with key or all members of the parish.  He can help answer some key questions, give the vision, and of course hand off some questions to you (or you could feed him the answers).  🙂

Can you believe it?  You are almost fully functional!  Next up, Phase Three.

Yours in Christ,

Matthew Brounstein

Phase Two, Part 1

July 23, 2010

Hello Again,

Well we are going to start phase two of the three-phase plan to bring Family Formation to your parish.  The start of phase two, also known as Transition Time, involves fine tuning what you were doing in phase one, but this time with a different focus in mind.  By phase two you know that Family Formation will happen.  So, what does phase two look like.  Let’s focus on two things today.

Continue to pray, pray, pray! Again, ask everyone with whom you are in contact to be praying for this to happen in God’s perfect timing.

Gather your Core Team on a more regular basis (monthly is good) for extended praise and worship and prayer as a group.  Take time for individual quiet prayer and share what the Lord says to each one of you.  Have each person fast for one day leading up to your meeting.  Fasting with your prayer gives it extra “oomph.”  This is the time to plan out your details and hand out specific tasks for the implementation of Family Formation.  Reference the Family Formation Coordinator’s Manual to see what jobs need to be done and what long-term things you still might need to do.

Again, these are simple things but quite necessary to getting the job done.  Think of them as dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.  Good luck!

Yours in Christ,

Matthew Brounstein

Phase One, Part 4

July 20, 2010

Hello Everyone,

So, we are over half way done with phase one of three in bringing Family Formation to your parish.  This post will cover several things that need to be done to finish phase one.

Form your CORE team.  These are the people who will commit to praying about Family Formation and help with the process of implementation.  These are your key volunteers for the program.  People who will be speakers, catechists in the classroom, people who will make copies, distribute, give testimony, or help in the background.  Plan meetings with these people once a month.  Pray together as a group.  Mobilize as a group.  And of course, share a meal together to build better relationships and thank your key helpers.

Start to change your vocabulary! Where before you used CCD/religious education/faith formation terminology, now speak of Family Formation and family catechesis.  Instead of teacher, call them catechists.  A small change but words mean things.  Explain the reason for the change to all who ask.

Start Learning! Familiarize yourself, your Core Team, your pastor, and the entire parish with Church teachings and documents on family catechesis.  A good place to start is with the Family Formation Coordinator’s Manual.  The Coordinator’s Manual has many quotes on family catechesis from the various documents of the Church, as well as many other tools to help you implement the Family Formation program.  Really, if you plan to implement Family Formation, this is one tool you cannot do without.  It is written specifically for someone in your position to do exactly what we are talking about.  Other ideas for spreading the word and teaching involve developing bulletin boards, parish bulletin announcements, announcements from the pulpit, an intercession/petition at Mass, and newsletter articles; or devote an entire newsletter to discussing the primary role of parents in educating their children in the Faith.  The Church’s documents speak clearly about this.  Familiaris Consortio, Gravissimum Educationis, and Letter to Families are foundational documents to draw from.

Start motivating! If family catechesis is a totally new concept in your parish’s current educational systems, use a good share of this first phase to begin to ask parents to be more involved in their children’s religious education.  Give them something to do at home with their children.  This may be a good time to begin implementing the Family Formation Sacramental Prep Program or to have them begin using the W.O.G. Logs.  You may want to ask parents to come in one time each month to receive a teaching on a topic of faith or parenting.  Make Our Sabbath Scripture Book available for purchase to get your families thinking about the Sunday Gospel reading each week.

That is it for phase one!  As I stated earlier, it is the longest phase and requires the most legwork, but in the end, the more effort you put into phase one, the more you will get out of the program and set the program up as something that will not go away.  Furthermore, you can be sure that it will bear better fruit.  God bless you in your implementation.

Yours in Christ,

Matthew Brounstein

Phase One, Part 3

July 15, 2010

Hello Everyone,

Let’s continue with our three-phase series to bring Family Formation to your parish.  We are still in phase one.  Phase one tends to be the longest phase.  Do the legwork now and it will pay off many times over later.  Don’t do the legwork now and you risk running a program that will not work, be continually questioned, or be dropped after a year as merely a failed experiment.  Please don’t let this happen to you.  Again, remember you need to keep praying!  This happens in God’s time, not yours.  🙂

The next part of phase one is getting your pastor on boardYour priest must be fully on board for the Family Formation model to work.  There is a reason that is underlined.  The reason is that the buck stops with him.  If he isn’t on board it just won’t fly.  The first two steps of phase one (praying and talking) may take a little longer if you are waiting for your pastor to catch the vision.  In order for this to really take effect, he needs to begin preaching, teaching, talking, and praying for this to happen as well.  He need to want this program as much as you.  He needs to be convinced this is where God wants to lead the parish.  Once he begins to teach in different capacities about the Church documents on the family, some parents may even begin to ask for this kind of programming.  If you and the pastor are seen as a team with both people being on the same side, you can bring the change you seek into your parish.  The amount of people each of you can witness to and convince will be much greater.

That being said, what about transition years?  What if you pastor is soon to be replaced?  What if you have a new pastor?  Again, you need your pastor’s support.  Most new priests coming into a parish rarely change the current catechetical program.  It will be your job during his first year to help him to catch the vision, show him where the parish was at and how it has grown, explain to him the reasons for the change, show him the fruit it is bearing.  Educate him as much as you can about family catechesis and ask him to pray as well.

May God guide you in all you do.

Yours in Christ,

Matthew Brounstein

Phase One, Part 2

July 12, 2010

Hello Again Everyone,

Today we are going to pick up where we left off, phase one of transitioning your parish to using Family Formation.  After prayer, the best think you can do is talk, talk, talk! Speak to everyone and anyone who will listen about how and why you want to move in this direction.  If you yourself are totally sold on the idea, it will be easier for others to buy into it.  Ask to give a report at every committee meeting that meets at your parish regardless of its previous involvement in your education programs.  The people involved in those different areas of ministry are leaders, whether they realize it or not, and this is one of the best ways to get the word out!  Again, if you are convinced that this is the way to solve the current crisis in religious education, your excitement will be contagious!

All of this talking must be approached with care though.  You need to start to have some potentially difficult, honest, but important conversations with people.  You need to start evaluating the current way you are doing things.  Are you getting the results you want?  What happens if you keep doing what you are currently doing?  What will change?  What do you want to have change?  What do you risk happening if you change?  Are you afraid of low mass attendance?  How high is it now?  What is the difference between people in the pews who are not engaged versus people in the pews that are engaged and their faith is alive?  Are you afraid of loosing families?  Do you lose them now from first communion to confirmation?  What about after confirmation?  Is there anything wrong with setting the bar high?  Are parents reinforcing what your children learn at church or not?  Are parents being effectively evangelized at your Church?  Are they bearing spiritual fruit?  How will you get people on board who love or created the old program that you want to change?  How will you pay for this new program?  Are you going to pass on the cost to the families?  Should families pay for religious education?  Why or why not?  What does it say if families buy their kids cell phones, iPods, pay for sports but do not pay for their religious education?  (Click the link for some more Discussion Questions )

Again all of these are difficult questions and they should be answered.  At some point they will come up.  If you want to have an honest evaluation of your parish, its current situation, and what the future may hold, these things need to be discussed.  May God give you wisdom on how to bring the discussion to the parish, how to guide the discussion forward, and how to face the critics of change.

Yours in Christ,

Matthew Brounstein

Three Phase Plan, Part 1

July 8, 2010

Hello Everyone,

This post will begin a series of posts on how to get Family Formation up and running at your parish.  This series is primarily directed to DREs and Faith Formation Coordinators since they are the ones that ultimately have to implement the program.

The first thing to realize is that in order to bring Family Formation to your parish and have it run effectively, much ground work needs to be done.  The best way to think of it is in phases.  There are three phases to implementing a change like this.  Each phase can take a number of months or over a year.  It is important not to rush anything because a transition to family catechesis is usually a major shift in thinking, talking, and acting in a parish.  This post will deal with part of phase one.

Phase One can also be called Laying the Foundation.  The first thing to do is Pray, pray, prayWhat is it that the Lord wants for your parish and families? This is the time to gather as many people as possible to pray for this vision of education to be rooted in the hearts of your parents, families, and the entire parish.  Ask those who pray the rosary before daily Mass to begin offering their rosaries for this endeavor.  Ask parents to begin praying and discerning for this program to become a reality in your parish.  You know who your prayer warriors are … use them!  In all humility, you may want to bring Family Formation to your parish but first you need see if that is where the Holy Spirit is leading your parish currently.  So many times in ministry we forget to find out what God wants before we have made up our minds as to what we want.  So today, take some time, and just pray, and of course don’t forget that prayer involves listening.  This is such a simple step but a crucial one that should not be skipped.  My advice, take at least a half hour in prayer, an hour would be better, and more biblical.  🙂  May God guide you, your parish, and your ministries.

Yours in Christ,

Matthew Brounstein

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