Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Becoming a Parish of Intentional Disciples

edited by Sherry A. Weddell

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Following up on her excellent and important book Forming Intentional Disciples, Weddell gathers a few people with real world experience in implementing these new ideas on evangelization, and gets them to discuss their thoughts and practical methods. 
  • Seriously, I really think these ideas are important and vitally necessary for the Church in the West. If you're at all involved in the life of your parish, you really should read this book. (Although you should probably read Forming Intentional Disciples first. Especially if you're not involved in your parish life.)

And Why You Might Not:
  • Obviously if you aren't Catholic, or at least Christian, this book won't mean much to you.
  • It's too short. There was some good stuff in there, for sure, but it's such a slim book. I wanted more perspectives. More ideas. More things people have tried that did or didn't work. More stories.

Thoughts: I really appreciate the practical aspect of this book. Reading it made ideas pop out in my brain, and I wanted to run out and start cool parish projects and get everyone to pray lots and fix everything. Unfortunately, this is not going to happen in the near future, considering my current life circumstances.

Here are some thoughts on the individual essays:
--"The Generation of Saints" by Sherry Weddell. This is a good introduction to the concept of the book, giving some history of past times and places where the Church desperately needed revitalization. It gives confidence that the needed reforms can happen with grace and the right methods.
--"Praying it Forward: Intercession and the Transformation of Your Parish" by Keith Strohm. This was perhaps my favourite, and had the most ideas pop (I especially liked the primary idea of sending small groups to pray in front of each house in a neighbourhood). Additionally, the writing style was engaging and the story amusing and interesting.
--"Co-Responsible for the Mission of Christ" by Fr. Michael Fones. I found this one slightly less interesting than the other, mostly because it was less practical with no stories. I did like the discussion on "doing the work of Christ" vs. "animating the work of Christ", though (e.g. "How do we help 100 more families?" vs "Why are there only five of us doing this?").
--"Intentional Disciples: Bearing Spiritual Fruit That Sustains" by Bobby Vidal. My favourite part of this one was the discussion about "maintenance driven" parishes vs "mission driven" parishes. It's fascinating the difference between them, and how many parishes are really focusing on the maintenance part, and not the mission.
--"A Parish Moves Ahead" by Katherine Coolidge. This one tells of the growth of a parish to one of mission and purpose and intentional disciples. I enjoyed this one, and there were good ideas to think about.
--"'Fireside Chats' and the Formation of the Laity: Bringing the Parish Together" by Fr. Chas Canoy. The whole "fireside chat" idea is great, and he gets into the logistics of it in a pleasantly practical way.
--"Rethinking Youth Ministry" by Jim Beckman. He's totally right about youth ministry needing to be redefined. I'm not going to go through all his points here, but I'll mention briefly his point about "slickness". Don't try to make Mass/youth meetings/religious gatherings "slick", for the sake of the youth. For one thing, you're not going to be able to compete with the slickness of modern life--you're simply not. And for another, they get that every day--give them something different, surprising, interesting, deep. I'm now old enough to not be in the age category he's talking about, but I have many younger siblings (youngest is six), so I definitely have some idea.

And that's all. Seven essays, that's it. Too short, though I suppose something is better than nothing, and maybe it was best just to get this book out and read as soon as possible.

Grade: 4 stars

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