Measuring Successful Parish Ministry

measuringMy background is in theology and in nonprofit business/administration.  As such, I have sought ways to combine the best business practices within ministry.  And, with that in mind, I have wanted to “measure” what makes a successful parish.  What can we examine and evaulate to deem that a parish is doing well and another is not.  Or are we just to throw everything up to,  “We will see the fruits in heaven?”  There are many things we can analyze: offertory, mass attendance, number of baptisms and weddings, etc.  While these would give us some perspective into the success of the parish, I think that they can be attributed (good or bad) to other factors outside of the parishes control.  And, in some cases, I think these are additional by-products or secondary measurements caused by good catechesis and evangelization. 

The two measurable areas that I think one could use to gauge a successful parish are the  number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life and the size of ones Rite of Christian Initiation Program (R.C.I.A.). 

In my view, the number of vocations is a result of solid catechesis over an extended period of time.  Catechesis of youth, young adults, and adults.  For their to be significant vocations to the priesthood and religious life coming out of a parish there has to be good catechesis from baptism preparation of parents, to marriage ministry, to CCD/PSR, to marriage enrichment, to reverential liturgies, to faithful schools, to engaging homilies.  Vocations requires catechesis at all levels.  A parish with good catechesis as exampled by an increase of vocations from their parish, will most likely have more revenue through offertory, a number of baptisms, a sustained and ever increasing mass attendance to name but a few of the other fruits. 

R.C.I.A. numbers come from good catechesis, but more importantly, from solid outreach and evangelization.  R.C.I.A. is a process of education leading to the reception of the sacraments of initation (baptism, confirmation, eucharist) at the Easter Vigil.  If the parish (all the members of the parish) is truly sharing their faith, those eager to be Catholic will come.  Relying on the Holy Spirit, a parish that evangelizes is a parish that has larger programs dedicated to initiating new members.  Now I realize, that some people plant seeds, others may water these seeds, and still others may see the fruit.  So, in my view, for RCIA numbers to be higher in one parish over another there needs to be extended outreach over a period of time sometimes spanning over many pastors.

Catechesis and evangelization are two essential functions of parish ministry.  Vocations and R.C.I.A. are the fruits of these ministries and as such can be looked at to evaulate and gauge the success of ones parish.

One thought on “Measuring Successful Parish Ministry”

  1. One of the things that our parishes need is what you said, “solid catechesis over an extended period of time.” Because catechesis has suffered over the past 40 years, we have not always had this so it is hard to measure the success in most parishes. When I was in college, our teachers told us to know that the fruit of our labor is going to be the faithful witness and proclamation of the Catholic Faith. If we look for more than that, we may be disappointed. Vocations and the RCIA are positive indicators, but we can also look at Mass attendance vs. registered parishioners. Another indicator would be adoration. We will never know the power and affect that adoration gives to a parish.

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