Parishioners help vacuum the carpets at St. Michael's Church in Lyons, N.Y. (CNS photo by Greg Francis, Catholic Courier)

This Summer, Rebuild!

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Father Michael WhiteAs the warmth of summer begins to be enjoyed, parish communities stand at the threshold of a new season filled with possibilities for renewal and rebuilding. Just as nature undergoes a transformative journey of rebirth and rejuvenation during this time, so can our parishes. Below, I offer a few insights and ideas.

1. Clean the House. I love summer projects around the church campus, and with schedules more open, it’s the perfect time to clean things up and reorganize. Summer offers the ideal opportunity for refreshing interior spaces. A fresh coat of paint or carpet cleaning can work wonders. Take some extra time to re-evaluate your guest experience and what exactly it is they see on entering your lobby or narthex. Are there opportunities to declutter, in which you not only enhance the physical aesthetics, but also cultivate a more welcoming and inviting environment? Take some time to refresh your website, which is everyone’s new “front door.” Certainly, all information must be current, but beyond that, what else can you do to make it look and feel up-to-date?

2. Focus on Mission and Vision. Amid everything else going on in busy parishes, it’s not hard to begin to lose sight of your church’s mission and vision. Summer provides an invaluable opportunity to pause, reflect and realign with God’s calling for your community. Through prayerful discernment and thoughtful reflection, this time of year can be the season to rediscover a collective purpose and direction as given by the Lord. Once you’ve reclarified your mission and vision, it’s imperative to over-communicate it to staff and volunteer leaders, through one-on-one conversations, group discussions and perhaps even a half-day staff retreat. Next, reach out to the whole parish with a fresh focus on homilies and blog posts, bulletin articles and social media platforms. The goal is that every member of your church family is fully engaged and aligned with your shared mission and vision. When we articulate with clarity, we inspire greater enthusiasm, participation and commitment among our congregation.

3. Invest in the Leadership Team. At the heart of our parish staff here at Nativity is our leadership team, currently a group of five (my associate, our financial director, director of operations, and our kids and student director). This summer, I would like to prioritize the development and empowerment of these leaders through intentional investment in team-building activities, as well as quality time spent together, such as a regularly scheduled lunch date or field trip. One of the things we could be taking a closer look at is our weekly meeting day and time, style and agenda. How well is it working for us? By equipping and empowering leaders to lead with confidence and clarity, we are setting them up for success.

4. Prepare for the Fall. As summer days unfold, seize this season to diligently prepare for the vibrancy and excitement of fall. Begin by developing a comprehensive calendar of upcoming events and outreach initiatives, ensuring that it aligns with your overarching vision and goals. Think about your pulpit this fall. Who will be preaching and what common themes can those preaching explore together? Perhaps you could even introduce a homily “series” in which you take a single Lectionary-based theme and dig into it over several weeks.

5. Plan to Grow. In these past four years, during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, we have experienced unprecedented challenges and disruptions to parish life and particularly church attendance. How about planning now to change that this fall? How about setting a date for a fall “launch weekend,” or open house, inviting your neighborhood to your campus for (free) fun and fellowship? Recruit and train a new team of greeters to man points of entry so as to be especially on the lookout for visitors and newcomers. Brainstorm with your team other ways to change the focus of parish life from the people in the pews to those not yet in the pews. How can you more convincingly communicate the transformative love of Christ to the unchurched?

Let this summer be a season of renewal and rebuilding within your parish community. That could be more refreshing than any vacation.

FATHER MICHAEL WHITE is pastor of Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Maryland, and co-author of “Rebuilt Faith” (Ave Maria, $18.95).

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