ARTICLE – Pastoral Orientations for Parish Renewal and Growth (Part 1)

In the parables about the sower and the seed, the wheat and the weeds, and the mustard seed which is sown and then becomes a large plant, Jesus spoke to us about the growth of his kingdom. On earth, God’s kingdom is his Church and its mission is to make disciples. As God’s plan unfolds, the kingdom of God on earth will continue to grow through the apostolic efforts of its members and the power of the Holy Spirit.

The purpose of this article is to present pastoral orientations that, according to theologians and pastors involved in the Church Growth Movement, contribute to parish development. These pastoral orientations are intended to be helpful to pastors and pastoral councils as they seek to evangelize and renew their parishes.

1. Prioritizing Reaching the Unchurched

Growing parishes see their mission as “seeking the lost sheep.” (Luke 15:1-7) McGavran, the founder of the Church Growth Movement, defines the mission of the Church as following: To proclaim Jesus Christ as God and Savior and encourage men and women to become his disciples and responsible members of his church. The activities of growing churches are determined by this mission. Their goal is to invite people who are not part of the parish church and to integrate them. In spite of their other administrative duties, the pastors devote time to building up the Christian community.

2. Praying and Promoting Spiritual Renewal Among Members

In growing churches, spiritual empowerment and renewal plays an essential role. Prayers of intercession for men and women to be won to Christ precede and accompany missionary efforts. Continual spiritual renewal (revival) is sought by members of the parish.  As a result, they are concerned about the salvation of others and are more effective witnesses for Christ.

3. Developing a Vision and a Process

Growing parishes not only engage in evangelization but have developed a pastoral process. This process represents their vision for making disciples. They articulate their vision in a simple, understandable statement and motivate their congregation to achieve it. Their vision moves the Christian community beyond the status quo, invites missionary breakthroughs, and is realistic so that members can believe in it and follow it.

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Pierre-Alain Giffard

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