Forming Missionary Disciples
“Transmitting the faith means to create in every place and time the conditions which lead to this encounter between the person and Jesus Christ. The goal of all evangelization is to create the possibility for this encounter, which is, at one and the same time, intimate, personal, public and communal.”
-2012 Instrumentum Laboris 20
Whenever a person has a life-changing encounter with Jesus, we know that it is Jesus himself who has initiated this event. The mission of the evangelizer is not to make this encounter happen. We can trust Jesus to take care of that. Instead, our job is to “create conditions” that dispose a person to this encounter.
To create the conditions that are favorable someone to meeting the Lord, we must understand what each person needs in order to open their heart to God. In general, people need love, trust, time, encouragement and respect for their freedom. In addition, each individual is at a different stage in their spiritual journey and will respond differently depending on where they are spiritually. For example, a person who is just beginning to ask the question of God’s existence may need something different from us than the person who has met Christ and is already beginning to follow him.
The Path of Discipleship
It is important for all evangelizers to know the general “shape” of the path of discipleship in order to better understand each person, where they are “at” spiritually, and what they need in order to be disposed to the grace of God. Here are some great metaphors that great Catholic people are using to talk about the path of becoming an intentional disciple of Jesus Christ:
- Five Spiritual Thresholds – from Sherry Weddell, document compiled by Archdiocese of Denver
- The Baseball Diamond (en español) – concept from The Evangelical Catholic
- How to address spiritual roadblocks along the way
Parish-Based Evangelization Ministries
Below are some of the Church’s most effective ministries for making missionary disciples in a parish. To find a parish in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia running one of these ministries, send us an email at email@example.com.
Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO)
Starting a successful evangelizing mission takes a lot of work, and it can be difficult to know where to begin. CCO’s Connect: Parish program, through workshops and coaching, can help you establish a multiplying movement in your midst. The centerpiece of this plan is the CCO Faith Study Series. It has been designed to proclaim the Gospel, equip the faithful and commission them to become missionary disciples. These materials are used in a small group setting and allow for a relatable and dynamic proclamation of the Catholic Faith. They are easy-to-lead and have proven effective in bringing about personal conversions. Learn about CCO in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia
This three-part evangelization process leads people to encounter Jesus (Discovering Christ), follow him (Following Christ), and learn to share him with others (Sharing Christ). It is designed to lead people through the stages of discipleship through DVD-based teaching, a meal, and building strong community bonds. Learn more about ChristLife in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia
Evangelical Catholic assists parishes in forming intentional disciples by building and igniting leaders and equipping them to form evangelizing small groups. These evangelizing small groups are created as a place to invite someone to begin a journey to encountering and following Jesus Christ. Learn more about EC in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia
FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) has been one of the most fruitful disciple-maker ministries on college campuses in the world! FOCUS Parish is a new initiative which takes FOCUS’ model of spiritual multiplication from the campus to the parish. Experienced campus missionaries transition to the parish mission field and offer their evangelization skills and training to form missionary disciples in a parish.
Discipleship Quads – Franciscan University of Steubenville
A Discipleship Quad is a group of four people who journey together as disciples through weekly gatherings of fellowship, ongoing conversion, and learning. This 12-month path of accompaniment fosters growth through prayer, accountability, and authentic relationships. This method of discipleship can be launched in almost any setting, within a parish or as a personal ministry. The website provides online training for coordinators and small group materials at no cost.
Communio is a nonprofit that consults with parishes to use 21st century data tools and best practices to reach out by offering relationship health ministry to strengthen marriages and families in their community. It is especially designed to help parishes reach inactive Catholics and the religiously unaffiliated, along with their own active parishioners.
- Local Communio consultant: Alex Haynie, firstname.lastname@example.org
Below are listed one-time events for parishes designed to inspire the faith of practicing Catholics as well as reach out to inactive Catholics and the religiously unaffiliated. Most of these organizations offer a plan for post-event follow-up with attendees to help them keep the fire burning and grow in their discipleship.
- Science Tests Faith with Tim Francis – sciencetestsfaith.com
- Real Life Catholic events with Chris Stefanick – reallifecatholic.com
- Dynamic Catholic events with Matthew Kelly, Allen Hunt & others – dynamiccatholic.com
- Re-Engaged Ministries presentations with Dan Tarrant – reengagedministries.com
Training Programs for Parishes
These programs are designed to form and equip active Catholics in the fundamentals of evangelization and how to reach out to others.
Forming Intentional Disciples
This foundational book by Sherry Weddel offers an excellent overview of the state of the Church with regard to inactive Catholics, the fundamentals of evangelization, the thresholds of conversion and other essentials for launching an evangelization movement in a parish.
- Forming Intentional Disciples book and study guide
- Formación de Discípulos Intencionales (libro en español)
Relit: The Heart of Evangelization
Dynamic training program consisting of 18 DVD-based sessions that forms and equips your core faithful theologically, spiritually, and practically so that they can be active evangelists in their own parish and beyond.
Ananias Training is a 17-hour process structured in five sessions, designed to form parishioners with no previous training in “the art of spiritual accompaniment.” The training will use Scripture reflections, video, and facilitated discussions to form “Ananiases.” The goal of Ananias Training is to form a people equipped to be Ananias to one another within the Church as well as to those in the world, within the context of one’s own charisms and personal vocation. Learn more at siena.org/ananias.
Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate
Community of contemplative-missionary sisters whose primary apostolate is outreach to inactive Catholics, especially through door-to-door visitation. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia rejoices to have a convent of Parish Visitor sisters in Clifton Heights, PA. The PVMI door-to-door manual and some audio CDs are available for purchase. For more information, visit their website.
Addressing Spiritual Roadblocks
All of us carry within our hearts “stuff” from the past that, as we follow Christ, will begin to surface. The Lord wants our whole heart and so he will ask us at times to face the things in our hearts that prevent us from belonging fully to him. To ensure that these moments in the spiritual journey become stepping stones instead of roadblocks, it is important for all disciples to know how to make a response to the grace of conversion that Christ is offering us.
The primary fuel of interior transformation is found in the sacraments, spiritual direction, and a regular prayer life. In addition, prayer ministries such as the Unbound Deliverance Ministry can be a very effective help in breaking through our interior roadblocks into deeper freedom in Christ. The Five Keys of the Unbound model of deliverance help a person to make deliberate acts of faith, repentance, forgiveness and renunciation around the area where they are stuck in order to allow the power of the Gospel to break into their areas of darkness and lead them ever forward into the Father’s love. Without this key piece, would-be disciples of the Lord risk getting stuck along the journey. To learn more about Unbound, click here.