'Disciple Maker Index'

Parishioners in Phase II Collaboratives are asked to participate in a survey that will be emailed or otherwise made available to them this week. The Disciple Maker Index is a tool to help parishioners reflect on their personal spiritual growth and identify the ways in which the parish effectively supports that growth. The results will give pastors, leadership teams, and local plan writing committees valuable input as they draft the local plans that each collaborative will write this year.

And this is how the Disciple Maker Index came to be: Catholic Leadership Institute (CLI) gathered 100 bishops, priests, diocesan officials, parish leaders and other leaders for a two-day think tank on parish engagement which produced some initial suppositions. CLI then took a smaller group of the same constituents, drafted the survey, and shared it with 15 bishops for feedback and edit. This will be the second year that the Disciple Maker Index is disseminated. Last year, three dioceses, 21 parishes and 8,700 parishioners completed the survey. Through the generosity of CLI donors and grants, the survey is offered at no cost to parishes or to the Archdiocese of Boston at this time.

The survey opens electronically for Phase II parishioners on Feb.17, Shrove Tuesday, a fitting time to reflect on faith and spiritual growth. It will close on March 10. All responses will be confidential and the parish will only receive information about the community as whole, not, "Ms. Smith, from Jones Street, regrets that the parish doesn't provide Bible study; she would really like a Bible Study group." CLI promises, "We take confidentiality of the parishioners very seriously. We want them to provide honest feedback." No one will have access to individual parishioner responses: not the diocese, not the pastor, not the collaborative leadership team. "Likewise any email addresses or contact information provided will be saved on secure servers and not released for any purpose other than distribution of the survey." Parish results will be shared with the pastor and the key leaders he chooses. "CLI will not share a parish's individual data without expressed written permission" from the pastor.

CLI has been asked about the survey's target audience. It appears to be geared to people in the pews, while Catholic faithful are asked over and over to reach out to the lost or those who, for whatever reason, are not with us each week. CLI acknowledges, "The survey will most likely be completed by people who are coming with some degree of regularity to your parish... results will tell ... what about the parish is keeping them coming as well as things that might be prompting them to start falling away. Both of these elements will help inform how we can reach out to those completely detached from the parish."

CLI hopes to see 8-10 percent of parishioners represented in the survey. The data is still helpful with lower participation, but, obviously, the more responses received, the more credible the data. Last year, participating parishes gave CLI 23,000 valid email addresses to send out the survey. They received a 41 percent response rate. Email is by far the most effective survey distribution tool, but the parish can post a link on the parish website that will offer access to the survey, and paper copies will be available. Parishioners using the paper copy, must be mindful of the completion date because all paper copies must be returned to CLI at the same time, and by a specific date.

We look at this new terminology: Disciple Maker Index. What an unusual phrase. Then we look at Jesus' final words to his followers -- 1st century and 21st century -- "Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations..." (Mt. 28) It makes sense. We are all called to be disciples and, in turn, help others become disciples -- no matter how uncomfortable the title Disciple Maker feels. It's new -- but not really. It seems awkward -- but it's not impossible. Pray for Phase II parishioners and for each other that we live up to our calling.