Parishioners who are spiritually nourished and encouraged to share their faith with others are the best means of evangelization.
This month, Phase III collaboratives -- with a few exceptions -- will complete the Disciple Maker Index (DMI) survey, designed and administered by the Catholic Leadership Institute. The DMI is a tool created to help people reflect on their personal spiritual growth and identify the ways in which the parish effectively supports that growth. The results will give pastors, leadership and plan writing teams valuable input as they draft the local plans that each collaborative will write. The survey opens electronically the week of Jan. 18 and closes on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 10. It is open to parishioners over 18 years of age and takes about 10 to 15 minutes to complete.
The DMI will most likely be completed by people who participate at Mass regularly. It asks why the person returns each week, would the person recommend the parish to another, does the parish help her/him pray better? Although it asks about the parish, it is NOT a "customer satisfaction" survey. Other questions in the survey invite respondents to reflect on their own spiritual life and their practice of the faith. Scheduled just before Lent, it can be an effective reminder that the spiritual life is a journey and, like all journeys, there should be movement. People must prepare for the journey and pay attention to signs along the road that give direction. Metaphorically, the signs on the spiritual journey include regular prayer and sacraments.
Disciples in Mission focuses on evangelization and re-engaging those who have consciously left or simply drifted away from the practice of the faith. Evangelization is best carried out one-to-one, person-to-person. The survey affords valuable insight into what the parish is doing well and what areas of parish life need attention. Parishioners who are spiritually nourished and encouraged to share their faith with others are the best means of evangelization. And, of course, this is only accomplished through God's grace.
All survey responses are confidential and the parish receives information about the community as a whole, not, "Ms. Smith, from Main 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. CLI will not share the parish's aggregate data without expressed written permission from the pastor and the key leaders he chooses.
To prepare for the survey, parishes have collected parishioners' email addresses so that CLI can send the survey directly to the parishioners' inbox, which is the most effective way to increase the response rate. CLI has engaged a third-party survey analytics firm, Measuring Success, to insure that email addresses will be used only for this survey and are not shared. This firm has a spotless data security record over its 10-year history. Parishioners also have the option to complete the survey using a generic link or a paper survey. This year the DMI is available in Spanish, Portuguese, Vietnamese, and Haitian Creole. Parish results will be shared with the pastor and the key leaders he chooses sometime in June.
CLI hopes for an 8 to 10 percent response rate per parish. The data will allow a parish to see their results for each question on a graph, next to parishes of similar size nationally, all participating parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston, and all participating parishes nationally. Parishioners in 15 other dioceses across the country will complete the DMI this year.
Phase II collaborative parishioners participated in the DMI during the height of last year's great winter of our discontent. Access to paper copies and pulpit announcement reminders about taking the survey online were hampered because of endless weekend storms. Still, the drafts of the Phase II local pastoral plans submitted in December indicate that DMI results proved helpful in setting collaborative vision and priorities. Our prayer is that the weather will smile on our area this year and Phase III parishioners will thoughtfully and prayerfully participate in great numbers.
SUSAN ABBOTT IS COORDINATOR OF PARISH OUTREACH FOR THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BOSTON'S OFFICE OF PASTORAL PLANNING.
Susan Abbott is the former Coordinator of Parish Outreach for the Archdiocese of Boston's Office of Pastoral Planning.
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