success stories

Posted July 12, 2003

Book: Best Practices from America’s Best Churches
Editors: Paul Wilkes, Marty Minchin
Paulist Press, New York, pp. 275

Excerpt from Jacket:

Following upon the groundbreaking national research that produced Excellent Catholic Parishes: The Guide to Best Places and Practices, and Excellent Protestant Congregations: The Guide to Best Places and Practices, the first Pastoral Summit in New Orleans brought together Protestant and Catholics from cities, suburbs, and rural areas. They joined in an unprecedented mutual search for the best ways to spread the gospel message today. Coming from churches ranging from a few dozen to thousands of members, leaders shared their hands-on, effective strategies to reach and serve an increasingly complex and diverse group of spiritual seekers — the American people. Now, these visionary clergy and lay leaders share their Pastoral Summit presentations in this dynamic, exciting new book that shows how to:

– transform ordinary churchgoers into enthusiastic lay leaders

– encourage church members to tithe their time, talents and resources

– reach youth, the unchurched, and the marginalized

– create a warm, welcoming church environment

– prevent burnout among pastors and lay leaders

– make the church a powerful presence in the community

Excerpt from Book:

But training for ministry is not just giving them [the laity] a program. It is about dealing with their assumptions about church, the priest, and their ministry. You can “give” people the sacraments, but they will still have their own notion about what a sacrament will be. You can encourage devotions, but you need to place them in a larger context. We need to address these things. The first thing we address is the shift in the way that our people see church. For most people in our tradition, when you say “Catholic Church” they think of the Pope, bishops, rules, doctrines, and dogmas. These are an important part of the Church, but one of the notions that has worked very powerfully for us is the notion that we are not just anonymous figures within this thing called “the Church,” but a community with a mission. We have worked very hard in showing that God’s relationship with us is lived out in our relationship with one another and in the gifts that emerge from this. We have worked hard in forming relationships within the community. We have a lot of fiestas, a lot of activities, and a lot of prayer together. It is important for them to see themselves as a community.

. . . The other aspect that we address is that people must have a different notion of priest. One of the biggest changes for us was when people saw the shift from being the father’s helpers to being father’s collaborators. In this, the priest’s role is not diminished but takes on a different kind of significance and importance. He will be spiritual mentor, enabler, and facilitator of the community. I have been a priest for twenty-five years, and because of the emergence of lay ministry in the parish, I am probably more excited about being a priest today then when I was ordained. The parish provides seminary training for lay people, an this has renewed my sense of how to work and collaborate with our community. Ministerial growth has shifted. They are not there to help me. It’s their church. We ask: “What is their gift? What s their ministry? And how do we work together?” We have forty-three ministries, and each get one is present at every council gathering. I sometimes get outvoted. We see ourselves as collaborating, and father is not always right. Still, the leadership role of the priest is very important in our community.

Table of Contents:


Deepening Faith Commitments

Reality-based sermons: a Catholic perspective

The stewardship way of life

Retreat – and then advance


Effectively Connecting with Your Community

Rural churches as missionary outposts

Simple ways t spread the faith

Sanctifying the neighborhood: inserting a church into the community

Evangelizing the marginalized and ourselves

Lay Leadership:

The Power of the Faithful

Making disciples — then what? Training for the newly involved/converted

The care and training of lay leaders

Creating a collaborative culture

Church Dynamics:

Making Ministry Work

Psychological profile of the effective pastor/lay minister


One pastor, thousands of congregants: new roles for priests and lay people

One pastor, thousands of congregants: creative chaos and the evangelism of cotagion

As a church changes: a Protestant perspective

As a church changes: a Catholic perspective

On The Edge:

Radical Church Models

Church planting: finding islands of hope

Reaching bikers: church in the wind

Seeker-sensitive Catholic parishes

How to “seekerize” your church

Connecting postmoderns

The power of commitment: it can happen anywhere