healthy ministry

Rethinking Ministry: From Programs to Pathways

I often get asked about my thoughts on Family Catechesis. While I believe it holds significant value, I worry it might become the next ministry approach to be overly programmatized by the Church. We tend to do that with different ministry methods—programmatizing makes them feel easier because we can package, dress up, and even turn a profit. However, true discipleship requires a more systematic approach that focuses on individual journeys rather than packaged programs.

Years ago, I learned that the best way to approach discipleship in the local Church is through steps, pathways, or pipelines. In other words, we should ask ourselves, "What journey are those we serve taking, and how is God calling us to accompany them?" This question can be addressed on both a macro and micro level, but resolving it can be challenging. Developing discipleship pathways for the faithful means identifying short-term and long-term fruits, which takes time to measure. It involves comprehensive conversations among a team with an aligned vision.

When thinking in terms of steps, we need to answer the following questions:

  1. Where are we leading people? Identify the habits and qualities of a disciple.

  2. Who are the people we are encountering? Gain a better understanding of our mission field.

  3. What are the milestones and moments we want people to recognize along the way? Clarify both quantitative (e.g., attendance) and qualitative (e.g., witness) growth.

If you can wrestle with these questions, rally around the answers as a team, and grow together, you will start to discover the steps—not the programs—God wants your parish to create.

By focusing on pathways rather than programs, we can foster a more meaningful and personalized journey of faith for those we serve. Let's move beyond the ease of programmatizing and embrace the challenge of true discipleship, where every step is intentional and every milestone is celebrated. This systematic approach will not only deepen our ministries but also ensure that we are genuinely accompanying individuals on their unique spiritual journeys.

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