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Friday, October 18, 2013

"Tools for Rebuilding" (Michael White and John Corcoran)

TITLE: Tools for Rebuilding: 75 Really, Really Practical Ways to Make Your Parish Better
AUTHOR: Michael White and John Corcoran
PUBLISHER: Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2013, (320 pages).

Whether it is tooling or retooling, making or remaking, building or rebuilding, every organization needs a refresh from time to time. After writing their book called "Rebuilt" about a year ago, Roman Catholic priest Michael White and his lay associate John Corcoran have come together again to offer practical information of what works and how to grow their parish community. Through 75 axioms or assertions, they believe that to be successful at building, one needs to know the parish (building site), the purpose (building project), and the plan to build ekklesia (living stones), and not kirche (blocks of stone).

Strategically, the first thing is to be still before God to gather a sense of where one is, instead of rushing off toward a people-pleasing program-based work. There is a need to focus on preparing the people of God by building up the Body of Christ. Know the vision and the mission of the Church. Have a big sense of God's vision for the world. Find consensus among the people. Let gratitude and enthusiasm motivate the building. Rather than compete with other attractions like sports to get attention of people, focus on excellence as a hallmark of ministry.

Facilities wise, White and Corcoran insist on proper maintenance and care of the building, even refusing to share the facilities with others. In their opinion, just because one has the space does not necessarily mean one needs to rent it to any organization who comes asking to rent or lease space. This is because the staff does not need added stress of trying to keep the place tidy. More importantly, it is to remain focused on the mission of the organization, and not be sidetracked by acts of charity that do not seem to help the Church's overall goal. This does not mean shutting out people altogether. The Church can still keep an open door for the needy through clear signs and opening hours, through welcoming atmosphere, and other hospitality matters.

In terms of office tools and limited staff resources, the authors remind readers that the needy will always be needy, and resources are to be carefully used so that the Church can respond to exceptional requests when called upon. This means being actively stewarding our resources through humble living, and avoiding piling up junk that affects our efficiency.

Communications are big building blocks of a Church community. This means not allowing others to turn our church bulletins into non-essential advertising of goods and stuff. It means regular updating of the Church's public face, like the website. It also means connecting with the community and neighbourhood. One test of the Church's effectiveness is when it closes down, how much does it affect the community? Will neighbours know it or will they be impacted significantly?

Other tools include the actual Sunday worship itself. From the designing of the worship service to the pulpit ministry, from the sacraments to the outreach ministries, the authors leave very few stones unturned in trying to galvanize the Church toward growing through building the various ministries of Church.

I like the way the authors focus on "building" Church rather than "doing" Church. The former sounds more progressive while the latter tends to suggest some kind of a maintenance mentality. It may just be semantics but it is a good reminder anyway.

For Churches that have been around for ages and are not growing, perhaps, this book can spark some creative ideas and energies to start renovating, rebuilding, or revitalizing congregations both old and new. The old needs an injection of fresh impetus to change or to grow. The new needs a regular input of ideas and creativity to spur the vitality of growth.  It is apt for the authors to remind us that we ought to stop trying to get people to "go to Church." Instead, we ought to try to improve, to build, and to live out a vibrant community life so that people will want to come. While it is not exactly trying to make Church 'work' for people that is the point. The point is, we let God use us to make Church work for God. In doing so, people will then come to Church for reason of worshiping God, rather than to be entertained or amused by nice programs. Perhaps, God can do both?

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Ave Maria Press and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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