Building Community with Ministry

Maybe you love your parish and it’s almost perfect, but it’s missing just one little thing – a niche for you.  The priest is great, his homilies are good, you approve of the music, and the tabernacle is where it’s supposed to be (right in the middle, behind the alter).

If your parish could use some community beyond monthly coffee and donuts I encourage you to think about starting a ministry, a group, an event.  Like Gandhi sorta said, you must be the change you wish to see in your parish.

Here’s some ministries that I’ve seen flourish in my area and in the parishes my friends attend.

First Decade  Mentoring and fellowship are key to this ministry.  Women who are in the first ten years of their marriages are invited to a monthly event hosted by mentor women who have been married for longer and have some wisdom to share and support to share.  The evening events are hosted in the homes of the mentor moms and are filled with good eats and drinks.  The evening begins by praying a decade of the rosary (it’s not so intimidating for women who don’t pray it!) and features a guest speaker and lots of time for fellowship.  Guest speakers can be professional home organizers, NFP only doctors, or other mentor moms sharing their wisdom on honoring your husband, getting your kids to enjoy Mass, or laundry systems that work.

Family Movie Night  Hosted in the parish hall, set up a projector and put on Up or The Incredibles.  Let the kiddos come in their pj’s or comfy clothes.  Pop popcorn, have a station to make snack necklaces*, and the parents can stand in the back and visit or sit with their kids and enjoy the film.  If your pastor or deacon can be there to welcome everyone and even begin with a prayer – even better!

Mom Group  It doesn’t need a catchy name because what it offers is fantastic; we do this at my parish so I know it to be true.  Moms with little kids are hosted by moms with older kids one morning a week in our parish hall.  We all bring a small contribution for a snack – grapes, muffins, whatever is on hand.  We eat together and visit.  Then the kids play together, supervised by the older moms, and the younger moms head to the church to pray in silence, with no one climbing on them or asking to go to the bathroom.  It’s fabulous.

Luminate Your Prayer Life  On a monthly basis the young adults of a local parish meet for a candlelit holy hour that includes exposition, benediction, and beautiful music.  Child care is available for kids two and older and everyone gathers after the holy hour for a potluck dinner.  Out of this one event many others have grown including small groups, bonfires, and service activities. 

Fr. Barron / Word on Fire video small groups  Personally invite people to your home for a short-term small group.  Hold it on a week night, after dinner but before bedtime.  (We did this over the summer so kids’ bedtimes were a little later.)  Serve dessert and drinks and get a few  volunteer babysitters in your playroom.  Confirmation students or women who are waiting to be grandmas are perfect volunteer babysitters, I’ve found.  With a HDMI cable, hook your computer to your tv and show a different Fr. Barron video each week and then debate and discuss.  You may want to have a couple of prompting questions prepared ahead of time but besides that and baking some cookies and tidying your home there is little work involved.  It’s helpful if you recruit a few well-catechized, outgoing friends to come every week.  They can get the discussion going.

Competitive Potlucks  If all else fails invite people to your home for a competitive potluck.  Everyone brings their best dish and their game face.  The only rule is that to vote you have to try everything.  At the end of the meal everyone submits their favorite dish, the hosts tally up the points, and first, second, and third place prizes are then awarded.  Prizes should be fun and simple.  And if people don’t know each other don’t worry, the food is a conversation starter.

Some of these events work best if they are official parish ministries and therefore need the support of your priest however others can be done on your own.  If you’ve been looking for something I hope one of these will fit the bill.  Or maybe you have a ministry to add to my list – please leave a comment.

And remember, the glory of God is man fully alive, and our faith is fun.

Bonnie Engstrom

Bonnie Engstrom

Bonnie Engstrom is a cradle Catholic and stay-at-home mom. She married her dashing husband in 2006 and they now have five children: one in Heaven and four more wandering around their house, probably eating pretzels found under the couch. Bonnie lives in central Illinois and gets excited about baking, music, film adaptations of Jane Austen books, and the Chicago Bears. She was a cofounder of The Behold Conference and she blogs at A Knotted Life.

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10 thoughts on “Building Community with Ministry”

  1. Awesome suggestions! If only parish even had monthly coffee and donuts! A friend and I tried to start a Young Adults group at our parish and no one showed up…we are doing much better with a Diocesan group, but it is still disheartening not to have something going on in the parish. We do have some Adult Faith Formation events throughout the year and a parish mission once or twice, but that’s about it.

    1. Trista, I hope you try again with the Young Adult group!
      I know everyone is different, but when I did the summer young adult Bible study at my home a couple of years ago I think that event was successful for a few reasons. #1 I made invites with the dates for each study (it was every other Monday for 5 weeks). #2 I personally invited people, putting the invite in their hands. #3 Before inviting new people who may not have been involved in young adult stuff before I made sure there were 2 other couples besides my husband and me who would be attending. Then I was able to say, M and L will be there, as will K and P. #4 I sent text message reminders the night before. #5 We had beer.
      Once we did something smaller and people enjoyed each other and their faith people became more open to doing something on a larger scale.

  2. Our faith is fun! Also, yesterday two students were excited to learn that I know you. They follow your blog and couldn’t believe that their mediocre chaplain knows such an awesome woman. What a small Catholic world!

  3. Great ideas Bonnie! Which ones do you want to head up at our parish 🙂 Actually, last night, the Newman Center students were talking about organizing a Veggie Tales movie night. Wouldn’t it be great to have a social events coordinator?

  4. Nice post, Bonnie! Thanks for sharing the “Luminate Your Prayer Life” idea with everyone! I hope more parishes will be able to replicate what our 20/30 Young Adult Group is doing, because it is benefiting so many individuals and our parish, as well!

  5. These are awesome! A group called Families Following Christ is starting in our town this month-it’s for the whole town, all five parishes. The first Sunday of every month will be family day-childcare provided while adults listen to a speaker, then fellowship with the whole family. Second Wednesday is guys night-Bible study I think. Third Sunday is family Adoration hour. Fourth Wednesday is ladies’ night!

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