- Experience Rebuilt
1. How do you find, reach, and invite “Timonium Tim” to church?
We find Tim at work, in our families, in our neighborhoods, on the ball fields, and all around us. Throughout our community, there are people living separated from Christ and his Church. In short, we encourage everyone in our church to invest in relationships with people who don’t know Christ and when timing seems right, invite them to Church. We are each called to this work as baptized members of the Church.
2. How do you get Tim to come?
We get Tim to church through his friends, co-workers, or family members who invite him to church. As we have created an excellent and irresistible environment at our weekend Masses, members of our church feel comfortable inviting unchurched and dechurched friends and family members to church.
When members of our church know that the experience will be great—ministers will greet them warmly in the parking lot and at the door, the music will be inspiring, and the message will be relevant and engaging, they will gladly invite Tim to come. This is why working on music, message, and ministers for the weekend Mass is incredibly important.
If unchurched and dechurched people come and it is a bad experience, then we have confirmed their suspicion about church not being worth their time. If they have a great experience, they will come back and take the next step of faith.
3. Do you do any advertising?
For the most part, no. We rely on word of mouth and the invest-and-invite personal outreach strategy.
4. How do you help people who are opposed to or questioning some basic teachings of the Catholic Church feel welcome?
Here is the reality: Most people don’t stop going to church or won’t try a Catholic church because of Church teachings. They don’t go because they don’t feel welcome or they find the church irrelevant to their daily lives and concerns.
None of his earliest followers followed Jesus because they believed he was truly the Son of God. They followed him because he was a great teacher and an engaging person. They weren’t waiting for him on Easter Sunday morning to rise from the dead. They had to come to faith. Over time, they came to believe he was the Son of God.
People don’t need to believe everything we believe before they come to us. If we create a welcoming environment and a relevant message, we win a hearing. And over time we pray they will come to faith.
5. How long will it take us to implement the practices in Rebuilt?
A realistic time frame is perhaps three to five years. While everything in the book is rooted in very simple ideas, it takes time and persistent focus to bring people on board and a long time to change a culture. As we say in our book Tools for Rebuilding, “Everything takes longer than it does.”
6. How do you invite your pastor to consider this mind shift of focusing on those who are not in church, rather than on those who are?
This is a great question. Above all, do it humbly. Don’t simply go to your pastor and throw the book at him (don’t even just hand it to him). Instead, share that you have read the book and have found it very helpful. Then ask if he would be interested in reading it and having a conversation. Again, humility goes along way when it comes to influencing people in positions of authority. Remember to pray before the meeting and ask for God’s favor.
7. What steps do you recommend for moving from consumer mentality to service mentality?
Prayer is essential. After prayer, the pastor can present a vision for being a different kind of church, for being a church that is concerned about the people not coming to church. Challenge your parishioners in homilies over and over again to help create a church that unchurched or dechurched people will want to attend.
Along with articulating and communicating the vision, set up small, specific steps people can take to serve. Create a greeter team, a parking team, or a children’s team that serves parents with young children. Define tasks and expectations of serving in any area clearly and concisely
Also, look for the opportunity to do something radical that communicates to the members of the parish that the community is going to move from a consumer mentality to caring for people not coming to church. For example, moving Christmas Eve to the Timonium Fairgrounds communicated our new vision just as much as the homilies did and in a more dramatic way that reached beyond those already plugged in.
8. How did you communicate your new vision to your parishioners?
We began by sharing with a couple hundred members of the parish at an event that had already been established (Family Friendly Fridays in Lent) in the early part of 2004. Many of them turned a deaf ear, but many climbed on board with the vision by joining small groups and through volunteer ministries.
During Advent that year we offered a message series telling members of our parish that business as usual was no longer successful or acceptable and that we needed to focus on “Timonium Tim” or the person not going to church.
A few months later, in Lent 2005, we challenged parishioners to serve in a ministry. Our messages or homilies were very important in painting a new vision.
9. Do children grades five and below go to Mass?
Yes, they do. They go to Mass and then attend Time Travelers, which is our Children’s Liturgy of the Word program. They come back into the main church during the offertory.
10. What ages do children begin attending Mass from beginning to end in the main worship space of the church?
Children attend the entire Mass with their parents/ families once they enter middle school.
11. What ages participate in your Children’s Liturgy of the Word?
First grade through fifth grade go to the Children’s Liturgy of the Word or Time Travelers.
12. When do your children’s catechetical programs meet?
Catechesis is offered on Sunday mornings for children first through fifth grades via our small group structure. The ideal family participation at our church has children attending a small group and parents serving in a ministry at the same time. Afterwards, the whole family attends the next Mass together. In between, there is opportunity for fellowship in our café.
We acknowledge the ideal does not always happen. Adults will go to Mass while their children go to small groups. We think that even this less-than-ideal participation is worth our efforts because most likely those families are only giving us one hour a week. If small groups met during the week, it’s likely those parents wouldn’t go to Mass at all. By getting the parents to Mass we are strengthening their faith and giving them an opportunity to grow, which is ultimately the best way we can serve their children.
13. Why not invite adults to see children at Mass as full members and not annoyances? Welcoming small children and infants at Mass welcomes the entire family. When they make noise, they praise God!
We do everything we can to welcome the family and to establish a foundation for children upon which to build a strong relationship with their heavenly Father. This is why we have three staff members who direct our children’s ministries and why we invest substantial financial resources to the effort.
We find that forcing children into an environment and liturgical ritual that is primarily targeted toward adults does little to help them know and love God. Frequently children are distracting—primarily their parents, but also to the priest, musicians, other liturgical ministers, and fellow worshippers. Often a good many people cannot pray when children are asked to conform to adult modes of behavior.
At Nativity, we find that providing children’s worship programs gives young children an opportunity to know God in a setting designed just for them and also provides their parents the opportunity to worship God without distraction and more deeply grow their own adult spirituality.
14. How do you guide newcomers along a path of discipleship?
We define discipleship as growing to love God, love others, and make disciples. As a parish, there are essentially five habits we want to instill in the members of our church in addition to weekend worship. We want them to
Our path is first of all to get a person to come to church on Sunday. We have a program called “All Access Pass”, which is simply a brief ten minute tour of our facility. From there, we encourage newcomers to consider joining our parish and coming to an hour-long program called “Access Point.” There they hear about the vision and mission of our parish, meet the staff, and hear about the steps we want them to take. From there we encourage them to take the step most appropriate for their circumstances. Throughout the year, we offer homilies that promote each of the five steps.
15. What do you provide for disciples? How do you deepen their faith after you bring them to church?
Everything we do at church should be about reaching out to the lost and helping members along on a journey of ever-deepening discipleship. For us, the driving force is the weekend homily or what we call “the message.” We then help people go deeper into discipleship in the following ways:
We offer a daily devotional called “Worship Fully Today” that we send out to help our church community persevere in prayer.
We encourage members to join small groups and support one another in the faith journey. As Paul says in Romans, “I will learn from your faith and you will learn from mine.”
Ministry and Mission
We offer opportunities that are accessible for members to serve in ministry (on our own campus) and on mission (service done off campus).
We preach on giving and God’s teachings on money and encourage members of the parish to give as an act of worship in their place of worship. We also provide ways to give to the poor. Electronic funds transferring is something we promote greatly at our parish so that members make giving a priority in their budget.
Invest and invite
We encourage members to invest in unchurched or dechurched friends, family members, and co-workers and, when appropriate, to invite them to church. When they know that the message will be relevant, the music inspiring, and the environment welcoming, they are glad to invite others to come.