God Awaits Us... in Our Stories - A Parish Retreat
For evangelization to happen we do not need to invent another program because God awaits us in our stories. All we need to do is help Catholics discover God in their story, encounter God in that story and learn how to share that story with confidence. Pope Paul VI said it best - "People pay more attention to witnesses than to teachers. And when we do pay attention to teachers it is because they are witnesses." The people who fascinate us are those who live their hopes and share their stories. Stories ignite our imaginations because we have a knack for finding the truth in all stories. We want to be surprised. We are fascinated when the whole turns out to be greater than the sum of the parts. We sense God’s presence when 1+1=3. This is the math in all the stories told by Jesus. Startling abundance! Anyone who reads the Bible knows that God loves stories. What is your story? What part does God play in it each day?
Whether it be on stages, pages or screens; humans are addicted to stories. This is because in our deepest marrow, we long for meaning and we hunger to believe. Stories are essential to faith because they move us from left brained skepticism to right brained receptivity. Stories communicate truth that is emotional and transcendent. That is why we love good guys who are seriously flawed and villains who remind us of ourselves. People are not afraid that they will come to church and be changed. People are afraid that they will come to church and NOT be changed. Good stories ask us: who we are, to whom do we belong, what do we believe, and for what do we hope. Good stories can change us. Disciples live in hope and stories generate hope.
This can be accomplished in a morning, two or three evenings, or as a parish retreat for the entire congregation. The session topics are:
My Faith Story – It is often said that Americans are experience rich and reflection poor. In a post-modern age, the perennial question remains: ‘Is God with us or not?’ Like Moses (Ex. 33:11), Elijah (1 Kings 19:12) or the first disciples of Jesus (Luke 24: 13-35), we sense God, out of the corner of our eye. We only have to use peripheral vision to see the burning bushes of our lives. Life brings us to our knees, if we pay attention.
A Confident Faith – Those who miss God are those who expect to see God in our world. Actually, it is the other way around. It is we who are in God's world. The most fascinating people are not the most self-confident. The most fascinating people are those who draw from a deeper well. Their confidence can be quiet, but larger than life. What difference does God make in my life? What has knowing Jesus done for me? Where is God leading me? What does that change about my life? Is that evident for all to see?
A God-Sized Faith - The life of Jesus tells a story that is bigger than any person or group of us. It unites us across all divides. And everyone gathered at the Lord’s table is gathered to be sent. What does it mean to be a church gathered and scattered? How can everyone be an ambassador of God's mercy. How does my story connect me with the stories of others? How does the parish sustain me in a God-sized purpose?
After the retreat, the parish can gather interested parishioners to meet in small groups to grow in heart, mind and spirit together. Parishes that use the retreat God Awaits Us in our Stories will be given an outline for God Awaits Us in our Questions - a resource with six additional sessions for use in small groups. All sessions examine different aspects of spirituality for daily living. The session touch on important topics for faithful living including: a purpose-driven life, forgiveness, managing time, managing money, conflict, and practical mysticism.
For help in discovering how God Awaits Us... in Our Stories, contact Dennis Mahaney or call 716-847-8393.
OTHER POSSIBILITIES for your parish, parish cluster or vicariate...
An Irresistible Church
Any church can be irresistible to people. It all starts with what makes us irresistible to God. An irresistible church is one that hungers for God. It has an audacious capacity for hope. It captivates the imagination of its people with a God-sized purpose and organizes itself to accomplish that mission. We need no special technology, no gimmicks to be irresistible. A church is irresistible from the inside out. An irresistible church is naturally persuasive to those on the outside. Just as the early church was irresistible to the spiritual nomads, exiles and prodigals of its day. We can be too!
Some churches are irresistible today and we can learn from their success. How do we attract people, appeal to their spiritual hungers and get people to stick with us? How can we, in following Jesus, invite others to do the same? We need an irresistible church again. Savor these questions and come away with some irresistible answers.
There is no cost for any on site services. For more information contact Dennis Mahaney or call 716-847-8393.
(Image above used with permission, North American Mission Board, SBC, Alpharetta, Georgia.)
Skills for Parish Evangelization Course
Learn about Catholic evangelization and receive answers to such popular questions as:
- What is distinct about Catholic evangelization?
- What are the goals of Catholic evangelization?
- How is Catholic evangelization different from proselytizing?
- How can a church be more welcoming?
- What are the roadblocks to evangelization?
- What strategies work best in our churches?
- What does someone do when a friend or family member leaves the Church?
- What are the signs that someone wants to be invited back to Church?
- What does work for justice have to do with evangelization?
Download a Flyer