About the Book:
In their barn-burning first book, Rebuilt, Michael White and Tom Corcoran shared their story and vision of building better Catholic parishes. Now, in their eagerly-anticipated second book, White and Corcoran lay out seventy-five proven tactics for getting the job done.
Fr. Michael White and Tom Corcoran know that the fundamental work of the Church is to evangelize--to introduce people to Christ and make them disciples. Still, they're the first to admit: "the difficulty comes when we reach down into the details and get to work." In Tools for Rebuilding, White and Corcoran share seventy-five foundational tactics that helped to rejuvenate their parish. Their candid, hands-on advice gives a clear way forward--one that will make church matter to the people in the pews and that anyone working in parish ministry can implement.
- Get the Right People on the Bus
- Christmas Is Over, So Throw Out the Dead Poinsettias
- Stop Advertising (Other People's Stuff) in Your Bulletin
- Don't Let the Insiders Take All the Good Seats
- Just Because It's Slow Doesn't Mean It's Holy
- When It Comes to First Communion, Just Surrender
- Funerals Are Scud Missiles
- Preach the Announcements
- Start Getting Rid of Fundraisers
- Everything Takes Longer (Than You Think)
- Pastor, It's Not All About You
- Stop Trying to Make People Go to Church and Make Church Matter
I read this book in August, no too long after writing about attracting young families to your parish and about parishes being welcoming. About the same time someone on my alumnae listserve started a thread about churches and churchgoing. In short, I'd spend more than the average amount of time thinking about parish outreach and when I saw this on NetGalley I grabbed it.
In short, this book is written by the pastor and a pastoral associate of a large parish in suburban Baltimore. They have adopted many of the programs and models of the Evangelical megachurch to the Catholic parish. While this book does not give numbers to validate its approach, it claims to want to get people in the door and then to move them to discipleship.
Tools for Rebuilding is very readable and it uses scripture quotes to defend why things are recommended. The recommendations vary quite a bit from what I often see on Catholic websites and/or blogs about increasing Mass attendance. For one thing, the authors are very pro-church nursery. While the version I had was an ARC and subject to change before final publication, I have to agree with this statement "Where in the churchworld did we develop the idea that we should force our youngest kids to sit through a service that is incomprehensible to them such that they distract everybody around them in the process?" Their parish offers a church nursery and Liturgy of the Word for Children and cryrooms. If a crying child is not removed by his/her parent, the usher will encourage them to do so. While not specifically advocating any particular style of music, the authors note that the people they are trying to reach don't turn on organ music in their cars. They point out that vestments may be very important to church people but non-churchgoers don't care about them and don't decide whether or not to attend church based on the style and quality of the priests' vestments, or other decorations in the church.
The book advocates creating a vision and mission statement for your parish and then evaluating all programs, activities etc. to see how they fit into that vision and mission, and stopping them if they don't. It reminds us that churches are in the communication business and advocates a well-done internet presence and making sure the the messages they are trying to communicate are clear. One thing I really wish the average preacher would do that was suggested was to summarize your homily in one sentence about what you want them to know and then give a once sentence suggested activity. For example: What do you want them to know? God wants you to trust him. What do you want them to do? Spend six minutes a day in the coming week in quiet time/prayer time to demonstrate and strengthen your trust.
Usually those trying to reach unchurched Catholics mention the life-passage moments--baptism, marriage, funerals--as times that can give you the opportunity to reach those who otherwise do not darken your doors. While not talking about weddings, this book does talk about Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation and funerals. While the authors do not advocate holding the sacraments hostage to lousy (or even good) preparation programs, they sound like funeral masses are more trouble for them than they are worth to the non-practicing Catholic. I really don't like that attitude, though I can see their point.
The main complaint I have about this book is that it seems heavy on the slogans and low on the particulars. I'm sure that's by design but there are ideas I would like to have seen fleshed out a bit more.
You can read more about the parish at their website.
I'd like the thank the publisher for making a review copy available at NetGalley. Grade: B.