Using the ‘Encounter, Grow, Witness’ paradigm as its foundation, archdiocese releases step-by-step blueprint for missionary outreach
DETROIT — As part of Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron’s 2017 pastoral letter, Unleash the Gospel, the archbishop laid out his vision for a “total model of evangelization,” a step-by-step guide to help parishes equip disciples for mission.
With real, practical evangelization a top priority of the archdiocese’s Synod 16, it became obvious that parishes needed a new approach to ministry in the 21st century.
Recently, the archdiocese’s Department of Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship made good on that vision, releasing its blueprint for evangelization and a host of resources for parish staffs, clergy and lay volunteers.
The aptly named “Detroit Model of Evangelization” addresses each step in the local Church’s “Encounter, Grow, Witness” paradigm, said Fr. Stephen Pullis, the department’s director.
“The full flourishing of a disciple is to be a disciple-maker,” Fr. Pullis said. “The model helps parishes think through bringing people from not knowing Christ and being new to the whole experience of faith and church, to leading them through the stages of evangelization, making them fully formed disciples.”
The model, first announced during the archdiocesan Parish Day of Renewal on Nov. 20, has been in the works since Synod 2016, and was developed in order to fulfill Action Step 2.1.1 of Unleash the Gospel, Fr. Pullis said. While the content isn’t radically new, it was designed with consideration for the specific needs of the Church in Detroit.
“For many of us, evangelization can be a little overwhelming,” Fr. Pullis said. “It can be difficult to think about how we (apply the Church’s message) to a friend who is atheist and has never been to church in his life, or to a fallen-away family member, or another friend who is reading a little about the Church and is excited and hearing things. They are all at different stages. The question is, how do we help all of these people grow as disciples in the Lord or grow in their relationship with Jesus?”
The Detroit Model of Evangelization outlines the stages of conversion, and includes an online course and workshop on the Encounter, Grow, Witness website. The course includes testimonials from those who have found practical and successful ways to implement the different stages of evangelization.
“(The workshop) can be used by parish staff in order to learn how to use the model and then do an exercise of assessing their own parish programming,” said Anita Houghton, associate director of the Office of Evangelization. “There is no ‘one size fits all.’ Parishes can use the model to meet the needs of their local community.”
Houghton said the model can be used in conjunction with the ‘Spark’ Knowledge Base, a repository of best practices and evangelization ideas compiled by pastoral staffs across the archdiocese. The knowledge base can be filtered by the stages of evangelization and offers tips, activity ideas and programs that can be implemented at each stage.
While putting the model together, the archdiocesan evangelization team reached out to parishes across the United States and Canada to see who was finding success in the various stages and how they were doing it.
“When we were structuring the model, we noticed some trends across the country that were bearing fruit,” Houghton said.
Ultimately, the blueprint will be familiar to many, as “Encounter, Grow, Witness” has been part of the archdiocese’s mission for the last several years.
“The Detroit Model takes the different pieces of evangelization that were laid out to us in Unleash the Gospel as a way to help someone through all the stages of evangelization,” Fr. Pullis said. “It is taking the things we already had in our house and putting them in a logical order.”
On top of the familiar “Encounter, Grow, Witness” paradigm, Fr. Pullis and his team identified a fourth, beginning stage: “Attract,” which he described as the “pre-encounter.”
“(Attract) is the very early stage. It is the front porch of the house,” Fr. Pullis said. “Maybe you aren’t ready to go into the house yet because you don’t have that relationship (with Christ) yet, but you can come to the front porch. It is a little less threatening, a little less of a commitment, but it can build the relationship so we are ready to help people encounter the Lord.”
As parishes implement the Detroit Model of Evangelization, Houghton said the hope is it will eventually come full circle, as those who have successfully reached the “witness” stage will be able to attract others to the Church and guide them to their own encounter with Christ.
“At the ‘Witness’ stage, parishes might teach parishioners how to do their own testimonies and encourage them to go out and talk about their faith in their neighborhoods and workplaces,” Houghton said. “So it comes full circle. The cycle would continue, and the Church would grow and grow and grow.
“The model is set up so it helps facilitates a continuous pipeline of people into the parish,” she added. “It’s a way that we can continue to nourish them and send them out and bring more people back.”
Detroit Model of Evangelization
To learn more about the Detroit Model of Evangelization, visit the “Encounter, Grow Witness” learning platform.