The Future of Catholic Schools and Parishes (Part IV)

Part 1 on “The Future of Catholic Schools and Parishes” was released on March 24, 2021; Part 2 was released the week after Easter; Part 3 was released at the beginning of May 2021, and Part 4 is being released on June 1, 2021. The subject matter of this four-part series of newsletters was presented at ISPD’s Monday, March 8, 2021, Cohort Session in which over 400 Catholic leaders from across the country attended. This “white paper” by ISPD has three major components.

  • Rationale for This Position
    • Part 1
  • Premises/Basic Truths: What Experience and Data Tells Us
    • Part 1 and Part 2
  • The Future of Catholic Schools and Parishes: Steps/Suggestions to Prevail
    • Part 3 and Part 4

With the conclusion of this fourth issue, we will now publish one inclusive and comprehensive document which will be released this summer – with more details and visuals.

Rationale for This Position

We believe that the 31+ year history of ISPD provides the credibility to state our position. Founded in 1989, we have worked with thousands of Catholic schools, parishes, and (arch) dioceses throughout the United States. We begin our 32nd year this June 2021.

Premises/Basic Truths: What Experience and Data Tells Us

In Part I and Part II, ISPD offered 27 premises/basic truths that we find to be relevant to the state of Catholic schools and parishes today.

Steps and Suggestions to Prevail

In Part III, we offered six of the fifteen steps and suggestions for Catholic schools and parishes to prevail. In this fourth issue, we would like to offer the final nine.

Suggestion # 7

Breaking with age-old modus operandi, the parish and the school need to collaborate and partner on many different levels:

  • Religious education
  • Parish and school development/stewardship office and personnel
  • Parish and school marketing
  • Attracting new families to the parish and the school
  • Revenue production
  • Facilities
  • Leadership groups
  • Joint Pastoral Council/School Advisory Council/Board meetings on quarterly basis
  • Mass attendance
  • Clergy presence
  • Strategic planning
  • Professional development

Suggestion # 8

“Pipeline to your people” at least twice per year. The importance of input has never been more important than now. Vehicles such as The Ultimate Question Survey, People Engagement Surveys, Input/Listening Sessions, Zoom Input Sessions, and Direct Mail Questionnaires can all be utilized. If you look at Suggestion # 3 where we talk about building relationships with every school and parish family, you will see a more detailed example of how to reach out and engage.

Suggestion # 9

Enrollment Management on the school level and attracting and welcoming new parishioners on the parish level should be the responsibility of all.

  • A robust and comprehensive culture of continuous improvement needs to be put in place. This is the only way that continuity can be established when school and parish leadership changes. The more people who understand their role in managing enrollment in both the school and the parish, the better that Catholic culture has of growing and prevailing.
  • With Enrollment Management in Catholic schools, this area can be hugely successful when Mission and Catholic Identity, Governance and Leadership, and Academic Excellence are closely in synch with Operational Vitality.

Suggestion # 10

As part of building your strong “Culture of Belonging,” school and parish leaders need to know what to promote and sell, namely:

  • Mission
  • Vision
  • Top 10 Great Things
  • Your WOW
  • Value Proposition
  • Expectations

Suggestion # 11

Invest in technology and be ready to continue building your community with virtual relationships, as well as on-site, in-person events and activities. Examples are:

  • Distance learning
  • Live streaming
  • Leadership meetings
  • National Advisory Boards
  • Alum class meetings
  • State of the School/Parish Addresses
  • Wi-Fi connections
  • Hardware
  • Technology personnel
  • Professional development

Suggestion # 12

Create your 5-Year Strategic Growth Plan – now — through people engagement. Understand the steps in the process:

  • Assessment
  • Research
  • Steering Committee
  • Planning Areas
  • Planning Area Teams
    • SWOT
    • Purpose
    • Challenges
    • Strategic Solutions
  • Convocation
  • Final Plan
  • Implementation

Suggestion # 13

By the 2026 – 2027 fiscal year, have salary and benefit scale for Catholic school principals on same level or higher than the top private and public schools in your area.

Suggestion # 14

By the 2026 – 2027 fiscal year, have salary and benefit scale for Catholic school teachers on same level or higher than the top private and public schools in your area.

Suggestion # 15

Begin/continue the conversations about #1 thru # 14 with a creative and collaborative mindset.

  • (Arch) diocesan levels
    • Office of Catholic Schools
    • Chancery Office
    • Office of Development and Stewardship
  • Pastors, presidents, and principals
  • Pastoral Councils/Finance Councils
  • President/Principal meetings at (arch) diocesan level
  • Deanery meetings
  • School Advisory Councils/Boards
  • Administrative Teams
  • Parish staff
  • Catholic school faculty/staff
  • Parent leadership groups
  • Alumni leadership groups
  • Ministry leaders

The challenges we face today in our Catholic churches and schools are not going away, and they are not just someone else’s problem. United, we prevail; divided, many may not survive.

What is your next move?

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