My pastor recently got me hooked on a book called “Rebuilt” by Fr. Michael White and Tom Corcoran. The book chronicles their attempts to “re-build” their parish located in Timonium, Maryland. And, they’ve had a lot of quantifiable success. In their years since launching their efforts, they’ve rebuild their parish from a weekend attendance of 1,400 people to over 4,000 people. White and Corcoran are very upfront in saying their problems and solutions are not applicable in every parish. But, it certainly got my wheels turning about how I can be doing better ministry. These are the things that stood out to me as I read “Rebuilt.”
1. Naming Common Problems; Offering Creative Solutions
I’ve worked in 2 parishes and in my roll as Area Contact for Life Teen, I hear a lot of the same problems repeated over and over: low attendance at Mass, competing with sports for teens, grumpy parishioners, grumpy office staff, etc. But, what I loved about rebuilt, is within the first chapter they propose what the common root for all these problems are and ultimately what the solution is to fixing them. The book grabbed me from the first chapter because I saw it immediately being applicable to my ministry.
2. It uses the best of the “mega church” in a Catholic environment.
One of the things which I found fascinating is White and Corcoran based a lot of their efforts what they saw being effective in the “mega church” movement. They did this because of lapsed Catholics, 75% of them become evangelical Christians. I had read similar books by Protestants but some of their suggestions had to plainly be discarded (like in one book I read that if your current Church wasn’t working, to pick up and start a new Church somewhere else). What I liked about “Rebuilt” was the love White and Corocran had for the Eucharist and the Mass and how their suggestions were based on enhancing our Catholicism, not chucking it out the window.
3. It’s a fast read.
In the days before I had two kids, a wife, and a house to take care of (in addition to ministry) I had a lot of free time to kill. Now adays, not so much. “Rebuilt” is a fast to read book. I read about half of it in 2-3 hours spread out over a couple of reading sessions. The language is easy to digest and White and Corcoran get right to the heart of the matter in every chapter.
4. Who endorsed it?
Just some of the other people who suggested you read rebuilt are Matthew Kelly, Archbishop William Lori and of course Cardinal Timothy Dolan who wrote in the introduction to the book, “If you love your parish, read this book.”
5. It will help you evaluate your ministry.
A lot of their efforts began with experiments in the youth group. They also cover topics such as developing interactive and welcoming environments, evaluating preaching, music, small groups, etc. While they talk about these on a parish wide level, the lessons are very easy to apply not just to your whole parish but also to your youth group.
In my parish, several people are reading the book with the idea of brainstorming new ways we can use the New Evangelization to continue our ministry. While use “Rebuilt” as a blue print, it’s a great start for some fresh thinking on how to approach ministry in the 21st century. Have you read “Rebuilt”? If so, what did you think? Are there any other books we as youth ministers should be reading?