“The Church will have to initiate everyone – priests, religious and laity – into this “art of accompaniment” which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other (cf. Ex 3:5). The pace of this accompaniment must be steady and reassuring, reflecting our closeness and our compassionate gaze which also heals, liberates and encourages growth in the Christian life” (Evangelii Gaudium, 169).
The Discipleship Model
This model is a process that Jesus used to call, form, send, and care for his own disciples. The use of this model is parish ministry is not to develop a new ‘program’ among many ministry programs. It is to be the lens through which all ministry and outreach programs are developed and used.
Every person is called to share the gifts s/he has with the community, and to live out their call as members of the Body of Christ. This model allows the laity to be renewed in that call and truly become an active apostolate. It is a way to empower every person to live an authentic life in the Church, being fully enriched by the sacraments and prayer, and overflow with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Forming Intentional Disciples
To begin forming new disciples, an initial group of people is specifically chosen and trained in discipleship. After formation, these leaders will continue the discipleship model by calling, forming and sending new ‘leaders’ within the parish. A key component to these small group meetings is 1-on-1 meetings between the leaders and the small group participants. These meetings aim at accompanying the person as they grow spiritually and develop their connection with Christ.
Discipleship and Catechesis
An essential part of discipleship is catechesis. Once a person has heard the gospel message and has committed to following Christ, a natural desire to learn about the faith develops. Catechesis can take many forms, from structure programs offered at the parish, to individual reading and learning. Whichever form it takes, it is imperative the catechesis follows the period of evangelization and leads to mission, or being sent.
The Result of Discipleship
Once the initial training group of leaders has chosen new leaders, the entire process repeats with new people. The hope is that in the years to come all existing members have either participated in discipleship small groups or have received training to become leaders. In doing that, not only will these parishioners have an active and authentic faith life, but the reach will extend out of the parish, into the communities from which these parishioners share everyday life. The Church will then become truly evangelistic in nature and be able to answer Christ’s call of making disciples of all nations.