Home > How to Form A Belonging Group at Your Parish
How to Form A Belonging Group at Your Parish
- If you would like to form a “Belonging” group at your parish, speak with your pastor about your intentions and ask for his support.
- Ask permission to host a “Belonging” meeting at your parish. It is best if your pastor can attend this meeting so work around his schedule. Ask your pastor to provide the opening prayer and offer a few words at the beginning. Also invite the DRE or other staff members you think would benefit from this meeting.
- Diocesan staff and the diocesan “Belonging” core team (representing many parishes) are happy to meet with the pastor and/or parish staff and attend the parish meeting to offer guidance and share their parish experiences.
- Promoting an initial meeting at your parish
- Suggested Meeting Format
- Parish Questionnaire
- Next Steps
The Ministry with Persons with Disabilities can create promotional materials that carry the same branding as the diocesan materials but will feature your parish and contact information.
- Bulletin Announcements (this will also allow people to see the information when they view the bulletin online)
- Announcements during Weekend Masses
- Extend personal invitations, using a 2-sided postcard, to parishioners, parish staff
- Post information on your parish website
- Open the meeting for anyone to attend and promote it on the diocesan website
- Extend the invitation to nearby parishes who may be interested in forming a larger “Belonging” group
- Share information on the “buildinginclusiveparishes” Facebook page
- Post information on your personal social media outlets
Suggested Meeting Format
(Signage – post signs the night (or day) or the meeting that clearly marks where people should enter. Have a greeter to welcome people outside, open the door, or to provide assistance)
Prayer for Inclusion offered by the National Catholic Partnership on Disabilities (NCPD) www.ncpd.orgwww.ncpd.org
Creator God, we are your people. We look to the future with optimism and with faith in You as we pursue our call to provide justice and fullness of life for all people with disabilities. We pray that every man, woman and child may develop their potential and meet You in themselves and in one another. May we enjoy a totally welcoming community with You as our center, joined hand in hand with our sisters and brothers. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen
After the closing prayer, invite the people who indicated that they are interested in forming a group to set up the next meeting. (If this particular day of the week and time worked well, schedule it for the same time slot – maybe a week, two weeks, or a month later).
The response of the people who attend this initial meeting will provide you with some guidance about what to do next.
If you have people interested in forming a group:
- Build a group structure: Co-leaders (if possible) to alternate leading the meetings and a Secretary to take notes and send out the minutes. Usually a week before the diocesan core meeting, one of the co-leaders sends out a reminder email and asks if anyone wants to add something to the agenda. The secretary sends out the minutes of the meeting to everyone in the “Belonging” group
- Establish a regular meeting schedule and honor the length (it will be easier for people to remember if you have it at the same time, ex. 3rd Tuesday of the month from 7-8:15pm)
- Flyers to advertise regularly scheduled meetings (diocese can help with these)
Suggested Agendas for future meetings (1 hour to 1 and 15 minutes)
- Opening Prayer
- Introductions (if new people come each time, have everyone state why they are part of the group or attending for the first time or what they hope to get)
- Read minutes
- Items for discussion and action plan
- Share Time (build in about 15 minutes at the end of each meeting) *This will help to build a faith community in the group and will provide new people attending an opportunity to find support. If it is time to close and someone still needs to talk, offer to stay after the closing prayer to listen to the person share their story
- Closing Prayer
What if no one comes to the “Belonging” informational meeting or is not interested in forming a group dedicated to working with people with disabilities at your parish? If you are interested, you have the opportunity to make a difference at your parish.
- Ask permission to post the generic “belonging” flyer and include your name and contact information at the bottom.
- Perhaps someone is not ready to be part of a formed group but if they see that they have an advocate in the parish, they might reach out to you personally for support. This could provide an opportunity to make a change that will have a positive impact on the parish community
- A guest to your parish or a newly registered parishioner will see that your parish is being intentional about making people feel welcomed
- Ask permission to include an announcement (customized by the Diocese if you wish) in your parish bulletin in a designated spot.
- It can stand alone as well as serve as the designated space where you highlight new accommodations in your parish or post updates on parish or diocesan events or meetings
- Since bulletins are generally posted on a parish website, you may be able to reach parishioners who are not regularly attending Mass as well as draw attention to the efforts at your parish which can appeal to people who are new to the diocese and looking for a parish.
Appreciative Inquiry – In simple terms, this process helps a parish to identify what they are doing well, ways to build on these areas, consider what areas need attention, and how the parish goes about implementing a plan to make it happen.