ParishAdvancement was started due to the fact that in my work with faith-based schools, I received requests to speak not just to the Catholic school community, but to the parish as well, about Development. There’s even an organization that focuses on School and Parish Development, so many schools and parishes believe that this process for both entities is possible. It was…back in the day when Catholic schools were parochial; that is, a ministry of the parish which only served members of the parish. The problem, however, is that words today are not defined properly and used interchangeably. A school, as well as a Diocese or Archdiocese, can have successful Development efforts because the people who are meaningfully engaged with these entities have differing relationships with them. Let me explain.
A school community consists of students, parents of current students, student alumni, and parents of alumni. The school’s supporting parish or parishes, as well as community members and businesses, can also be considered to be part of the school community. Let’s say that each of these constituent groups give the school a part of their time, talent, or treasure. Current students are serving their school as representatives of it, and more than likely, parents of these current students are paying tuition for their children to attend. Therefore, student alumni, parents of student alumni, parishes, community members and businesses are the 5 constituent groups that have no real day-to-day connection with the school. They are not connected day-in and day-out in the same way that current students and parents of current students are. Therefore, receiving treasure in the form of funds from these 5 constituent groups can be considered to be Development because the funds come from constituencies which don’t have a day-to-day relationship with the school.
In the parish, though, everyone is a member, which means that use of one’s time, talent and treasure to benefit the parish is Stewardship more than it is Development. Following the same logic, the Diocese engages in Development through individuals who are located outside the Diocese and that are members of parishes, but engages in Stewardship relative to funds that come to the Diocese from its parishes.
Comparatively, in my work with schools, there are 5 elements which create the emergent property of Advancement, namely; Asset Management, Retention, Marketing, Enrollment, and Development. For the Parish, the emergent property of Advancement is created by these 5 parallel elements: Fellowship (since building community is the essence of Retention), Initiation (which is the welcoming process mirrored in Enrollment), Revenue Management (which is akin to Asset Management), Evangelization (which is equivalent to Marketing) and Stewardship (which is congruent – which means similar, but not equal – to Development).
The first letters of the 5 elements one of the systems of SchoolAdvancement form the acronym, ARMED, since Catholic schools needs to be prepared for the challenges they face in today’s marketplaces, and Catholic schools prepare students for the challenges they’ll face as the venture forth into the world. Similarly, the first letters of the 5 elements of ParishAdvancement form the acronym, FIRES. It is no coincidence that the Holy Spirit comes to us as tongues of fire, a breath of wind, or the silent, inner voice of a well-formed conscience that sets our hearts ablaze with the zeal necessary to spread the Good News!