By Anne Marie Amacher
Building and strengthening churches and their congregations is what Quad Cities Interfaith is about. And to help parishes grow, the nonprofit organization is offering a new program titled InReach.
“InReach is an in-depth, concentrated focus on parishes,” said Leslie Kilgannon, executive director of Quad Cities Interfaith. Trained leaders reach into the parishes and meet a significant number of people to find strengths in congregations, identify new leaders and more.
Kilgannon said a core group is chosen by the parish to go through training with Quad Cities Interfaith.
Overall, InReach is a focused and disciplined effort of five to six weeks duration to “build community.”
The face-to-face visits are 30-45 minutes. The conversations help build relationships and understand what matters to the person being interviewed.
The four main points of InReach:
• Building relationships. People can share, plan, dream, create and get things done. “Building relationships builds community,” Kilgannon said.
• Uncovering self-interests. Find out what the person feels most strongly about. Kilgannon said this information could be used to pair that person with an activity/group at the parish.
• Developing clarity. Visits allow people to express their feelings about things.
• Gathering information. This gives the team an opportunity to gather information about the church itself, neighborhood that surrounds the church and the community.
Through InReach, Kilgannon said, congregations can become more relational. Congregants get to know one another better. “It invites people in — who may not have been very involved. They may feel they have been isolated or left out.”
New leaders may be identified. “The size of the leadership circle is increased.” People are challenged to a greater potential and growth within themselves. “The work is now done by many, versus a few.”
The congregation is encouraged to be more visionary. A clearer understanding is developed of where a congregation is at and where it wants to go in the future, Kilgannon noted. The parish can work to address concerns at the parish level and in the community.
Working with other faiths, cultures and backgrounds give the parish an opportunity to get to know “their neighbor.”
QCI also likes to see parishes come together and share what they learn with others. That way the different parishes (Catholic and non-Catholic) can work together to address neighborhood or community concerns. Examples include payday loan issues or working with immigrants. “QCI likes to strengthen churches.”
The core team at the parish level can be anywhere from seven to 20 people, depending on the size of the congregation, Kilgannon said. The number of people to be interviewed represents a wide sampling of active and not-so-active members. It is important that the pastor explains to the parish what is going to happen and why, prior to the start of the interviews. “This can help generate excitement and relationships.”
InReach is working with its first group of parishes now. Training began in late March and most interviews started in May. “We hope to wrapup this first group by late September,” Kilgannon said.
St. Mary Parish in Davenport is one of the participants. Father Ed O’Melia, the pastor, said 12 people from the parish, mostly parish council members, did the training.
“We used a random sampling to do one-on-one interviews and get to know the people.”
After the interviews, a form was filled out to list concerns brought out in the process. “They might be social action or something else,” he noted.
“The vast majority of our members are Spanish-speaking. The basic concern I picked up was family — keeping the family together and missing family members back home in Mexico.”
The parish is now looking to “spruce up some family life activities” as a result of the interviews.
The main challenge to the interview process, Fr. O’Melia said, was finding people at home. Two other Davenport parishes are looking into the possibility of doing InReach this fall, Kilgannon said.
For more information on InReach, contact Quad Cities Interfaith at (563) 322-4910.