By Michael White and Tom Corcoran (Ave Maria, 2013)
Change isn’t easy and neither is church. But change is what parishioners and their leaders must do if they want their churches to thrive in the future. Faced with the challenge of reviving a dying and disengaged suburban Baltimore parish, Father Michael White and lay associate Tim Corcoran in Rebuilt: The Story of a Catholic Parish thoroughly examine their experiences of transforming a community of churchgoers into congregants focused on the mission Jesus gave us: growing disciples.
Rebuilt is a practical how-to guide for that journey. The easy-to-read, 280-page book offers specific advice on what to do as well as what to avoid, including making assumptions about parishioners. White and Corcoran’s conversational, humorous, yet candid discussion about parish operations reminds us of how the dysfunction common among congregations often obstructs growth. They use insights gained from business leaders and successful Protestant churches to develop strategies and a plan for a healthy and engaged parish.
White and Corcoran take a refreshing approach to analyzing their experiences: First, acknowledging the leadership’s shortcomings and mistakes and then explaining why the errors were made. It’s a rare level of honest introspection in today’s society. Leaving few topics untouched, they tackle everything from parking and programming to fund-raising and resistant parishioners, including those who complain to the diocese or threaten to withhold money because of changes. While not always complimentary, these stories expose human flaws and the culture of Catholicism in ways that prove insightful, informative, and even therapeutic for readers.
Though repetitive at times, the book is a must read for anyone serious about parish engagement, membership, and financial and spiritual growth. It should be required reading for pastors, new priests, and parish councils.
This article appeared in the May 2013 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 78, No. 5, page 43).