Special Section: Best practices for parishes


When businesses wish to stave off a surging competitor or enliven a tired staff, they consult their industry’s “best practices” to improve their own workplace and to better meet the needs of their customers. And if best practices can help make secular organizations more efficient and effective, it stands to reason that they might come in handy for Catholic parishes, too.

There’s no doubt that parishes today face plenty of challenges, and if asked, most churchgoing Catholics and ministry leaders around the country would likely voice similar concerns. How can we get young people engaged and keep them as active members of the church? What are the key ingredients to lively worship that will meet the spiritual needs of the entire community? Is it possible to bring together diverse populations who have different cultural traditions and speak different languages?

With these challenges in mind, U.S. Catholic sought out ways that parishes are successfully meeting the needs of their parishioners. We consulted parish leaders and other experts for their advice on making the parish a thriving community of believers who carry the message of the gospel far beyond the church doors. Most were eager to share the secrets of their success, which we have collected in the pages that follow.

While no two parishes are identical and no single practice will be one-size-fits-all, we hope that this guide will provide plenty of wisdom to benefit your parish.


Five habits of highly effective parishes
by Kristen Hannum

Best practices for worship
by Karen Baker

Best practices for charity and justice
by Jack Jezreel

Best practices for engaging youth
by Jennifer Ledonne


Best practices for multicultural communities
by Brett C. Hoover

Let the Spirit move you
an interview with Msgr. Ray East


Web-exclusive sidebars:

Best practices for parish communications
by Kristen Hannum

Parish best practices: A case study in welcoming
by Kristen Hannum

These articles appeared in the March 2014 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 79, No. 3).

Image: Illustration by Angela Cox