Parish Points of Contact have one plea: take the Disciple Maker Index survey this Lent!

Laura Keener, Editor

The With One Heart initiative is preparing for its major and most foundational step — the implementation of the Disciple Maker Index. 

The With One Heart initiative is a multi-faceted, leadership development program Bishop John Iffert launched in September 2022. It is led by the Catholic Leadership Institute, who has 17 years of experience in assisting bishops in their mission to develop priests, parishes and parishioners for missionary discipleship. In the Diocese of Covington, the four-year initiative has as its stated goal: “Empowering Priests. Igniting Parishes. Enlivening the Faithful.” 

The Disciple Maker Index, or DMI, is one tool CLI uses to help bishops, pastors and parish leaders make data-driven decisions. The DMI is a 75-question survey used to collect that data. All parishioners are encouraged to take the DMI survey, which opens Feb. 22 and lasts through March 27. The questions not only ask demographical questions but also asks parishioners to evaluate their own involvement in the parish, what their parish does well and what opportunities they think could be explored. The more people that take the survey the better the data will be, which would lead to better decisions at both the diocesan and parish levels. 

Each pastor was asked to appoint a Parish Point of Contact (PPOC). The primary role of the PPOC is to assist the pastor in implementing the DMI at their parish. In three sessions, Jan. 9 and 10, Carla Molina, relationship manager and leadership consultant with CLI, introduced the PPOC’s to the With One Heart initiative and a plan on how to implement the DMI. 

“I think using the DMI will be very helpful,” said Jenni VonLehman, PPOC, St. Joseph Parish, Crescent Springs. “Each parish is unique, and the DMI will enable pastors to hear directly from their parishioners. It gives people the opportunity to be heard, but it also empowers them to begin supporting their pastor and their fellow parishioners in a more concrete way.” 

David Doyle, PPOC, St. Patrick Parish, Maysville and St. James Mission, Minerva, said that Father Andrew Young, pastor, is very engaged and routinely asks Parish Council for feedback and assistance. Using the data from the DMI along with the feedback collected at the Deanery Listening Sessions and Parish Strategy Sessions, two of the initial strategies of With One Heart held last fall, will help parish leaders “to take action to improve the overall experience in our parish,” he said. 

“This will now give them an opportunity to better communicate their feelings, wants, desires at the parish level,” Mr. Doyle said about the DMI. 

As a retired business professional, Monica France, PPOC for St. Anthony Parish, Taylor Mill, has seen the benefits of surveys, especially as a way of building trust. 

“In my line of work, that’s what they did, they would do surveys every five years and that’s how they would set plans and that’s how they would measure progress,” Mrs. France said. “It was a very good way to kind of capture the feelings of the people.” 

But, Mrs. France said that trust can be broken if results of the survey are not shared or if there is no follow-up on the information provided by the survey. “It only works if you give them feedback, and then respond in a way to address what you learned,” she said. 

With the DMI, pastors and parish leaders will be able to login into a dashboard to see the aggregate results of surveys completed by their parishioners. They will also be able to see the aggregate results of other parishes. This will allow everyone in the parish to work together to make data-driven decisions to help support parishioners on their faith journey as missionary disciples of Christ. The survey is completely anonymous — no one at the parish or the diocese will have access to the names of any individual respondent. 

“All of us have so much to offer, and it’s exciting to think about how we could transform our parish together,” said Mrs. VonLehman. “There are also a lot of programs that I really believe in — programs that have changed my life — and I would love to find a way to make these more accessible (and attractive) for families who lead very busy lives. Ultimately, I would love to see our parish more energized and on fire for our faith. That kind of energy is contagious, and Christ has made it clear that this ‘fire,’ in turn, spreads to the wider community. I think most of us have seen it ourselves, and we know it’s true. This is an exciting opportunity for the entire diocese.” 

Mrs. VonLehman, Mrs. France and Mr. Doyle all agreed that their biggest challenge as PPOC will be getting people to take the survey and/or staying with the 75-question survey to its completion. Mrs. Molina has provided a publicity template that will help the PPOC’s get the word out. Bulletin and pulpit announcements have been written and provided to the PPOC’s. Soon, social media posts and flyers to print will be made available on the With One Heart website, Parishioners will also have the option of completing the survey online or on paper. 

“We’ll have to find ways, you know, having a place open after Mass where they can go and they can get coffee and doughnuts and complete the survey, if you do that a couple of times, that would be helpful,” Mrs. France said. She also will be seeking the assistance of other parishioners to help promote the DMI by greeting parishioners and talking with them about the DMI after Mass. 

“With God’s help we will move this forward and make every parish better off for having participated,” Mr. Doyle said.