Creating a joyful parish

Fr Ken Lao.jpg

It was a great joy to interview Fr Ken Lao, CC, the pastoral administrator of Holy Trinity Pastoral Unit, Nova Scotia, Canada. His pastoral unit joined the Divine Renovation Network in November, 2017. Fr Ken, CC has also been a guest on the Divine Renovation Podcast. His episode, Early Days of a Missional Parish, was featured on 20th April, 2018. Please check it out by downloading the Divine Renovation app on iTunes or Google Play.

Tell us about your pastoral unit

Our pastoral unit is made up of three parishes. The largest, with 500-600 parishioners attending on the weekend, is St John Vianney Parish. St Elizabeth Seton Parish is medium-sized with 150-200 parishioners attending on the weekend. The smallest is St Francis of Assisi Parish with around 60 people attending on the weekend. As there are different church sizes, the dynamics at each parish are very different. St Francis of Assisi Parish is like a family but, in contrast, St John Vianney is a big church so we have to be more intentional about building community there.

How has Divine Renovation impacted your parish?

We’ve really seen the fruit of people buying into the vision. So many leaders are coming forward- we had twenty-one people apply to be a part of the parish council which was amazing. Also, as we’ve continued the renewal process, there has been a continued decrease in the amount of pushback. Slowly people are understanding the why behind the decisions that we have to make.

Also, if I just relied on myself and the leadership team without the help of Divine Renovation, it would take us a long time to bring renewal. Having the support and encouragement from the  coaching in the Divine Renovation Network will speed up the process and make us much more effective. It is also very helpful to have access to so many resources with the Divine Renovation Association and the webinars and leadership sessions that we access monthly.

Describe your process of building a parish council

We were very intentional and thorough with our process of building a parish council. We began by opening it to anyone in the parish who was interested. However, they had to fulfill three requirements. They must have read or be in the process of reading Divine Renovation: From a Maintenance to a Missional Parish; attended or in the process of attending Alpha; and completed the Gallup CliftonStrengths assessment. These requirements were to ensure that they had bought into the vision of parish renewal and Divine Renovation. We then had two discernment nights where we explained our vision for the parish council and also had a lot of time for prayer and discernment. Then a week after these two nights we invited those who were still interested and still had the sense that the Lord was calling them to this position, to email the Holy Trinity Leadership Team. As a team we shortlisted the most suitable candidates and came up with six parish council members.

The parish council is excited to do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis of the five systems of the parish (worship, evangelization, discipleship, fellowship and ministry) and based on that we will come up with a five-year pastoral plan.

What are your hopes for working with Divine Renovation?

I hope that our congregation triples in ten years and that it grows not just by the number but also the quality of disciples. We hope to form disciples who are really on fire for the Lord and who have hearts for the lost. Then we will be able to go out and invite people to Alpha, then invite them to church and make them disciples and the cycle will grow and grow. I also really look forward to having small communities like connect groups.