How to Host Parish Small Faith Groups, Part 1

small faith groupDuring these past few months, as I’ve begun exploring the world of adult faith formation, I have become convinced that one of the key principles of AFF is that it is most effective when it is relational. In other words, we can’t simply gather adults and talk at them—they need to talk to one another!

With that in mind, I am proud and excited to launch a series here on Catechist’s Journey that will lay out the steps needed to successfully implement small faith groups in your parish with an eye on Lent as a target.

I will be drawing on the successful experience of St. Barnabas Parish in Chicago where last year over 200 parishioners gathered in parishioners’ homes during the season of Lent to participate in small faith groups.

St. Barnabas parish serves 1600 registered families (about 5300 individuals) on the Southside of Chicago. The parish has approximately 175 children in religious education and about 535 children in the parish grade school. The community is one of the most racially and ethnically diverse in Chicago in a stable middle to upper-middle class residential district.

The parish staff at St. Barnabas consists of a pastor, an associate pastor, a DRE, a pastoral associate/director of music and liturgy, a school principal, and a youth ministry coordinator who also serves as the liaison to the adult faith formation team. She and this team were the primary organizers of the small faith group initiative.

In the weeks ahead, I will be sharing how this parish developed, from the ground up, small faith groups that met for 90-minutes weekly during Lent in over 20 homes, praying together and reflecting on the upcoming Sunday’s Scripture readings. You’ll find:

  • a detailed timeline for planning and executing small faith groups for Lent
  • sample promotional materials
  • materials for use in reflecting on the Sunday Scripture readings
  • strategies for identifying, inviting, and training small group leaders and hosts
  • sample pastor letter sent to potential group leaders and hosts
  • outline (and a PowerPoint presentation) for training small group leaders
  • sample commitment cards for parishioners

…and more!

If you hope to create small faith groups for Lent 2015, now is the time to start planning and implementing. Stay tuned to Catechist’s Journey for information that will guide you step-by-step to a successful experience.

About Joe Paprocki 2742 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at


  1. We have been utilizing small parish communities for about 9 years now and they are truly benefitting the parish. Done well, these small groups can revitalize the parish and aid the vision of the pastor. Please encourage other parishes to do this. They work.

    • Andy, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Please continue to contribute to our ongoing conversation during this series with stories from your experience that will shed light on the most effective ways to implement small faith communities in parishes.

  2. I am very interested in learning more! My pastor would like to begin developing and then increasing small groups in our parish. Right now I am one of the facilitators for our adult education classes, and we find ourselves in the awesome position of folks awaiting more! Our area is surrounded by very large evangelical churches who have been utilizing small groups to enhance participation in their worship – we need to catch up! We just don’t want to rush into it, and then lose any of its’ effectiveness. I’ve been doing a bit of research, and am overjoyed that a friend came across your journey! Looking forward to traveling with you!

    • Thanks for sharing Donna! This is very exciting and I DO hope that you will share your experience with us as it unfolds in your parish. My next post on this topic will be this coming Monday (11/17)

    • Donna, St. Barnabas began with a hope to get 70 people interested for Lent and 200 signed up. The feedback I hear most from the initiative and what surprised the participants the most was the meeting and coming to know new people of the parish where they have lived and worshiped for 10, 15, 20+ years. People knew faces and names but the experience really allowed participants to “know” one another. The gatherings were spiritually meaningful but the relationships really inspired a sense of renewed community and shared faith. Good Luck!

      • Richard Rohr reminds us that the Christian life is not primarily about being correct but about being connected!

  3. Are materials available in Spanish? Our parish is bilingual and any new offerings must be available to both languages.

    Chaplain Debbie George

    • Hi Debbie and thanks for your inquiry. Unfortunately, I don’t have a Spanish translation of this available at this time. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.

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