Adult Faith Formation: Creating a “Greenhouse Effect” in the Diocese of Joliet


Recently, I had the privilege of spending a day with a 50–60 catechetical leaders in the Diocese of Joliet, IL, exploring adult faith formation. Here is the title and description of my topic:

A Change of Climate: How to Create a Parish “Greenhouse Effect” that Fosters the Growth of Adult Faith Formation

Adult faith formation is not accomplished via a program or an event or even a series of events. Rather, it is stimulated by a wide variety of approaches that ultimately lead to a “change of climate” in the parish—one in which adult faith formation is fostered at every turn. In this seminar, Joe Paprocki, DMin, will explore strategies for transforming the parish into a “greenhouse” for adult catechesis—an environment in which controlled conditions enable a wide variety of adult faith formation experiences to flourish.

In a greenhouse, one can manipulate conditions in order to create a climate in which plant life will flourish: heat, light, shade, irrigation, humidity, carbon dioxide, and so on. In our parishes, we likewise need to manipulate certain conditions in order to create a climate in which adult faith formation (and ultimately disciples of Christ) will flourish!

Just as in a greenhouse we adjust a thermostat from cold to hot or a humidifier from low to high, we need to make some adjustments in our parishes in order to create conditions that support adult faith formation. Here are some of the adjustments I spoke of with folks in Joliet.

Adjusting the Way We Think

  • From Self-Sufficiency to Amazing Grace
  • From Complacency to Urgency
  • From Spa to Fitness Center
  • From Religion to Spirituality

Adjusting the Way We Function

  • From Requesting Volunteers to Mobilizing Vocations
  • From Business Meetings to Worshipful Work Sessions
  • From Paternalism to Empowerment
  • From Presumptuous to Unassuming

Adjusting the Way We Worship

  • From Perfunctory to Robust
  • From Words to Signs
  • From Announcements to Altar Calls
  • From Lullabies to Hymns of Triumph

Adjusting the Way We Form Disciples in Faith

  • From Indoctrinating to Instigating
  • From One-Size-Fits-All to Variety
  • From Pupils to Apprentices
  • From Information to Transformation

Adjusting the Way We Engage the World

  • From Maintenance to Mission and Mercy
  • From Therapeutic to Militant
  • From Involvement to Heroism
  • From Fugitives to Witnesses

Needless to say, we had a wonderful time exploring these topics. I’ll share more in days and weeks to come!

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 Comment

  1. Joe,
    You have hit the nail on the head. We have discovered this in my parish as we have done much work to offer innovative programs that few people respond to. The event may be great but nobody knows it because they don’t show up. This is in spite of wide advertising including local newspapers and local websites. The key is fostering a desire on the part of parishioners. I like your analogy to gardening and creating a climate. We hope to turn some attention to this. I’ve always admired your work and I thank you for this post.
    Mary Campion, Pastoral Associate for Lifelong Faith Formation, St. Agatha Parish, Milton, MA

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