Council Development Initiative

Re-investing in Fr. McGivney's Mission
A spiritual plan to re-energize our council

Introduction and Purpose

From time to time, every organization has to take stock of itself. This applies whether it's a business, social, civic, or religious organization. It has to look at its:

  1. objectives - are they being met?
  2. processes – are they are effective?
  3. activities – can they can be improved?
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The Knights of Columbus, Council 8386, is no exception. At present, fewer than twenty percent of our membership attends council meetings and attendance appears to be diminishing. Though some, who do not attend council meetings, are involved in the Knight's ministry, with each event finding available hands-on-deck becomes more difficult. Furthermore, council activities have largely become ministry only. Sufficient emphasis and attention has not been paid to the individual development of our members and communal aspects of our Order.

In the gospel story, Martha complained that others were not doing their share of the work, but Mary sat at the feet of Jesus. Jesus said, "Mary has chosen the better part." We cannot be a council solely focused on parish tasks and fundraising. Our Spirituality, Formation, and Brotherhood must be given greater priority. Fraternal brotherhood, as created by Fr. McGivney, is an indispensable character of our Order. If our council is to flourish, we need to make time, as brothers, to sit at the feet of Jesus.

While certain procedures are mandated for each council, in particular the format of council meetings, other activities are at our discretion. It is not our role to change these established procedures. However, it is our responsibility to tailor these, and other activities, to meet the needs of our membership.

It is our responsibility to look at council participation rates, and determine how we can improve. It is our duty to ensure Spiritual and Formational development is provided and encouraged. It is our role to build relationships with each and every member of our council – to build the brotherhood that is needed to sustain our order.

We are a service organization, but we are much, much, more. We are also a Fraternal and Religious Order, an Order founded in charity and brotherhood. Building and strengthening this brotherhood must be our primary objective. Our success, in all activities, is only made possible by the bonds and relationships we share. Building a strong fraternal brotherhood is an essential prerequisite for everything we do. No task, or project, we undertake will succeed without these bonds.

The famous golfer, Bobby Jones, was once playing at St. Andrews, and found his ball in a bunker. After taking four or five shots and failing to get out of the bunker, his caddie came over to him and asked, “Do you know the definition of insanity?” Puzzled, Jones looked at him. Then the caddie said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting to get different results.”

We are operating, at best, at twenty percent of our potential. That means that eighty percent of our membership, for one reason or another, chooses not to be involved. Focusing on re-engaging existing members, through Spiritual development, Formation, and Socialization, is absolutely critical. And, any improvement in the participation of our existing members will automatically attract new members.

Each year the Knights of Columbus places a priority, and even sets goals, on recruiting new members. Certainly, getting new members is necessary to sustain the Order. However, new members often join, attend council meetings for a while, then disappear. While we always want to be open to new members, the more pressing priority is to re-engage our existing members. To recruit new members without a viable development plan for existing members only invites more of the same - decreased interest and decreased participation.

Proposal – A Spiritual Plan

So, what direction does Council 8386 need to take and what plans can we make to greater realize our founding principles?

Every organization needs to have a plan. This is as true for an individual as it is for a family. It is as true for a parish as it is for a diocese. So, how can we accomplish our goals? How can we re-engage existing members? As a fraternal and spiritual organization, what plans can we put in place to foster greater brotherhood, stronger relationships, and a more active council?

The Four elements of a Spiritual Plan

Every spiritual plan has four essential elements: Prayer, Formation, Ministry, and Socialization. If any of these is lacking, the entire structure is weakened and likely to fail. For those who have attended Cursillo Leaders School this plan will sound familiar. While Cursillo is a movement focused on evangelization, it has developed highly effective and well-founded strategies which can be applied to any religious endeavor.

As Council 8386 is exemplary in its current ministry, thus, no additional ministries are needed at this time. However, the other three areas are severly lacking or non-existant. Each of these essential aspects needs to be researched and planned. What is most important to our council is greater brotherhood and greater participation, and all Knights need to be involved. (Additional ministries can be explored at a later time after inactive members are re-engaged and participation rates improve.)

Spirituality (or Prayer)

The development of our Spiritual Plan will involve: surveying members, researching programs and available resources, and planning a variety of presentations and events that focus on prayer, worship and our spiritual growth, as individuals, as families, and as a council. How the Spirituality component of our plan is implemented is intentionally undefined. This will allow the Spirituality Development Tean to develop programs tailored to our members and needs. Thus, the program will always be a work in progress.

Some possible approaches are:

  1. Explore the many avenues of prayer through a wide variety of prayers, methods, and devotions;
  2. Examine our call to sainthood through the writings and lives of the saints;
  3. Place ourselves in our Lord's Presence in Corporate Adoration, Lexio Divina, and meditations on Sacred Scripture;
  4. Establishing partnerships, to pray together, study together, and support one another as brothers;
  5. Organize special events and celebrations to maintain and grow in our sacramental lives.
  6. Attending, as a council, special liturgies such as 'First Saturday', Pro-Life events, the Rosary, Eucharistic Processions, Divine Mercy, the Men's Conferences, and other religious opportunities.

These endeavors can be implemented through a wide variety of methods, liturgies, movies, prayer partners, pilgrimages, spiritual reading, retreats, and joint ventures with other councils and parish groups. Presentations can be held in the first half-hour of our council meetings or during special 'Brotherhood meetings' or retreats.

Formation

Like the Spirituality plan, our Formation Plan is also intentionally undefined. In general, our Formation Plan will focus on education and formation in our Catholic Faith and as Knights of Columbus.

Some possible approaches are:

  1. Studying the life and writings of our founder, Fr. McGivney;
  2. Research available resources from the Knights of Columbus;
  3. Presentations on catechetical topics, saints, religious books, movies, etc;
  4. Presentations and activities to foster brotherhood.

Brotherhood (or Socialization).

Socialization is an absolutely critical key to our growth as a council. It needs to take primary importance as it is the vehicle that can most re-engage current members. Inactive members can only be re-engaged through person-to-person contact.

Our Brotherhood Plan (Socialization) needs to be extensive and diverse, incorporating partnerships, group interest activities, and social celebrations. Any activity that builds personal relationships deserves consideration. As a start in building brotherhood, council members will be teamed in groups of four. It is expected that members in these partnerships will form close relationships. In this way, there is a greater possibility that inactive members will respond to social invitations, and through social activities become re-engaged in council activities.

The vehicles for increased brotherhood are many and varied. Social actives such as council breakfasts and dinners are a start. This can be augmented by joining or forming special interest groups, such as a baseball, golf, woodworking, hiking, photography groups, and etc.

Getting Started

Catholics often say they need to be spiritually fed, but this is only half of the equation. Our spirituality, knowledge, ministry, and brotherhood needs to be food for others, and it needs to begin with our fellow Knights.

Building Brotherhood:

The first step in implementing this plan is to build brotherhood by establishing personal relationships with other members. In order to accomplish this, individual personal contact is mandatory. All other means of communication (announcements, emails, letters, etc.) are ineffective without personal contact. Establishing these relationships with our brother Knights makes it more likely that inactive Knights will accept social invitations, and re-engage in our council.

Implement the Socialization Plan

Once relationships are established with our inactive Knights, the Brotherhood Team will plan and implement a variety of social activities. At first, these will be for Knights only. Later, for some events, wives will be invited. Invitations can be sent via letters and email, but personal contact is paramount.

Implement the Spirituality and Formation Plans

During the initial phases of our Brotherhood Plan, the Spirituality and Formation Teams will survey members, research available programs, and plan speakers and activities for the Council's development.

Council meetings must to be interesting and informative. It's not sufficient to restrict discussions to business affairs. The goal is to inspire. Those who attend should encounter God in their brothers. They need to leave spiritually energized, better formed, and glad that they came.

Monitoring and Adaptation

Each component of the plan is implemented on a 'try and see what works' basis. We must monitor our successes and failures and adapt as needed to accomplish a unified and truly active council.