(Lay Director, Gold Coast Via de Cristo)
I'm a tree farmer. My success is determined by the quality of my trees. In
turn, their fruits, or other characteristics, determine the quality of the
The same is true of a Secretariat. Its success is determined by the quality
of its fruits. (i.e. Group Reunions). To talk about successful Secretariats you
need to talk about Group Reunions.
When someone shares with you from the depth of their soul their most private
fears------their personal secrets------that of which they are most ashamed and
embarrassed------You are on Holy Ground---You are in Group Reunion------You are
in your Fourth Day
Group Reunion is that safe harbor which we wish to share with all
Christians.---We want them to have this opportunity in their 4th Day
If I do not regularly experience someone laying out his (or her) life and becoming honest and vulnerable to me, I cannot be expected to be equally as vulnerable. And I cannot surely teach it to others on a VDC weekend.
If members of a weekend team are not in a group reunion they cannot teach
pilgrims what the real group reunion is all about.
If we cannot teach and display the trust we have learned we cannot expect
pilgrims to leave the weekend with an urgent desire to get into a group.
Scott Peck in "The Different Drum" defined Community as:
A Group of people who have learned to communicate honestly with each other,
whose relationships go deeper than their masks of composure, and who have
developed some significant commitment to "rejoice together, mourn together," and
to delight in each other, and to make others' conditions our own conditions."
In our group reunions our brothers, and sisters, hold us accountable.
They ask us how we are living our fourth day.
They ask us about our spiritual life------about our prayer life.
Several months ago, when I was preparing this talk, one of my group reunion
brothers asked------sort of generally to all of us------How is your spiritual
He wasn't talking directly to me,----but,----because of my nature,------I
Then he asked, "what are you doing to strengthen your spiritual life?
I had no answer. In fact, I had not been doing much of anything to improve my
relationship with my Almighty Father.
None of my other 4 brothers came to my rescue. Just a lot of silence!!! Have
you been there?------I hope you have--and--I hope you, we had to be accountable
to your brother or sister.
Finally, I said, I had been working on this outline, but not having much
success. I knew this was my wake up call. I had to start with prayer and listen
to God before I could prepare this talk.
Thanks to my brother Ron for his questions. Thanks to the other four for
their silence.------My group held me accountable.
My prayer life has improved a lot since May. This talk should reflect that
prayer and I am very excited to share it with you.
So what makes a successful secretariat?
In one sentence:
A successful Secretariat would be one where every candidate leaves their
weekend, and is inspired by the team, to join a strong group reunion, and
persevere in their fourth day, and to evangelize their environment.
Do you agree that is a successful Secretariat? All candidates get into
Even secretariats with 90% participation would be successful.
So I guess the best way to measure the success of a secretariat is by the percentage of those living their 4th day in quality Group Reunions.
None of us can know the percentage for our respective Secretariats.
That's probably a good thing, We surely agree not nearly enough pilgrims really get the connection between the weekend and grouping in their 4th day.
They don't get the connection between----celebration----and Christ's coming
alive in our daily lives.
The weekend was grand---but---group reunion in the 4th day that's------WOW!!! If you can share your inner most private thoughts with your brothers of sisters in reunion, you can persevere in your walk with Christ.
Every community which embraces the weekend and gives the 4th day little
attention has serious problems. Over-emphasis on the importance of the weekend
is often the sign of a sick secretariat. Over-emphasis on the glitter and cute
little things the candidates receive on a weekend can detract from the
So: HOW CAN WE MAKE A SECRETARIAT SUCCESSFUL?
It's easy---Just get more people in group reunion.
In preparing for this talk I asked a few friends for some input. Sort of an
informal poll.---What suggestions did they have? What gems of wisdom did they
have for me to bring to you?
My question was:
How can we make GCVDC a more vibrant, more alive more helpful community to
those who wish to persevere in their 4th day?
Here are a few of the responses:
1. Hey, you're the Lay Director, JUST DO IT!!
2. You are the boss, you're supposed to know how.
3. You took the job man!!!
4. I'll do what ever you tell me to do.
5. Finally I asked Phil: I said, "Phil, is this a case of ignorance or apathy that I'm receiving?" Well, he summed it up for me.
He answered: "I don't know and I don't care."
So you see I had a lot of help from my community.
There are few organizational things we can do to achieve the goals I have
described. I have classified them as:
Secretariat members, Sponsors, and Rectors and Rectoras:
The Secretariat members can jointly develop a mission statement when they
begin their term. Then they can work toward a goal they all recognize.
Each Secretariat member should be selected after prayerful consideration to
Find the most dedicated persons.--Not the best personality or most popular.
If each person will have a written job description which identifies his or
If each member is held accountable at each monthly meeting.
Are they doing their job?
Are they attending the meetings?
Are they attending other functions of the movement?
Are they available to all of the members of the community?
Are the sponsors aware of their commitment to the candidates:
On the weekend: do they support and pray?
After the weekend: Do they find group reunions?
Are the sponsors responsible to the movement:
Bring qualified candidates (Leaders)
They must know their job is to include the whole community
Keep in mind our purpose is not just to have fun
Do not let community get carried away with; table palanca, serenades, inside jokes, or
Keep focused on the building of community
Good data base for:
Mailing to the community
Keep them informed and welcomed to all functions
Invite most recent pilgrims especially
Knowing who is eligible (qualified) to:
1. Be on a team
2. Do certain jobs
Parish representatives who know the members from their congregations and know
how to get a hold of them.
Timely newsletters to let everyone know what is going on
Increase the awareness of NLS and the connection with other secretariats so
one can advise a friend or family member where they could make a weekend or get
into a group reunion or go to an Ultreya in another city or State.
Hold Schools so everyone will know their jobs:
We have schools for:
Rectoras and Rectors
Make certain there is strong emphasis on Group Reunion
The post VDC chair should be trying to get everyone into group
Avoid "clicks", Include everyone
Rectors and Rectoras
Team members (limit the frequency a person can be on a team)
Keep Pastors involved, acknowledge their commitment
If your community is too large do not expect that they will accept it if you
decide to break up the secretariat to form separate units.
Constantly work at keeping the Pastors involved. Be sure their position as
Spiritual leader is acknowledged.
Before the weekend;
Be sure the team is praying for direction
Be sure sponsors and the Secretariat are praying
Prayer Vigil (wheel)
Petitions by community after candidates and team have left
Kitchen crew before each meal
Chapel palanca all weekend (more important than serving meals)
At all times we want to be praying that the candidates are
getting------the message of Group Reunion
We are now going to break into twelve small discussion (or disgusting)
Your group should appoint a discussion leader, a recorder and a presenter to
do the summary.
You have twenty minutes to discuss and summarize your views. We will them get
back together and I'll ask your presenter to give a one minute report and
collect the award.
About now you should be down to only one color of M&M's.
If you have more than one color left just give away all but one color or eat
Thanks for being so attentive and helpful in your groups. We are now going to call on your presenter to come up here and summarize (in one minute) what your group concluded.
"How is the sponsorship commitment handled in your community?
Does the Sponsor know what is expected of him or her?"
Rev. Paul Schmidlin: One of the things that seemed to come out in our discussion, because it was so easy to go off into all kinds of different directions, is that there is a tremendous interdependence between the way the weekend is run, the way sponsors are gathered, and the way the weekend is run. In other words, if people are doing a good job of reunioning, then they are usually much more effective as sponsors. One of the things that many communities have done is to have an actual sponsor commitment form, where an individual will check that they have read the responsibilities and then sign that they will obey them. Generally speaking, that's been worth about the paper that that's been written on for the people who weren't going to be good sponsors anyway. However, for some people it reinforced the importance and significance of sticking with their candidate, praying for them, and staying with them afterwards -- holding their hand until they're well established with a good group reunion.
"How do your sponsors know who would be a good candidate?
How do you tell them?
How could you do better?"
John Didicher, Atlanta: We have forums and checklists. We also put in the newsletters how some of the movements have had some heavy-duty mental health and health problems among their sponsoring. It's important to "make a friend, be a friend, and bring that friend to Christ." One secretariat asks for baptism date. We found one person who had never even been baptized, even though it's a requirement in that movement. Another had candidates wait one year after a divorce before attending a weekend.
Our second question: The Fourth Day workshops, newsletters, and turn down applications if necessary. Look at church activities and sponsor applications carefully.
Third question: Educate the sponsors better. Central Michigan showed us two of their forms - the applicant's application and the sponsor's application. We thought the sponsor's application was particularly good. "Why do you think that this person would benefit from the Via de Cristo experience?," and "What are you going to do to follow up and make sure that they group?" were questions on that application.
"How are new pilgrims encouraged to be in Group Reunion?
Is there any follow-up after a weekend?"
Gene Mulberry, Indian River and Dennis Hogan, Gold Coast:
(A) Must be in a group to serve on a team.
(B) Leaders school emphasizes groups and post-Cristo; -- part of which includes group reunion.
© Sponsors advise how to, but not necessarily when to, group; that's determined by the group: when and where.
(D) Emphasize groups at Ultreyas and all Fourth Day meetings
(E) Keep the group databank - all the groups that are formed. Ask the group if they accept new members.
(F) Change groups if your group is not successful.
(A) If nothing else, invite them to your group. We think it's good also for pilgrims to group together with others from their weekend. If they can't do that, then they can join a team member's group.
(B) Sponsor accountability - make sure the sponsor follows up.
(C) We recommend a sponsor's meeting prior to the weekend so that sponsors know their responsibilities.
Also, the Fourth Day talk should always emphasize follow-up by the sponsors and also team members.
"What makes a good Ultreya?
How frequently do you have them?"
Bill Hightower, South Carolina: The firs thing that we did in trying to determine what makes a good Ultreya is to decide, "what is an Ultreya.?" And, believe it or not, there were a number of different ideas we came up with. If we had to do one thing, what would that be? Encourage others in their walk with love and acceptance. Those are the things that we believe the whole Via de Cristo movement is based upon. Encouragement in the walk and encouragement with love and acceptance.
The most important thing to do regarding Ultreya is to schedule them regularly. People then know where they're going to happen and can plan to be there. Planning, of course, is an important pre-requisite before any meeting of value takes place.
Some of the other things that were important were publicity and advertisement, so that we'll have good attendance at Ultreyas. Someone mentioned that we shouldn't just go and talk to those people whom we already know or haven't seen in a long time. We need to pick out those people who are new to the Ultreya, new to the movement, and new to us so that we can make them feel welcome.
Other things that ought to happen in a good Ultreya are prayer and worship. In South Carolina, we have Communion at each one of our Ultreyas. A lot of the other groups do, too.
We have speakers and we have witnessing at Ultreyas. We think this is terribly important. Another things - music. And, of course, when Lutherans get together, there's got to be food. Make sure that the location and facilities are good. There should be inclusiveness in all that we do at an Ultreya.
One of the things that I was introduced to is the Grand Ultreya. I think that's a very great idea. The frequency of Ultreya is ideally monthly. For a lot of us that's not possible - living long distances from each other.
As far as location is concerned, it has to be gaged by what your group has and what your group can do. We ended up with one thing.
When you have Ultreya, it needs to be planned for particular dates - e.g. this is going to be the second weekend after the latest weekend in South Carolina. We need to know when they're going to be so we can plan to attend.
A grand Ultreya is one where we get together not only as Via de Cristo, but
it is ecumenical, and we bring in all of the othermovements -- the Catholic, the
"What would you like to see your secretariat do to build community?
(What is it doing now that you like?)"
Rev. David Schrader, Vineyard: (1) Criteria for participation needs to include active participation in a reunion group. It has been said so many times: the reunion group is where the fruit is developed and grown. (2) The sponsor's responsibility is to follow up with the candidate and get them to be active in a reunion group. (3) Christian leadership training. You know there are many gifts of the Spirit. One is administration. I have come, through the years, to believe that my gift is administration. Administration in the church is not buying insurance and making sure that the holes in the roof get fixed when the sunshine is out. Administration is getting the people to become the body of Christ, all hooked up to the wagon and going in the same direction. That is the Gospel. It's interesting when you get into that, because the Gospel says a great deal about leadership. I realize people recoil about that, but if you would take leadership and administration as a topic and start going through Scriptures, you're going to find some delightful pictures of what it means to be a leader in the Christian community. I would like to invite secretariats to get off by themselves, to go on a retreat with their leadership for spiritual development and growth. (4) Reunion Group coordinator on the secretariat. If you don't have one you need to get one, so the names of the new people can be discussed by the secretariat. Which reunion group are they in? Who don't we know about - and find out about them. (5) New candidates are encouraged to work a weekend as soon as possible -- if not on the team, at least behind the scenes -- to get involved. Again, that old adage: "idle hands don't produce anything," but if you get them busy right away, they will usually graft into the community and strengthen it. (6) Training sessions for the new Cursillistas, to learn the history and what has been done down through the years. (7) Enthusiastic observers -- that is, those who work in the background prior to being a team member.
On the other side, what is it that we're doing now that we like? Having candidates attend reunion groups prior to making a weekend. Some people think that's getting the cart before the horse, but we have found, particularly with men, who don't want to go on weekends. If you can encourage them to get into a reunion group with you by the time a weekend comes around, you've got a ready-made pilgrim, ready to go on that weekend. Everybody thinks that will take some of the blush off the bloom. It's just the other way around, folks. For those hard nuts, they need to be brought along and developed and that's one way to do it. (2) Specialized training for each job on the team -- Living Water, Iowa, Minnesota, Sonbeam, Florida, Indian River do that. (3) Ultreyas more often. Indian River, Florida says that has helped. (4) Designate the time, the date, and location and a regular schedule of Ultreyas. -- Michigan, Minnesota, West Texas, Vineyard. Establish that date - e.g. third Friday.
Perhaps you're spread out like we were when we were part of Rainbow. We would have three or four locations so that it was always on a given night. If you knew where you were last month, you would know where you had to go next month. It was easy. If you keep changing that date around in the month, people get busy and they will forget. This way we found people saying, "I couldn't forget."
"What can we do on weekends so candidates know the importance of group reunion?"
Hilde Hildebrandt, Ohio: We started out saying that we should have more time on Sundays for the discussions after the rollos. Then we want to make sure that the team members are in reunion groups. There should be a set of questions for the rector and prospective team members before they are selected to make sure that they are in reunion groups. We found that one problems is that there are not enough in reunion groups. Politely, you want to say "No, you can't be on this team, but why don't you get into a reunion group and perhaps you can be on one in the future."
We feel that the first Ultreya after the weekend should be dedicated to getting the candidates into a group. Further, an agenda item at each Ultreya should make sure that everyone is in a reunion group.
Then we backed up a little bit and said that maybe we should focus on the sponsors. The requirement of the sponsors should be that they take the candidates to the Ultreyas for six months - they should make that commitment - that they make that commitment to get the candidate into the reunion groups and that the sponsor should sign the sheet of responsibilities. There should be sponsor orientation meetings telling the sponsors what they need to be doing.
We need to support the clergy and allow them to be a part reunion groups. Finally, we should have mock reunion groups to demonstrate how they should be conducted.
"How can secretariats encourage more clergy participation?
How do you show appreciation to your pastors?"
Norm Nilsen, Rainbow: We came up with a couple of suggestions. The first one is a three step process - identify the pastor you'd like to attend the weekend, hit him on the head, get him in your car, and then revive him when you get to camp.
Because clergy seem reluctant to go (I put it off three years), be persistent in your invitation. Be persistent in your prayers because it's going to be the task of the Holy Spirit to get him/her convinced to go.
Be supportive as much as possible. For instance, I have a young fella that just graduated from Columbia. He's in our area and wants to go. He can't go because they won't give him a Sunday off. He agreed to it when he took the call. What I'm hoping we can do is possibly make the suggestion that lay leadership take that Sunday, or a retired pastor might come in and substitute. At this particular point, since they've been so long without a pastor - that's why they're reluctant to have him away.
He came in contact with Via de Cristo in South Carolina, which is apparently a very active movement right now. When he found out I knew about Via de Cristo, we touched base. I've been working with him trying to get him lined up to go.
Unfortunately, the congregation is reluctant, but that's an oddball thing because usually I find it's the other way around. After you come back, you have a cadre of servants - serve! Find out what he/she needs doing. Do it!
Offer to do it. For instance, Sandy was mentioning that some of the men who came back sponsored a prayer breakfast for the entire congregation. They did not limit it to just those who had made a weekend. The curiosity as to what the leadership was doing at that prayer breakfast, plus the talks and the topics, developed an even greater curiosity among the other men of the congregation. That can also apply to pastors. We just don't have enough pastors in our area who have been a part of Rainbow/been a part of Via de Cristo. I do try to rouse curiosity -- an odd curiosity that they have as far as my own participation is concerned.
It's a tough nut to crack because pastors generally are control freaks. This is one of those areas where you have to give up the control. Turn it over to your brother.
Largely, be persistent in your prayers for the pastors - both before and after the weekends. Before the weekend so that they will go, and after the weekend so that all that gels. The ministry that you all have become is one -- as a part of the same cloth.
"Does your secretariat rotate jobs sufficiently?
How long can one serve?
Do you permit rector(a)s to repeat?"
Diane Voskuil, Wisconsin: Everyone agreed that there's always room for improvement. Two things came out of that, too. The people that we have in the job - we decided that they really needed to understand the job when they took it, or they were asked to take a job. They needed to be experienced in grouping and on team. They needed to be people of commitment, and they need to hold to the teachings and to the basics with which we started.
2nd question: Two terms - for those elected (either of two or three years that they can be re-elected). There were a lot that had appointed positions, and we talked about that. They said that often times staying too long can be a hazard - that power and control can get out of hand and be dangerous for a movement. Even though we know that continuity, having the history of what it takes, and holding to those basics all are important. It's really hard to find the right balance. How long is too long and how long is too short? Sometimes too short can cause confusion and you lose the basics, too. As long as someone is enabling others and still serving -- well, that's positive. If it gets on the other side, that's a negative.
We all agreed that group reunion brings about the strength needed to be a well-balanced leader.
(Question 3) All of us on our group said "no."
"Does your secretariat have a mission statement?
Is it shared with the community?
Return with your version of a draft of a mission statement for a secretariat?"
Wayne Ford, Eastern North Carolina: (Question 1) No, I don't know.
(Question 2) No
(Question 3) We had a very serious discussion. We first went to the green card and to the prayer: "Come, Holy Spirit". "Fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love." Sounds like a pretty good mission statement, we figured. Pastor Schrader talked about a wagon. Well, we talked about a wheel.
We put Jesus at the center of the wheel. There we are right there with Jesus because it's through us that he reaches out into the community. The mission statement is to be the hub of the wheel. That holds the spokes together. The spokes include reunion group, reunion group, reunion group, secretariat, Ultreyas, pastoral support, three day weekend. Yes, it includes the three day weekend, but it is not at the hub. Jesus is at the hub. The three day weekend is part of it all. We then came up with this mission statement, using that concept:
Because of salvation, through Jesus Christ, and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we pray, learn, and serve in order to build a desire in people to do the will of God and by sharing the grace and love of God with others, we strive to meet their emotional and physical needs.
Notice, it does not say "to get them to attend a weekend." Thank you.
"Do you have a good database?
Who manages it?
Is it used with regard to who is in group reunion?
Luther Piel, Good News: We talked about a database. I think everybody has one. The only thing we can say is, "make sure you got back-up." If somebody in the community -- particularly this community -- has the capability to develop software, I think that the National Secretariat would really appreciate having something that we could pass out to all of the secretariats as good computer software.
Who manages it? Somebody that has computer savvy. I think that should be only one person. Don't saddle that person with newsletter and team selection, and a whole bunch of other things, because it's a full time job just taking care of that. One of our movements has 1600 people. If they try to have a database that includes all of the reunion groups, it would take thirty pages times 1600 reproductions. That's not logical. Somebody suggested, at least we should have in our database the location of the reunion group. That would give sufficient reference to build on.
One other thing, we heard a lot about sponsors here. We talked a little bit about the professor's responsibility. You know, the professor is closest to those candidates on the weekend, and there is no reason why the professor can't call a couple of times - maybe the first week, and two or three weeks later to assure that there is a reunion group, or to assist the placement into reunion groups. So, let's give the professors a little responsibility along that line, too.
We didn't get down to team selection. We ran out of time.
"Is there enough prayer in your VDC Community?
How could it be strengthened?"
Carol Olson, Minnesota: After I completed my weekend, my brother and his wife sponsored me in Florida, I had been so moved because we were so "prayed up" that weekend. I was bound and determined I was going to come home and start Cursillo in Minnesota. By the grace of God and the power of prayer, we received a Gold Coast newsletter that week between Palm Sunday and Easter. On that Gold Coast newsletter was a telephone number to call Mary Beth Zimmerman, whom I never met until yesterday. I have to thank you publicly because I called Mary Beth and I said, "Hi, I'm Carol, and I'm a single person. I got to go back to Minnesota and start Cursillo. Where should I start?"
Mary Beth said, "Why don't you call this lovely lady in Fort Lauderdale?"
So I called this lovely lady in Fort Lauderdale, and she said, "If you think Gold Coast is something, it's nothing compared to the Cursillo they've got in Minnesota."
I looked at this phone and said, "This old lady must be screwy," because I didn't think there was any Cursillo in Minnesota. By the grace of God when I got home, I did call the Potter's and I found out that there's lots of Lutheran, lots of United, lots of Episcopal, but I had only been worshiping at the wrong churches.
(Question 1) We just spent an awful lot of time discussing this and nothing ever starts until it's been prayed up. That's where prayer is. I didn't hear a whole lot about prayer, as I have been listening to all this peanut gallery stuff this morning. But it's real interesting as I sat and was processing all of this, one group (and I don't remember what color peanut group it is), when you talk about spiritual directors, we know they need lots of prayer and that's the only people thus far that have mentioned the power prayer.
Anyhow, we kept it short. Nobody said, "you write this down" and they said, "Carol, you get up and gab." I could fill an hour, but I'm just going to read the notes because...
Is there enough prayer in your Via de Cristo community? There's never enough. However, prayer is the beginning and the end, and we just pray all the time. Prayer is the essence of everything.
And our final question: How could it be stronger? If you communicate, we educate and we make a commitment, Cursillo is the answer for renewal in our day to day. Thanks.
"How can NLS help your community or other VDC Communities?
Should all Secretariat know someone to contact at each
Pat Dever, Texas Lutheran: First of all, we identified that there are three stages of secretariat life, so to speak. One is the new secretariat, just getting started. The other is stable, growing and strong, with lots to share. Growing and perhaps struggling in certain areas. The third is, unfortunately the declining secretariat who may be struggling, or in various stages of decline.
How can NLS help? Through several ways, one (and we felt strongest about this) is consultative services, where the NLS is made aware of the problem in a certain secretariat or perhaps an issue that they're struggling with. The NLS could actually dispatch someone to work with that secretariat one-on-one, whether that be a member of the Executive Board or someone they're aware of who has strengths in a particular area. Also, networking of resources -- where they're aware of strengths of various secretariats that could be of assistance to other secretariats.
Diagnostic services. That's similar to the consultative services, but actually where someone may have the expertise to be a listening post and actually go into a secretariat, listen to the issues, and try to bring resolution to those issues.
Sharing what works. Another way of networking. Sharing the resources is to identify secretariats who have been particularly successful in certain areas, and ask them to be able to network with other secretariats who have needs in those areas.
Also, we thought it might be helpful if - perhaps through the Conexiones - or maybe it's the subject of a workshop for future NLS meetings would be "what are the norms of secretariat development?"
Some folks may be sitting there isolated in whatver they are thinking. Gosh, is this normal - what we're going through right now? The fact that we're struggling with these various issues or our membership has plateaued, or we're having trouble recruiting for team.
Is this something we really have to worry about? Have others been there? What can we do about that? And so what is normal, and how have other secretariats addressed those issues?
The third was continuing to dialogue with the ELCA churchwide offices to have Via de Cristo recognized and endorsed as a tool of the church for renewal. That would go a long way to help local secretariats be able to recruit spiritual directors.
(Question 2) Yes, with a request that of the address of the lay director of
each secretariat be published in the Conexiones with the encouragement that we
feel free to call one another for help.