Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Current Religious Vocations Trends in USA

The National Religious Vocations Conference (NRVC) in the United States has in the past few days released a major survey/report entitled Recent Vocations to Religious Life.

It contains the results of a professionally conducted survey of almost 600 religious institutes in the United States and a survey of 1,568 religious who have entered in the past 15 years including those who are still at various stages of formation. It also contains the findings of focus group research conducted among religious institutes which have been successful at attracting and retaining new members.

The results of such a survey will obviously have resonances for us on this side of the pond. For vocations directors and those charged with attracting new membership to orders and congregations, the following quotes from the report should prove helpful. All the quotes are from the report under the section entitled: Best Practices in Vocation Ministry.

The research also suggests, however, that good intentions, sophisticated marketing
campaigns, and the investment of resources into vocation promotion alone will not attract new
members. It is the example of members and the community life, prayer life, and/or ministries of
the institute that most attract new members."

"Many of the successful institutes are characterized by a “culture of vocations” within the
institute. In these institutes everyone – not just the vocation director – has a sense of
responsibility for vocation promotion and is involved in and supportive of vocation efforts."

"Findings from the survey of religious institutes reveal that there is a positive correlation
between having a vocation director, especially one who is full-time, and having candidates and
new members in initial formation."

"Although the relationship is not as strong, having a vocation team is also positively
correlated with having new members."
" p.118

"Several new members mentioned vocation directors who they experienced as pandering
to them or giving them a sales pitch. Examples included promises of opportunities to travel and
assurances that they could do anything they wanted in terms of ministry. These new members
suggested that this was the wrong mindset and the wrong approach for those with authentic

"Both vocation directors and new members emphasized the importance of honesty and authenticity in presenting the institute and suggested that websites
and other promotional materials will be for naught if they do not match the reality in the institute."

"In particular, those [institutes] that sponsor discernment retreats are significantly more likely than those who do not sponsor
these retreats to have new members in initial formation and to be more successful in retaining
new members. It is important to note again that many young people today have little or no direct
contact with men and women religious. Discernment retreats and “Come and See” experiences
may be the first prolonged exposure to men or women religious for some of these potential
p. 120

"Results from the survey of religious institutes indicate that institutes that sponsor
vocation promotion and discernment programs directed toward college students and young adults
are more likely to have new members than those who do not sponsor programs for these groups.
Although the relationship is not as strong statistically, targeting high school students also appears
to have an impact on attracting and retaining new members."

"Findings from the survey of new members show that 40 percent of the men and almost 50
percent of the women first considered a vocation to religious life before they were 18 years of
age. More than a quarter of the women considered it before they were 14. These findings
suggest that vocation directors might want to consider targeting some of their vocation efforts at
those in elementary and high school. Anecdotal evidence from vocation directors also suggests a
possible trend toward considering religious life at a younger age than was the case even a few
years ago."

For further information on the survey/report and to download the findings please visit http://www.nrvc.net/

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