The NICC-project

Paul Wennekes

Networking Intentional Christian Communities

The NICC-project

Paul Wennekes

Networking Intentional Christian Communities

The goal of the project is the furthering and support of vital church communities through the establishment of a strengthened network of future-oriented, viable intentional Christian communities in the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches in Germany, the Netherlands and Flanders. The term ‘Intentional Christian community’ (ICC) stands for all forms of organised religious community life and includes, but is not limited to the traditional forms of communities of consecrated life (i.e. orders and congregations). The project will be implemented between July 2020 and July 2023.


Considering the most likely development of the major churches in the coming 25 to 30 years, it is expected that the numbers of Roman Catholic and Protestant parishes and local communities of faith will decline drastically. It is also expected that the number of active orders and congregations and their membership in the three project countries will decline in an equal way, radically posing the question of the future shape of a major part of organised religious life. At the same time an increased interest in (new forms of) religious community life can be noticed and a series of new initiatives in the field of intentional Christian communities has developed, appealing in various ways to the established communities of consecrated life. Strikingly, there seems to be little exchange or cooperation between ICCs.


This project is based on the results of the project “Future faith communities – assessing the potential of monastic pastoral care” of the years 2018-2019. At the core of this project was a mapping which resulted in interviews with around 120 intentional Christian communities in Flanders, Germany and the Netherlands, producing a kaleidoscope of impressions and information. The most important points of concern in these interviews were the wish for a much stronger exchange of information and best practices and the wish for increased networking. Next to that requests were made concerning specific coaching and training, especially in the fields of communication, long-term-policy development and the management of the spiritual heritage. These elements are at the core of the present project.

The situation of most intentional Christian communities in the region is such that the need for drastic and concrete steps in the (further) preparation for living and working in a radically different situation of both society and Church, is keenly felt. The proposed intensified and improved cooperation and exchange are a necessary step in this process. To be able to perform their mission, the visibility of the ICCs, their communication policies, must improve drastically. The need for further qualification in the fields of long-term-policy development, ecumenical cooperation, cooperation with affiliated members was clearly expressed. The concept of ‘spiritual family’ is introduced in the project to provide a broader perspective on the planning of the future, beyond the individual institutions.

Target population

The first target population consists of the Roman Catholic communities of consecrated life (orders and congregations) in the Netherlands, Flanders and Germany as these prepare for a future in which both the number of organisations and the membership numbers will have declined drastically.

The second target group consists of the other intentional Christian communities in both the Roman Catholic and the Protestant churches in the three countries of the project, many of these relatively new foundations. All these future religious communities will face the challenge of working in strongly secularised societies which will require a fundamental (re)consideration of their charism, their mission and their concept of self-positioning in the social space, which in turn will determine concepts of organisation, working methods, training programs for new members, financial concepts, etc.

A more indirect target group is made up of faithful or religious seekers who are likely to respond positively to the offer of spiritual-pastoral care as practised by the large variety of intentional Christian communities.

Committed organisations

Based on the results of the project Monastic Pastoral Care (2018-2019), it is believed that the set  goal can be best reached through four major interventions, facilitated by the Kerkelijke Instelling Redemptoristen in Nederland (KIRIN), in exchange with a series of eight religious or academic  organisations in the three project countries. These organisations are:

  • Zentrum Ignatianische Pädagogik (ZIP), Ludwigshafen
  • IUNCTUS, Kompetenzzentrum für christliche Spiritualität der Philosophisch-Theologische Hochschule Münster
  • University of Erlangen/Nürnberg, Lehrstuhl für neuere Kirchengeschichte II
  • Clemenspoort, Gent
  • Foundation YOT, Brugge
  • Erfgoedcentrum Nederlands Kloosterleven, Sint Agatha
  • KASKI (Katholiek Sociaal Kerkelijk Instituut), Radboud University, Nijmegen

The social communication program will be developed and implemented in cooperation with Mr. Herbert van Hoogdalem of the organisation “Professional Outsiders”.

The NICC project is supervised by an advisory group consisting of:

  • Pierre Humblet, staff member Conference of Dutch Religious / staff member of the Titus Brandsma Institute, Nijmegen
  • Rosaliene Israël, scriba of the Protestant Church Amsterdam
  • Sister Mieke Kerckhof, Superior General of the Sisters of Mercy of Jesus, Bruges
  • Peter Unterberg, Düsseldorf


The following four (groups of) grant activities are planned:

1. Establishment and strengthening of efficient networks of intentional Christian communities; the support of cooperation and exchange of best practises between ICCs.

  • Raising the awareness on the necessity of increased networking within intentional Christian communities, facilitating exchange of best practices.
  • Facilitating the exchange and cooperation between intentional Christian communities on thematic topics. Clusters aimed at include ICCs working in spiritual-pastoral care, in social justice, in formation and retreat, in youth work, in ecological awareness.
  • Establishing networks of lay people affiliated to orders and congregations. As a large number of orders and congregations is in the process of ‘responsible completion’, the lay people affiliated to such orders and congregations have to reconsider their positions. At the same time, some orders and congregations welcome growing numbers of lay-affiliated members.

2. The development and implementation of a program of social (self) communication in a secular environment.

  • Development and implementation of a training program in the field of social communication, identity-communication, Public Relations, self-positioning in the social space.
  • Establishing a web platform at the service of improved networking and cooperation. This platform will also contain the results of the project Monastic Pastoral Care, which will be developed into a ‘living archive’ of information on ICCs.

3. The facilitation of ICCs in the development of long-term-policies, including a pilot project to test the concept of ‘spiritual family as a tool’ for effective future-planning.

  • Developing and implementing a training program on long-term-policy-development. To be developed and implemented in exchange with KASKI, Nijmegen.
  • The concept of ‘spiritual family as a tool’ stands for a change in perspective in working on the future of ICCs: instead of looking at the future of individual ICCs, the perspective focusses on the future of specific spiritual traditions (families) as a whole in one given territory (country).

4. The raising of the awareness that the care for spirituality/spiritual heritage is a shared responsibility of existing communities of consecrated life and newly developed ICCs together.

  • Raising the awareness of a shared responsibility regarding spiritual heritage; facilitating exchange and cooperation. There is little exchange on the spiritual heritage between established orders and congregations and (new) ICCs at large, which often, in their search for a spiritual identity, seem to neglect the presence of centres of lived spirituality. To be developed and implemented in exchange with the Erfgoedcentrum Kloosterleven, Sint Agatha.

For more information, please contact Paul Wennekes: