The four major conclusions of the assessment and evaluation are:
3.1: There is a large need for the establishment or strengthening of efficient networks of intentional Christian communities and for the support of cooperation and exchange of best practices among ICCs.
In the talks it became very apparent that there is amazingly little knowledge among ICCs about the plans, activities and initiatives of other ICCs. This goes for the organisations within one denomination in one particular country, even more for the knowledge about ICCs in other denominations. Contacts across the border were even more scarce; information was much less available or shared as was expected, key persons had little knowledge of each other or had never had the opportunity to establish contacts.
As to the Protestant ICCs the impression is that the majority is working rather independently and that umbrella organisations were only recently developed. Interestingly, these (umbrella) organisations seem to have few contacts with Roman-Catholic (umbrella) organisations.
In the course of the talks, a limited number of contacts was made with secular intentional communities on topics like justice and peace, ecology, social justice. These organisations were all on the one hand somewhat surprised to be approached, on the other hand most welcoming and interested in the developments among ICCs; a considerable potential lies in further contacts with secular intentional communities.
3.2: There is large need for the development and implementation of a program of social communication in a secular environment.
In the contacts it became very clear that most ICCs are struggling with the phenomena of secularisation. As the churches in general, ICCs also notice more and more that the knowledge about the contents of religion, about the meaning of religious language and symbols is declining ever more rapidly and no basic knowledge of Christianity can be assumed with the larger part of the public. At the same time a modest but undeniably growing interest in religious life, Christian spirituality, pilgrimage can be noticed. Many Intentional Christian Communities struggle severely to find adequate answers to the growing demands, struggle to deal with the challenges of secularisation. Sometimes the need for good, appealing communication is not seen, or is seen but cannot be realised without outside help. Professional, up-to-date (self) communication is an absolute need for all ICCs in whatever stage of development or completion.
3.3: There is a large need of assisting ICCs in the development of long-term policies.
Among many orders and congregations there is a strong tendency to plan ahead for no more than one or two years, perhaps three years at a maximum. Partly this is caused by the fact that many such orders and congregations are in the process of completion, where there seems to be no need for long-term policy-planning. Partly this is because board members are so involved in every day management that there hardly is time or mental space left for longer term planning. Responsible completion is a necessity in many of the orders and congregations; however, a two-track policy of completion next to openness to a possible contribution to a new or adapted mission, is in many cases possible and desirable. In such cases, long-term policy-planning becomes an (urgent) necessity.
On the other hand, many of the newly established ICCs are still in the phase of development and searching for their identity and missions. Because of this, these organisations are also reluctant in planning ahead for a longer period of time. In order to reach any critical impact in the future, ICCs cannot afford to refrain from long-term policy planning but have to include this in their general policies.
The introduction of the concept of ‘spiritual family’ may be of help in this respect. A spiritual family is seen as the whole group of orders, congregations, lay associations, research institutions, etc. within one large spiritual tradition (fi. Franciscan, Dominican, Ignatian). Long term planning is an necessikty of the whole of such a specific spiritual family and not only of individual institutions.
3.4: The need to raise the awareness on a shared responsibility regarding the spiritual heritage among established and new ICCs.
Many of the newly established ICCs are explicitly linking themselves to one of the established spiritual traditions or are developing an identity by using elements of these traditions. Amazingly enough this seems to happen without involving the (still) present communities which live according to these traditions. As a result, many of these new ICCs fend for themselves and to a certain extent, have to reinvent the wheel.
There is also a modest but clearly growing interest within the broader public in the Christian spiritual traditions and those of orders and congregations in particular. Many of the established ICCs know a reluctance to communicate with the outside world on their spirituality/spiritual heritage. ICCs, including such institutions in the process of completion, are called upon to share from their spiritual ‘treasure trove’ and to respond to the questions and requests from outside of their organisations.
These four main conclusions from the project Monastic Pastoral Care were translated into the four major activities of the follow-up project ‘Networking Intentional Christian Communities’.