Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Book Review: The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic


This Easter our parish handed out free copies of Matthew Kelly's new book, The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic. Apparently at Christmas (we were in Indiana with my family) they handed out one of Kelly's other books, Rediscovering Catholicism, which I read a few years ago. I'm sure several of you that are Catholic have received similar free books at your own parishes over the past few years and, interestingly enough, this new book explains why that is.

Nonfiction, Christian (Catholic), Self Improvement

The Premise
The opening pages of the book recount a scenario in which a priest claimed that, " doesn't matter where you go, you will discover the same fifty people do everything in a parish." This comment peaked the author's attention and began his interest in compiling real data about parishioners and the percentages that were "engaged" in their church versus those that weren't. The Pareto Principle - also known as the 80/20 principle - states that roughly 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. So what does this mean for Catholics? Does this mean that the same 20% of parishioners tend to do 80% of the work?

The book quickly reveals shocking data that informs us of three significant things:

  • 6.4% of registered parishioners contribute 80% of the volunteer hours in a parish
  • 6.8% of registered parishioners donate 80% of financial contributions
  • There is an 84% overlap between the two groups

Wow! This essentially means that roughly 7% of parishioners are highly engaged and contributing the vast majority of "time, talent, and treasure" within any given church in the United States. Only 7%. Nowhere near 20%. Matthew Kelly refers to this 7% as "Dynamic Catholics." While the other 93% may be good people that help out in certain areas, there is no arguing that the 7% are doing something the 93% are not.

The book goes on to share the 4 key things that he discovered each of these Dynamic Catholics has in common with one another...things that the other 93% tend to struggle more with. The "four signs" the research uncovered are as follows:

Prayer, Study, Generosity, Evangelization

My Thoughts/Reactions
I was intrigued by the entire premise of this book. Its ultimate goal seemed to be delving into the "four signs," explaining them in detail, giving real examples, and providing practical suggestions for better incorporating each sign into our own lives - no matter where we're at in our faith journey. The book does a great job of emphasizing that the "Dynamic Catholics" are not perfect and we all have room for improvement in these four areas. In fact, most of the people in the 7% revealed in their interviews and data that they didn't always necessarily think they do a great job with each of the 4 signs. In other words, the book is geared towards helping the 7% and the 93% alike become holier, more faithful, and more dynamic Catholics. 

I think I also appreciated this book because the "four signs" are practically the same as the four pillars of Dominican spirituality. Before getting married I completed a year of volunteer service through the Dominican Order and I absolutely think my personal charism is very much in line with their 4 pillars of prayer, study, community, and service/mission. As a Dominican volunteer I reflected and worked on each of the 4 Dominican pillars constantly, but the book helped me become more self-aware of how well I'm currently doing with each of the "four signs" and gave me some new ideas for diving deeper into each one.

Overall I found it to be a very interesting read and thus felt compelled to share it with you all. I would also add that while I own three other Matthew Kelly books, this is the first that completely held my attention from start to finish. The book constantly cites findings from research and how it relates directly to every day life - which, in my opinion, gives it something more.

When I told a friend about this book he asked me if I thought anyone who wasn't already a "Dynamic Catholic" would actually take the initiative to read this book (suggesting that people already in the 7% may be the only ones to read it)...which is a valid question that left me wondering what the answer is. Personally I think the book is great for any Catholic to read, but especially for the 93%. If we can encourage our friends and family - regardless of whether we think they are already passionately engaged in their Catholic faith or not - to read this book and give it a shot, I fully believe its contents could help transform the Catholics in our nation. Surely it can help the 7% improve and possibly even cause the 93% to shrink as more and more people become like the current 7%. So please, please check it out and/or recommend it to someone you think could benefit from it! 

You can get a free copy of this book for yourself (you simply have to pay shipping and handling) by visiting The Dynamic Catholic Institute's website...or you can order 6 copies for only $18. 

Let's work towards engaging even 1% more Catholics in the U.S. and literally change the world. :)

"The life of the Church and her teachings are an extension of the Gospel in that they too try to lead us toward the best way to live. ...Often people think that the Church says you have to do this or you cannot do that. In fact, the Church does no such thing. The Church simply stands in every place and time pointing out the path toward the best way to live. Each of us gets to decide if we are going to walk that path or not. And this is where we get to the heart of the matter. It is here that a new question arises: Do you believe that Jesus offers us the best way to live?"
-Matthew Kelly, The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic (pg. 158)


  1. so MK lives in Cinci (he attends the OP parish i go to frequently!) and his company is located here as well. some of my good friends here work for him so they talked a lot about this book before it came out. i've never been a MK fan or found him as amazing as everyone else seems to think, but this book is BRILLIANT. i think because a lot of it is very business and research oriented which is what i spend most of my days doing so that aspect/presentation of the book drew me in. i got my copy in cinci but while i was home this weekend my home parish had extra copies so i grabbed some to mail to friends!

    1. Agreed! It's the first one I absolutely thought was brilliant. Good job passing it on - way to evangelize, chica!

  2. When we went to the Easter Vigil at OLGC they handed out the mass journal from dynamic Catholic, I'm just loving taking it to Mass!
    I'm definitely looking forward to reading this book!

    1. Do you normally attend OLGC? Isn't that the parish where Fr. John Riccardo is?? Michael and I actually met a married couple back in December who go there. They were very nice and they're expecting a baby very soon. If you all go there you could be friends! :)

  3. I'll have to check this out. I just recently registered FOR THE FIRST TIME (I am young, I have moved a ton, ya know?!) at my parish, and I def want to increase that 7% and help my church out. Thank you for the book suggestion and encouragement to get involved! :)

  4. This was actually a free Kindle selection during Lent. I haven't checked to see if it is still a freebie but, I have to agree that it has been the easiest of my Matthew Kelly books to read!