Category: Leadership

Do you hate parish meetings?

How are the meetings in your parish? Do they last too long, wander off the agenda, and leave you feeling frustrated and drained? If so, be sure to check out some helpful advice from Deborah McCann. She asks about parish meetings:

How can we make these necessary activities energetic, productive, and, yes, faith-filled?

Take a look at the five, spot-on suggestions she offers in “Get more out of parish meetings!

Who is participating in your parish?

I was having a conversation with a pastoral associate the other day. She was telling me about several of the parish’s small groups and committees. I mentioned that it sounded like she had a very active parish. “Well,” she said, “it’s really just the same 100-200 people that show up for everything.”

Widening out beyond the usual suspects is one of the great challenges of parish ministry. We like things the way they are, and breaking out of comfortable patterns is not usually in our DNA. Fr. Robert Howes shares some of his secrets in “Three rules for increasing participation.” Take a look, and see if you can find some inspiration for growing the number of truly active members in your parish.

A season of welcome

During this time of year, we will see a lot of visitors to our parishes. Unfortunately, in some places, the visitors go unnoticed. I sometimes compare this to the experience of a car dealership. Automobile companies spend millions of dollars to generate the kind of walk-on traffic into their showrooms that Catholic parishes get for free. Imagine the uproar from the corporate office if they found out that a dealership was ignoring people who walked into the showroom on the weekend.

Every stranger who walks into our churches is a potential catechumen, candidate, parishioner, parish council member, or even pastor. What are we doing to welcome them?

Msgr. Vincent Rush has some excellent ideas. He and his parishioners work hard at being a welcoming, inviting community. One suggestion in particular caught my eye:

Take a walk through your parish system, physically and imaginatively: What do people have to do to register? How much of that is for the convenience of the office staff instead of for the benefit of the new member? How useful is the bulletin (really)? What information or help do people most frequently look for, and how easy is it for them to find it?

You can read the rest of his suggestions here.

And if you already have systems in place to welcome newcomers, please share your tips in the comments section.

The three-fold ministry of the deacon

In the November/December issue of Today’s Parish, William Ditewig identifies the three-fold ministry of the deacon: word, sacrament, and charity. Ditewig emphasizes that a deacon is ordained for all of these ministries and that they cannot be separated. If someone is not prepared to take on each of these roles, he is not a qualified candidate for the deaconate.

Different candidates will have different gifts, of course. Ditewig writes,  “We need to be open to the particular gifts and skills of the deacon involved. And we need to discern how all three aspects of the deacon’s ministry relate to each other in matching these needs and gifts—and what all of this says about who we are as disciples of Christ in this place and time.”

See the entire article here.

10 leadership practices for youth ministers

Mbali Ntuli, DA Federal Youth Chairperson by The Democratic Alliance [Flickr]Youth ministry is an area where we find a lot of great leadership practices. I asked John Rinaldo, director of youth and young adult ministry for the diocese of San José, California, to share his top ten. John also hosts a blog, Mpower28, where you can read more of his thoughts on leadership.

            1. You are the keeper of the youth ministry vision. Own it, articulate it, spread it, share it, let the world know what the vision is.
            2. Youth ministry is not an island, so play well with other pastoral staff members.
            3. Minister to the youth ministry team and allow the team to minister to the teens.
            4. You are the face of the church to many people. Make sure your Facebook page reflects that.
  1. Connect with other youth ministry coordinators and diocesan youth ministry staff. The support you receive from them will go a long way through those tough seasons in ministry.
  2. Create a long-term plan for youth ministry. Three to five years is a good place to start.
  3. Read 30 minutes a day from a book that will help you personally or professionally grow.
  4. Pray everyday. Get a spiritual director. Read the Bible.
  5. Don’t water down the faith. Young people want authenticity in the message you share. They are up for the challenge.
  6. Let go! The world of youth ministry at your parish does not solely depend on you. So free yourself from that pressure.

What are some additional ways youth ministers can practice leadership? Share your thoughts, because your insights are valuable.

10 leadership practices for lectors

Me and the Cool Lectionary by maveric2003 [Flickr]How can lectors be leaders in their parishes? Here are 10 suggestions:

            1. Every Advent, become an expert on the gospel for the liturgical year. Read the gospel. Take a workshop. Read a commentary. Start a study group.
            2. Every time you are scheduled to read, learn or relearn about the book or letter you are reading from. You can find introductions for each book of the Bible on the United States Bishops’ website.
            3. Affirm other lectors every Sunday.
            4. Challenge yourself to excellence. Choose two skills to improve every year. Work on projection first—even if you think you have that skill mastered.
            5. Never proclaim a reading you haven’t rehearsed (unless you need to fill in unexpectedly).
  1. Arrive early.
  2. Dress up as a sign of respect and honor for the people you will be serving.
  3. Ask for feedback. Act on what you hear.
  4. Don’t assume anything. Check the microphone. Check the batteries. Check that the ribbon is in the right place. Check that the intercessions are in place. Even if these things are not your job.
  5. Be believable. Believe what you proclaim. Live what you proclaim.

Can you think of more? What are some additional ways lectors can practice leadership? Share your thoughts, because your insights are valuable.

What classical music teaches us about parish leadership

This video of Benjamin Zander, from a 2008 TED Talk, has two effective take-away points for parish leaders. Zander is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic and the coauthor of The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life.

Liturgical flow

In this video, Zander demonstrates how Chopin’s Prelude in E Minor is a piece that begins at “away” and travels a journey that ends at “home.”  This can be a good lesson in liturgical flow. The liturgy begins with the gathering and ends with the dismissal. How do we play the notes inbetween in such a way that we move from “away” to “home”?

Servant leadership

The second point to pay attention to is Zander’s description of leadership (toward the end of the video). When he was 45, after he had been a conductor for 20 years, he realized his job was “to awaken possibility in other people.” He says he knows he is succeeding at this if the eyes of the players in his orchestra are shining. When the orchestra is not performing well, he asks himself, “Who am I being, that my players’ eyes are not shining?” And we can ask ourselves, as we leave the liturgy, “Who are we being, as we go into the world?”

The video is 20 minutes long. After you watch it, please share your comments, because I’d love to know what you think.

Who should you hire next for parish leadership?

videographer Becca by Melissa & David [Picasa]When you do your long-term planning, what staff or key-volunteer positions do you need to develop for the ongoing vitality of your parish? The job bank on the National Association of Lay Ministry website indicates that parishes are looking for liturgical musicians, youth and young adult ministers, stewardship/development directors, and catechetical directors.

The Center for Church Communication Job Board, a non-profit with Evangelical Protestant roots, lists openings that include media director, web designer, graphic designer, and videographer.

Is there a trend indicated here that Catholic parishes should pay more attention to? What would be the advantages and disadvantages of employing, say, a parish videographer instead of (or in addition to) a young adult minister in the next round of hiring?

10 leadership practices for pastors

priest1When we think of parish leaders, we naturally think of the pastor. I asked Msgr. Vin Rush, pastor of Our Lady of Grace Roman Catholic Church in West Babylon, New York, to share his top ten leadership practices. It is a pretty compelling list!

            1. Be a servant-leader; focus on the growth in holiness and discipleship of the parish and its members, not on yourself.
            2. Remember that people’s trust in you is irreplaceable (and unrecoverable if you lose it); be forthright and transparent in your ministry.
  1. Keep the big picture and your primary goals in mind, and set your schedule and commitments accordingly.
  2. Make your preaching a priority; it’s a key way you lead and serve.
  3. Expect conflict, and learn to manage it toward good outcomes.
  4. Make your staff and key volunteers central to your own ministry: Affirm them and coach them (which includes giving regular feedback on their performance).
  5. Listen to people, ask for advice; but be aware whether people are trying to help or are grinding their own axes.
  6. Have clear rules about confidentiality of personal information, and also about transparency of parish processes and finances.
  7. Gather a group of trusted advisors and rely on them. Get the best people (in terms of wisdom, credibility, and competence) for your pastoral and finance Councils.
  8. Have a life and regular commitments outside your work. Don’t think that you’re irreplaceable or indispensible.

Can you think of more? What are some additional ways pastors can practice leadership? Share your thoughts, because your insights are valuable.

For more posts in the leadership series, click here.

10 leadership practices for child acolytes

Knowledge is great with virtue... by fradaveccs [Flickr]Can children be leaders in the parish community? They can certainly begin to exhibit leadership practices. One of the most responsible positions parishes entrust children with is that of “acolyte.” If we are going to ask them to fill this leadership role in the community, we should ask them to excel at it. Here are some potential leadership practices they can step up to.

            1. On Sunday, always act more than your age. Be an example to the entire worshiping assembly.
            2. Open the hymn book or worship aid and sing.
            3. Distractions happen. But try to keep them to a minimum. Pay attention, even when it is hard.
            4. Read the Sunday readings on the day before you serve. That will help you pay attention better.
  1. Pay attention to how you sit and stand. Don’t slouch. Fold your hands.
  2. Every time you serve, find one way to help a younger server improve.
  3. If you are a younger server, learn one new thing every time you serve. Ask an older server or the priest to show you how.
  4. Dress up for your ministry. Lay out your clothes the night before so you won’t be late in the morning.
  5. Don’t be a wallflower in the sacristy. Introduce yourself and shake hands with any adults you don’t know.
  6. Keep an eye out for other kids in the parish who would be good acolytes and encourage them to serve.

Can you think of more? What are some additional ways child acolytes can practice leadership? Share your thoughts, because your insights are valuable.

For more posts in the leadership series, click here.

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