Sharing Church management best practices in the Catholic Church
Despite feeling inadequate in administration, Paul Feela
...discovered that keeping the gospel’s call to communion before me and before the parish is the most indispensable thing I do.
I believe that this one function focuses all the other skills. Seminary training is meant to acquaint leaders with the kind and quality of communal life that marks a disciple of Jesus Christ. The role of the pastoral leader, however, is not just to be a disciple; it is to call parishioners to gospel discipleship. A communion of disciples is the core of parish life, but the notion of communion envisioned by the gospel is radically different from other types of associations. Discipleship to Christ comes as a consequence of being gathered by God.
He goes on to highlight three leadership practices that help keep parish life focused on this one thing:
Center on worship and preaching. Pastors expend a good deal of energy responding to individual needs rather than nurturing the kind of community envisioned by the gospel. Sunday worship offers the surest opportunity for the congregation to be informed and formed by the pattern of Christ. Worship and preaching are fundamental to a parishioner’s awareness of discipleship over time.
The connections pastors make between God’s word and parish worship patterns should focus on what Richard Rohr has called nondualistic thinking and resist the tendency to reduce choices to either-or and us-versus-them. Instead, we need to proclaim the gospel challenge to seek unity across our differences, to seek the common good and to embrace a way of being in relationship that can be described as no less than extraordinary.
Reshape parish structures. In parish life and activities, many unexamined assumptions about community dynamics may, in fact, be antithetical to the gospel’s unique vision of communion.
Are we attentive to the patterns of community that lie below the surface in our parish structures? For instance, are special interests or insurance concerns or business models driving parish initiatives? Are facilities used to reinforce exclusive, parochial patterns or to bring people together in new ways? Is the prayer with which we begin our meetings mere decoration or the lens through which we focus all our parish efforts? Are the monies and energies of the parish devoted largely to insulating the community from the wider world or to opening the parish up to its mission?
One of my most critical pastoral responsibilities is helping reshape parish structures so they support the kind of gospel-based communion we profess.
Redefine transparency. In terms of pastoral leadership, gospel transparency is always a two-edged sword. Pastors are called to be transparent in the use of parish resources. They are to inform the membership how their gifts of time, talent and treasure have been maximized for the spread of the gospel.
Pastors are called to personal transparency as well, in the exercise of their leadership. But pastors also need to call forth transparency from the parish, to shed light on practices and expose patterns of common life that lead a parish to drift from its essential mission. Greater parishwide transparency helps keep more parochial influences in check. With patience, truth and love, pastors must keep the community focused on “the one thing that matters.”
Gospel living can die the death of a thousand qualifications. While our communities are often viable, they are not always informed by God’s Spirit. Pastors may not always feel competent in the ministry they do, but that does not mean they are not up to the task. Pastoral leadership is about keeping the main thing before our eyes: a visible, believable communion of life and love that would be impossible if God did not exist.
Do you agree? What would be your 3 leadership practices?