Enabling Parish Leadership

Getting the Big Picture

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Parish leaders perform well when they see where they fit in the big picture of the parish.  No matter how large or how small the leadership is, each person usually contributes to a part of the whole parish mission.

If your parish has a mission statement, it is important to make it visible for all who help out.  Place it in the bulletin each week.  Post it on the website.  Hang it on a wall in the gathering space of the church.  Pass it out on the backs of holy cards.  Put it on top of the agenda for meetings.  Include it in the minutes people review.  That way everyone will have a ready reference to the big picture.

Some leaders relish being in charge of one area of parish life.  They know their field, love it and exude enthusiasm for it.  But sometimes they have a hard time understanding why they need to attend meetings that affect other parts of parish life, why they must share space with other parish organizations, and why someone else’s event got scheduled at the same time as one of theirs.  Each part of parish life serves the whole.  The more people are plugged into the whole, the more clearly they can see the part they do.

Other leaders feel underappreciated for the work they do.  Sometimes they are working in order to be appreciated, although they may not recognize it.  But other times they do not see how their work contributes to the whole parish.  They have received an assignment that feels below their capabilities, that does not pertain to their particular expertise, or that uses up time they’d rather spend on something else.  Sometimes they need a reminder of the contribution they make to the big picture of parish life.

Some leaders and volunteers wish to work in quiet.  They don’t want others to know about what they do.  They see their ministry as a personal gift to God and the church.  These people can be affirmed for the depth of their love for God and their willingness to respond to the call for service.  But sometimes it is important for their work to be known, so that others can see the total mission of the parish.  If their work begins to demand more attention from the budget, the calendar and the space available for activities, it will become important for others to know the significance of these contributions.

There may also be some activities that do not fit the mission of the parish.  Some of these formed out of good will to foster a spirit of community, but they may need to be evaluated over time.  One of the hardest tasks in parish life is the cessation of some activities that had a positive history, but no longer contribute to the whole.  If parish leadership has an image of the big picture, it will be easier to know where to direct the energies of a spirit-filled community standing ready to serve.

This article first appeared in ParishWorks: Idea Source for Parish Leaders and Decision Makers 7/7 (September/October 2004):3.

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