Monthly Archives: November 2017

We’ve Been Here Before . . .

(Apologies to those who do not like to mix politics with religion and faith. This is one situation where I felt it necessary to speak directly to what is happening around us, offer a perspective that we as Catholics uniquely have, and encourage each of us to consider how to act on that.)

Last week, we were thunderstruck by sexual molestation allegations against a politician made by a woman now in her 40’s about when she was an underage teen. While the conversation has circled around how to handle this candidate and that election, this isn’t a new situation.

We’ve been here before — “we” meaning Catholic leaders and the Catholic Church. It’s been over 20 years since the first major, public accusations (that I can remember) were made of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests. (Cardinal Bernardin in Chicago was falsely accused and is my reference point as I lived in Chicago in the mid-90’s.)

Haven’t we learned a few things that our political leaders might find useful? If nothing else, avoid making the same mistakes we made?

What have we learned? Among the many things, these four come to mind.

  • We must protect victims from being further victimized, and comfort and care for them as the Gospel calls us to.
  • We must care desperately for the small and powerless as Pope Francis reminds us.
  • Integrity, honesty, and trust are virtues we must strive for.
  • When trust is lost, it is very difficult to regain (thank you, Jane Austen).

What did we as Church experience as a result of the sexual abuse crisis? We learned that institutions like the Church lose when they are not perceived as being compassionate and supportive to those who have been victims of any inappropriate behavior.

Now what (as a graduate school professor would say)?

We have an opportunity to bear witness to these lessons among our local leaders. Write them. Email them. Call them. Let them know that this is what we as Christians expect from our leaders.

Our political leaders represent us. Now is a good time to let them hear your voice — a voice of compassion, comfort, and care for those who are victims. Remind them of what they stand to lose. As a parish leader, you may have watched as Mass attendance got smaller, collections went down, and those you cared about struggled to remain. Let’s remind our community leaders that they don’t have to end up on the losing end, and how to get there.

If I have missed a lesson, please share it in the comments.

Leaning into Your Ministry’s Future

Remember everyone’s favorite interview question — “Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years? I envied friends who had a clear picture of their future, and cringed at the general fog in my personal proverbial “crystal ball.”

If I had to pick any point in time, I could never have predicted that I would be where I am professionally. Perhaps I am an outlier, but I don’t think so. Professions including ministry have changed quickly–and keeping up is not for the faint of heart. And if keeping up is challenging, then leaning into the future requires a level of energy and effort that we may not think we have.

As the Church’s liturgical year winds down and the Scriptural focus is on preparing for the second coming and making ourselves ready, it’s an appropriate time to ask ourselves, “Where do we see our ministry in the next 3, 5, 10 years?”

What might your ministry look like? Here are some possibilities that are already emerging.

  • It might be more entrepreneurial in nature. Rather than resources, services, and programs coming from existing and more traditional sources, individuals or small groups may “pick off” a slice of catechesis or youth ministry or liturgy, and create a business that focuses solely on that–a business that they sell to you, you rent or lease from them, or they give away.
  • Social media, especially images, will play a prominent feature in building a sense of community and shared experiences. How do you integrate the ubiquitous phone and all of the technology that goes with it? Can you create a mobile strategy to support your gathered experiences? What about virtual reality?
  • Ministry may become more about “gigs” (e.g., independent workers, working non-9-to-5 hours, on a specific or limited project.) How do you cultivate long-term relationships with short-term staff or volunteers? What kinds of “gigs” might you need expertise for in your ministry?
  • Whatever you’ve “always done” won’t work anymore. Those we minister to and with are more diverse than ever, so the methods for our ministry can’t stay the same. What methodologies are out there that you’ve never tried? What do you need to learn to be more comfortable in bringing those methods to your ministry?
  • Gen Zers are interested in supporting a cause, something they are passionate about. How do you create and structure your ministry around causes that are worthy of their enthusiasm and advocacy?
  • Building strong, authentic relationships will be key. How are you helping support the volunteers and leaders in your ministry so that they are comfortable being in engaged relationships with the children, youth, and adults in your ministry?

Change is coming, so set the crystal ball aside, and start visioning today.

Going Long?

A bunch of years ago, my husband was hired to develop and grow a parish youth ministry program. He had successfully done so over a period of many years at our parish, so this offer was a challenge to which he confidently responded, “Yes.”

Eighteen months later, he was out of a job. The parish council was disappointed because the number of youth that they saw who were engaged in youth ministry had not increased enough to continue to warrant a full-time position. They downgraded the position to part-time, and he left.

McKinsey, a highly-respected, global management consulting firm, recently tackled this subject, asking the question, “Are executives too focused on the short-term?” Like for-profit companies, we need to ask a similar question, “Are parishes/dioceses/parish councils/schools too focused on the short-term?” And the related question, “What happens when we don’t take the long view?”

How true are these statistics in your situation?

  • 87% of leaders experience pressure to demonstrate numerical success in 2 years or less (e.g., increased participation numbers, more balanced budget, more volunteers)
  • 65% say short term pressure has increased over the past 5 years

In the business world, statistics show that focus on the long-term results in better performance along most metrics. How would you respond to these questions to shift that focus?

  • What do you think you could accomplish if the pressure for short-term results were lifted, you had the luxury of setting goals for 5 and even 10 years down the road, and you could dedicate your time and resources to getting there?
  • What successes do you think you could chart if you could depend on specific budget increases for the next five years (so you could do more with more rather than more with less — which is highly overrated!)?
  • How might you be able to move the parish’s/diocese’s/school’s mission forward if you could focus on the long-term rather than the short-term?
  • How would that change your relationships with parents, parishioners, volunteers, community leaders, your boss?
  • How do you advocate for this with your team and boss?