How many leaders do you have in your parish? Do you interpret leaders to be staff management, the parish council, or the parish leadership team? While it’s true that these are leaders, it significantly limits opportunities for many people to be more deeply engaged in the parish. Leaders are needed for many reasons and can be a catalyst for encouraging more people to be involved.
“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant, whom the master has put in charge of his household to distribute to them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so.Amen, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property.” Mt 24:45-47
A good starting point is to make it a priority for the parish to involve everyone in some level of activity in the parish. And current leaders should focus on encouraging new and additional leaders. As you expand volunteer efforts in support of weekend and weekday ministries, you need leaders for the people you are engaging.
Here are five major areas and the associated role(s) of leadership to consider for your parish:
- Pastor, Associate – The primary leaders for the parish whose primary role is spiritual authority and guidance. They also exercise personal leadership and people leadership.
- Parish leadership team. This small group is responsible for defining, communicating, and living the parish vision and mission, strategies, and values, along with identifying priorities for the parish. This team encourages and oversees alignment with the priorities and must foster a unified parish staff. Representatives incorporate personal leadership and sound business operations.
- Parish Staff. Staff leaders focus on the management and oversight of the operations of the parish, including facilities, finances, income, advancement, and communications. Parish staff must be able to encourage, grow and connect volunteers with roles that align with their gifts. Staff members exercise people leadership and team dynamics in addition to personal leadership.
- Advisory. Members of finance and pastoral councils focus on advising the pastor and the parish leadership team. The finance council has an additional role of oversight of financial integrity and health. Advisory members employ personal leadership and sound business practices.
- Volunteer team leaders. These leaders serve as extensions of each parish staff function as a way to broaden the reach of hospitality, liturgy, faith formation, evangelization, facilities, and more. Volunteer leaders must have personal leadership and may have people leadership roles. There are dozens (or more!) of opportunities for personal engagement to help someone, welcome people from the community, or produce an amazing in-person and online Mass.
Are you FACT?
You may be in a leadership role, but are you FACT? Leaders who exemplify these characteristics set themselves apart from others:
- Faithful. Both Faith-filled and loyal. Living our call to discipleship and servant leadership.
- Available. Present in the moment to listen and guide.
- Contagious. Energy, commitment, patience, and wisdom captures and encourages others.
- Teachable. Open and willing to learn and change.
In his 2014 address, Pope Francis explained: “For leadership, there is only one road: service. There is no other way. If you have many qualities, the ability to communicate, etc., but you are not a servant, your leadership will fail, it is useless, it has no power to gather [people] together… Leadership must enter into service, but with a personal love for the people.”
We need strong leaders in our parishes, and we need to free up our pastors and staff to fully live their ministry roles. The path forward is encouraging more leaders, which requires intentional planning and effort. The result is a thriving parish with parishioners committed to the ministry and mission of the parish!
Terry Poplava is a multi-disciplined executive with extensive sales, product marketing, strategy and leadership experience in supporting faith organizations. Terry’s professional experience includes organizational leadership, corporate development and growth, consulting with and training church leaders, and leading strategic and priority planning for churches and dioceses. He currently serves on the advisory board for the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche in St. Augustine FL, as cantor at St. Andrew parish in Myrtle Beach, SC. and recently as Chairman of the Finance Council at St. Mary the Virgin Mother parish in Hartsville, SC.