The Culture of an Amazing Parish

When people use the word ‘culture’ as it pertains to organizations, it can mean a lot of things.  All too often, it is associated with cosmetic and surface-level artifacts like an organization’s furniture and office layout, or even policies around bringing pets to work and wearing casual clothes.  For a parish, culture is oftentimes associated with best practices, programs and the Sunday Experience.

But that’s not really culture.  Culture has to do with how we think, how work gets done and what the day-to-day reality is for people who are present in an organization.  When it comes to an amazing parish, there are a few distinct cultural realities that should be apparent to anyone who works or visits that parish.

First, an amazing parish will be a place of joyful prayer.  People who work or volunteer there will find themselves stopping to pray, often, for the intentions of the work they’re doing.  Whether they’re meeting with the pastor to discuss the weekend homily, planning a summer Bible program for young people, or preparing for an RCIA class, they will stop for a moment or a minute or longer to ask God to bless and guide their efforts.

People in an amazing parish know that God is present, and that His will is paramount.  So they will regularly do what Jesus commanded and be persistent in their requests for His guidance and blessing.  In sleepy parishes, prayer is seen as a mere formality, and not something that is a constant activity in the daily pursuit of goals and activities.

Second, the culture of an amazing parish will be one of camaraderie, teamwork and alignment.  People will be aware of and interested in the work of the entire parish, not just their individual department or program.  Silos and divisions will be minimal in an amazing parish.  From the pastor and his leadership team, to the parish secretary, to a ministry leader, there will be a spirit of oneness, a sense that every activity is connected, and that everyone involved is part of a unified effort.  There is no room for politics and division in such a place.

Finally, an amazing parish will be a place of evangelization and discipleship, but in tangible, observable ways within the parish office.  The pastor, his leadership team, the parish staff and even volunteers will regularly talk about their faith and relationship with God.  They will regularly ask one another for assistance in their spiritual journeys, and lovingly challenge one another to grow in their love for Christ and His Church.  (If this sounds uncomfortable, you’re not alone.  Unfortunately, most parishes avoid this.) They will actively engage in intentional programs around their faith, from Bible studies to book clubs to small groups.  They will know that if they don’t participate in these kinds of activities with one another, they cannot effectively promote evangelization and discipleship in the parish at large.

Perhaps the best way to describe the culture of an amazing parish is to describe what it WILL NOT look like.  It will NOT feel like an insurance company, or a doctor’s office, or a consulting firm.  It will NOT be transactional and procedural and lifeless.  The people who work in a parish, who are the keepers of the culture, will be NOT be somber or sour.  They will be joyful – yes, joyful! – because they understand and appreciate that they are blessed to be workers in Jesus’ Great Commission.  People who visit a parish, even someone delivering a package or fixing the plumbing, will say to others, “there is something amazing going on there.”  When that culture is truly lived by the people who work and serve in a parish, starting with the pastor and his leadership team, that culture will begin to spread to the rest of the parish.  Which is the whole point, isn’t it?


Pat Lencioni | Co-founder
The Amazing Parish

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