When a priest becomes a pastor, leadership takes on a whole new meaning to him.
As pastor, he is now the spiritual leader and executive authority of the parish. Many pastors would agree that there are a lot of practical realities of leadership that they didn’t learn in seminary. Here are some free resources a pastor can use to better understand his role as leader.
To understand the courage it takes to be a pastor, read Pat Lencioni’s article “The Courage of an American Pastor”.
The Better Pastor Book
For a healthy perspective on leading a parish, read Pat's book The Better Pastor.
To assess your strengths and areas for development, take the Pastor Self-Assessment.
Leadership Team Webinar
To understand the benefits of surrounding yourself with a leadership team, watch the webinar Who Should Be Your Parish Leadership Team.
Once you’ve completed these first steps and embraced your role as a leader, you’re ready to move forward with choosing your leadership team. Our support coaches will help you navigate the next steps.
Amazing Parish exists to revitalize the Church by equipping her pastors and leaders with the training, resources and support they need to create vibrant and thriving parishes. Although every parish is unique, we’ve found that there are three common “building blocks” that form the foundation of an amazing parish.
A Culture of Prayer
Team members regularly pray together and invite God into their discussions and decisions.
A Culture of Healthy Teamwork
Team members commit to and practice the Five Behaviors of a Team.
A Culture of Active Discipleship
Team members actively engage and invest in the faith lives of each other and others.
No pastor, not even the best one, can run a parish on his own. With fewer priests, more demands from parishioners in a complicated society and a faster pace of life, he can’t do it alone. Every pastor needs a leadership team, a special group of people who are collectively committed to helping him make the parish amazing and bring more people to Christ and his Church.
Before you begin to form a parish leadership team, watch this video.
Click the button below for additional information on forming your parish leadership team.
FORM YOUR TEAM
Learn more about forming your parish leadership team.
EFFECTIVE TEAM MEETINGS
Learn how to have an effective parish leadership team meetings.
START BUILDING TRUST AS A TEAM
Learn about the 5 behaviors of a healthy team.
WATCH OUR CONFERENCE VIDEOS
Check out videos of training sessions from our conferences.
START PRAYING AS A TEAM
SCHEDULE A COACHING CALL
What are the best resources to use for parish evangelization?
The best resources to use for evangelization vary by parish and the intention of the evangelization effort. Some parishes have found great success with using a tool like Alpha, while others have found it best to gather a few parishioners who are passionate about evangelization and encourage them to spread the Good News. Another parish profoundly expanded its reach to millennials by holding monthly “Pint with a Priest” events. While options are nearly endless, the key is to focus on your target group and design a plan to reach them, then hold each other accountable for the behaviors that lead to collective results.
Why do you recommend parish staff to work on Sundays?
Pat Lencioni’s answer: Without knowing the details, I would probably encourage this person to consider worshiping at the parish where he/she works, even if that is a bit of a sacrifice. Because everything we do in a parish needs to be informed by and lead to Mass and the Eucharist, I can’t imagine spending 40 hours a week engaged in an organization and not being with that organization during it’s most important activity.
When I encourage parish staff members to work on Sundays, I don’t mean they should go into the office and do their technical work. The business manager shouldn’t be doing spreadsheet analysis and paying bills. She should be greeting parishioners and engaging with people who need to talk about how the parish can help them, and assisting her peers in the ministry work they’re doing on Sundays. The work that parish staff and volunteers should be doing on Sundays is evangelizing, disciple making, ministering, encouraging. It’s the same work I should be doing when I’m at home or with my friends or relatives. As an employee of a parish, there is no better day or place than Sunday Mass, when just about all of our “customers” are present, to help people know the love of Christ and His Church. And by all means, bring friends and family to join in this “work”. Make it part of the family experience of worship and “rest” and love. It seems that we need to make Sundays at the parish a vibrant, welcoming and fruitful time for all the things that we have to beg people to come to the parish to do during the week.
Would you suggest to move more of the pastor's workload from the week to the weekend? It’s often hard for pastors to juggle meetings, individual appointments, hospital visits, etc. while trying to run a parish at the same time.
Pat Lencioni’s answer: Well, first I would say that pastors do work on Sundays, and that Mass is the biggest part of that. Second, I’d say that much of the work that pastors do during the week need to be better delegated to staff members and volunteers. I know that this is easier said than done, but it’s doable. Unfortunately, we’ve fallen into the trap over these past forty years of thinking that the pastor does every hospital visit and every counseling session and everything else. Yes, sacraments and certain pastoral duties are reserved for the pastor, and rightly so. But there is so much more that lay people can do. Pastors need to push to encourage lay volunteers and staff members to grow in their evangelizing, disciple-making and pastoral responsibilities. After all, when the pastor burns out and gets sick or needs more and more time off, the staff is going to have to step up anyway. Let’s do that before it’s forced on us by necessity.
Do you recommend that staff members are on both the leadership team and pastoral council?
We wouldn’t recommend this, per se, but we also wouldn’t discourage it for individual members. The “who” on a team is less important than the role that the team member fills. Leadership team members need to be committed to helping the pastor lead the parish on a relatively day-to-day basis while parish council members play a more advisory role. Depending on the size of the parish and the people involved, you might have some individuals on both the leadership team and the pastoral council.
Who has more “authority” – staff or leadership team?
The leadership team. The pastor selects his leadership team to help him lead the parish. Keep in mind, the leadership team may consist of staff and/or volunteers.
Who holds, defines and is responsible for the vision and keeping it?
The pastor and his leadership team are responsible for coming up with the action plans (thematic goals) which are true to the parish mission and vision. Ultimately, vision is the pastor’s responsibility.
Who would be focused on evangelization and reaching out to all residence of the parish area?
That is up to the leadership team to decide who will head up the specific effort of parish neighborhood outreach. Frequently a point person will be selected to organize a committee effort. This could be a parishioner who is committed to serving the parish or even a staff member.
How do you write a mission and a vision statement?
The first part of mission and vision have to do with answering the question, “Why does your parish exist?” Answer: To fulfill the Great Commission – “Go forth and make disciples of all nations.” Some parishes have different ways of describing this, but ultimately the answer to this question is the same. What’s more practical (and easier to act upon) for your parish leadership team is the question “How will your parish succeed?” The answer to this question leads you to create an immediate action plan that addresses the most important thing for the parish right now. We call this your thematic goal, or rallying cry, and have created a template that makes it easy for your leadership team to get started. Click here to check it out. The thematic goal worksheet helps you focus on the right plans to accomplish your parish’s mission and vision. If you need help with it, please e-mail us at Team@AmazingParish.org.
When a pastor has two parishes, should there be one united leadership team or two, one for each parish?
Ideally there would be two leadership teams, one for each parish since they serve two different communities and may have different needs. However, this may not always be possible. If that is the case, we still recommend have two thematic goals, one for each parish. Click here for the template.
Do we build the standard operating objectives first before we create a thematic goal?
While the order isn’t imperative, typically you start by creating your thematic goal (ie: improve the Sunday Experience, make music vibrant, establish a youth program, etc…) then outline your defining objectives. From there, you list your standard operating objectives, the things that your team must manage and monitor on an ongoing basis. When it’s time for a new thematic goal, the standard operating objectives will remain the same.
If our parish sets a major goal, is there a point at which we should consider that we're taking too long? How critical are timelines?
As Pat Lencioni pointed out, do not be discouraged if the goals you created around your parish vision take longer than planned, especially if you are implementing a significant amount of change. It’s a great idea to create a desired timeline but to not be surprised if the timeline isn’t exactly met. Nevertheless, continue to work diligently in achieving these goals and you will be amazed at the fruit – especially if your team, through consistent prayer, invites the Holy Spirit to take the lead.
How can leadership team members build trust with one another?
Let’s take a page out of Pat’s book for this one: “For a team to establish real trust, team members, beginning with the leader, must be willing to take risks without a guarantee of success. They will have to be vulnerable without knowing whether that vulnerability will be respected and reciprocated.” For more information on building trust within your team read Pat Lencioni’s Guide to Building Teams for Catholic Parishes, page 6.
What is the best process for onboarding new team members after undergoing and implementing many transitions/changes?
For now, we would encourage the new team members to watch the past Amazing Parish Conference videos and listen to the past webinars. Soon our latest videos will be accessible on our website. Additionally, we’re going to produce an online training curriculum this summer that will be accessible via our website. We’re glad you see the need for new team members to “catch up” with the rest of the leadership team.
How do we have accountability conversations early and be consistent?
Again, we’ll let Pat answer this: “Accountability. It’s a word that has become so overused, and misused, within the halls of many companies that it has lost much of its power. When it comes to teamwork, I define accountability as the willingness of team members to remind one another when they are not living up to the performance standards of the group. The key to this kind of accountability is that it shouldn’t always require the participation of the team leader. It is direct, peer-to-peer accountability, and it is based on the notion that peer pressure and the distaste for letting down a colleague will motivate a team player more than any fear of authoritative punishment or rebuke.” Additionally, to be consistent with accountability, it must continually be modeled by the leader. For more on this, read Pat Lencioni’s Guide to Building Teams for Catholic Parishes, page 13.
Leadership team meetings can be very long, drawn out and end with not accomplishing much. Any recommendations for timing?
First of all, we highly recommend that you get a copy of Pat Lencioni’s book, Death by Meeting. In the book, Pat covers exactly what you are talking about and how to make meetings more engaging and productive. According to Pat, “meetings are ineffective because they lack contextual structure. To make our meetings more effective, we need to have multiple types of meetings, and clearly distinguish between the various purposes, formats, and timing of those meetings.”
People in church ministry do not get paid all that well. We ask so much of them but we don't want to take advantage. Suggestions?
That’s a great question to ask directly to those who are serving in your parish. They’ll appreciate your vulnerability and acknowledgement that a lot is demanded of them. Keep in mind, you may have to ask them seven times before they’re comfortable being honest with you. Just be sure to add, that you reserve the right to tell them when they’re not carrying their share of the load.
What staff and leadership members should be present on the Sunday experience?
It’s not a matter of who should be present, but that people are there to encounter newcomers. Sundays are the days when the parish is most frequented and the potential for new people coming to check it out is very high. You want to have people there, whether it’s staff or volunteers, ready and able to welcome them and answer questions. It is more than just having greeters. It’s an all out effort by your parish, led by your pastor and leadership team, to engage parishioners and potential parishioners on the most important day of the week.
How would you suggest that leaders being moved to a new parish, or members of a leadership team at a parish prepare for and whether this process?
Pastors and leadership team members who are new to the process should watch the past Amazing Parish Conference videos and listen to the webinars online. Pastors who are new to the process will also want to read Pat’s new book, The Better Pastor, which will be mailed to every pastor in the next month. By the fall, we’ll have Amazing Parish online training accessible via our website, and the entire new team should engage in that training together.
Is there such a thing as having too many people on the parish team or council?
Yes, too many people can make parish leadership team meetings chaotic and unproductive. We recommend a pastor chooses between 3-7 people for his leadership team.
How do you prepare and go into a meeting where a fellow team member is hostile to the changes/ideas being discussed and could easily derail the track of the meeting?
In a strategic meeting, where the leadership team is discussing changes and ideas in a conceptual sense, it’s good to have a prepared agenda that the whole team has access to prior to the meeting. Having an agenda helps a team stay accountable for staying on the topics that are on the agenda. If the ensuing discussion includes healthy, ideological debate around the issues, then that’s a good thing. If hostility and closed-mindedness is just a mindset of a team member, then it sounds like that member needs to be challenged and held accountable to participate as a member of the team.
How can we reinvigorate our efforts after the excitement of the conference has died down?
Take time to pray as a team and re-evaluate the question “What is most important right now?” If your team is distracted by their everyday tasks, consider doing an off-site for a day to give your team some renewal and fresh perspective.
How do you effectively manage transitions for merging/clustering parishes & introducing a leadership team/vision to parishioners?
Check out the talk below on transition management from our conference in Detroit.