Only the Pastor Can Take the First Step
The journey toward becoming an amazing parish does not begin by reading a book or attending a conference or participating in a webinar. It does not happen with a group of people sitting around a table discussing the future direction or mission of the parish. It happens when the pastor, sitting alone, prayerfully decides that he will be a leader.
For some pastors, leadership feels natural, a function of their personality and their development during youth. When they are assigned their first parish, the jump from being a priest to a pastor, though real, is not such a difficult leap.
For many others, leadership is neither natural nor desired. The call to the priesthood never involved a desire to lead, manage or organize people within the context of an organization. That assignment from the bishop to take over a parish brings with it decidedly more stress and tension than expected, but it doesn’t have to. The next few years can actually be a time of great growth and joy. In fact, it can be the most rewarding, fulfilling and purposeful time in a priest’s life.
Unless of course they do the only thing that a priest cannot do when he becomes a pastor: abdicate responsibility for leading.
See, regardless of a pastor’s personality and natural appetite for being a leader (whether it’s high or low), there is no way to avoid that responsibility. Thankfully, there are many ways to lead, and a pastor can, and should, choose the one that best fits his skills and the needs of his parish.
For instance, some pastors aren’t all that comfortable or adept at coming up with a new strategy while others don’t feel good about setting goals and managing employees. Having the humility to recognize those limitations is a good thing, but that must be followed by the active delegation of those roles to someone else, as opposed to passive delegation.
Active delegation is when a pastor assigns part of his leadership responsibility to someone else and stays engaged with that person and aware of what is going on in that part of the parish. He will provide guidance and oversight when needed, and be ready to help that person when the authority of the pastor is required. But again, Father cannot wash his hands of the responsibility completely.
The journey toward becoming an amazing parish is a long one, but it begins in a moment of silence, in the mind and heart of the pastor. Very few will have the desire, skill or time to fulfill every leadership function that is required, but those responsibilities still must be fulfilled. The only way for that to happen is for the pastor to prayerfully acknowledge and accept his ultimate responsibility as a leader, and to turn to God regularly for the grace and wisdom needed to step into that role without fear.
Pat Lencioni | Co-founder
The Amazing Parish