Having worked for three Catholic churches, ranging in size from 500 – 3,100 families, I have a very good understanding of the rigors of ministry life. Like any other job, it comes in waves and can be quite taxing at different times of the year. For most churches, the summer is a time to catch their breath and plan for the future. Staff and parishioners take their vacations and enjoy a slower time with family and friends.
While this makes terrific sense, the summer is also a great time to train the staff and volunteers. Trying to do this in the midst of the ministry year is extremely difficult and does not allow the staff the ability to focus solely on training and planning. Giving them training while they are busy trying to do the current ministry denies them the time to cast vision, pray, and dream about how their ministry could accomplish the new things they have learned.
With a little bit of foresight, planning and communication, a pastor can set aside a particular week, within the summer months, to entrench it as a vitally important time. Once you communicate that this is a time when every staff member must be present and all volunteers are “encouraged” not to plan anything else this week, the core of the parish entrenches this time as vital for the life of the parish.
Below are some suggestions to help pastors and leadership teams in creating this time for their parish.
- Give staff a couple of weeks after their programs have formally ended to catch their breath and rest.
- Encourage them to spend this time in prayer and study. I recommend a daily holy hour to recharge their spiritual banks (30 minutes a day, all year long, will go a long way to prevent their burnout).
- Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance in discerning the best time for your parish.
- Look at the cultural cycles of your community for any major obstacles to securing a week (harvesting, etc.).
- Have it early enough to allow staff enough time to pray, plan and implement new ideas learned.
- See and communicate this time as critically important for the health and benefit of your parish.
- Lead by example – make sure you block out your schedule so that you book no vacations, weddings, trips or other events.
- Plan far enough ahead to book presenters for your training.
- State the vision
- Create the expectation
- Hold them accountable
- Live the model
Effective teams require communication, planning, and implementation!