Pastoral leadership: The one thing that matters
Reshape parish structures. In parish life and activities, many unexamined assumptions about community dynamics may, in fact, be antithetical to the gospel’s unique vision of communion.
Are we attentive to the patterns of community that lie below the surface in our parish structures? For instance, are special interests or insurance concerns or business models driving parish initiatives? Are facilities used to reinforce exclusive, parochial patterns or to bring people together in new ways? Is the prayer with which we begin our meetings mere decoration or the lens through which we focus all our parish efforts? Are the monies and energies of the parish devoted largely to insulating the community from the wider world or to opening the parish up to its mission?
One of my most critical pastoral responsibilities is helping reshape parish structures so they support the kind of gospel-based communion we profess.
Redefine transparency. In terms of pastoral leadership, gospel transparency is always a two-edged sword. Pastors are called to be transparent in the use of parish resources. They are to inform the membership how their gifts of time, talent and treasure have been maximized for the spread of the gospel.
Pastors are called to personal transparency as well, in the exercise of their leadership. But pastors also need to call forth transparency from the parish, to shed light on practices and expose patterns of common life that lead a parish to drift from its essential mission. Greater parishwide transparency helps keep more parochial influences in check. With patience, truth and love, pastors must keep the community focused on “the one thing that matters.”
Gospel living can die the death of a thousand qualifications. While our communities are often viable, they are not always informed by God’s Spirit. Pastors may not always feel competent in the ministry they do, but that does not mean they are not up to the task. Pastoral leadership is about keeping the main thing before our eyes: a visible, believable communion of life and love that would be impossible if God did not exist.