Pastor of a Modern Parish – Some Do’s and Don’ts
A Service of the Parish Evaluation Project
May 2007Pastor of a Modern Parish – Some Do’s and Don’ts: Being a pastor is no picnic. Tangible rewards are few, the hours are long and the tensions numerous. In a book by Katarina Schuth called, Priestly Ministry in Multiple Parishes (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2006) there is a list of best practices and biggest mistakes for pastoring multiple parishes (p. 162-3). Using these as a springboard, we offer the following helps for anyone pastoring one or more parishes. Do have the council, commissions or key committees meet on the same night. It keeps the pastor’s meetings to a minimum and furthers communication between groups. The pastor spends time in each group as needed but doesn’t have to be present at any one for the entire session. Don’t make too many decisions behind closed doors with the staff or a small group of leaders. This fails to use the creative gifts of the larger community and limits the number of options and possibilities. Do delegate but don’t abdicate. Being “the one in charge” allows the pastor to create a style of leadership that is shared with many capable people. Establish a culture of partnership so that those in key positions are linked with one or two others as co-chairs, co-leaders, co-directors, co-planners of a program or project. The pastor models this by finding someone with whom to be a partner as well. Don’t fail to communicate with the parish as a whole. When a decision is made, tell the people what was decided, why this particular choice was made, who was consulted and how it will be implemented. Use any means possible to get the word out – bulletin, announcements, signs, website, newsletter, conversations. Do figure out what aspect of pastoring is most enjoyable and energizing; then schedule time to do it on a regular basis, whether it be reading, visiting, teaching, sacraments, doing the school Mass, attending concerts or going on trips with parishioners – whatever gets the juices going and refreshes one’s spirit. Don’t do tasks that drain energy and sap creativity. Find other qualified people to do these instead, whether administrative chores, leading meetings, holding people accountable, handling the money. Do maintain a predictable schedule and set of office hours so that people know when and how to connect with the pastor. Have a set time for returning phone calls or answering emails rather than responding to each one as it comes in. These interruptions reduce the pastor’s effectiveness and creates undo stress and strain. Don’t fail to let the Spirit of God guide and help. This includes finding a set time for prayer each day, meeting with a mentor or spiritual guide on a regular basis, listening closely to the wisdom of others. Do seek out and hire the best, most qualified and experienced staff people money can buy. Advertise widely when a position is open and go through a thorough consultative process before settling on the final choice. The time, effort and money spent on this selection process will reap a plentiful bounty. Don’t fall into a “woe is me” attitude when there are not enough priests, staff, leaders, volunteers, money, time or attendance. Become, instead, the “can do,” motivating, optimistic pastor who calls people beyond themselves and challenges them to do more than they ever dreamed or imagined they could do.