Pitfalls For Staff
A Service of the Parish Evaluation Project
August, 2009Pitfalls For Staff It is the staff that keeps the parish functioning and moving forward. Without the work and ministry of this small cadre of dedicated people, the parish would come to a halt. Witness one or other of these people going on vacation or being away for sick leave and the value of their contribution and efforts is immediately obvious. But this dependence has its pitfalls. Instead of “full and active participation of the laity,” members of the staff can take on too much responsibility. They do the decision making and implementation of programs while the volunteers they recruit provide support and become gofers for their projects. Much as staff members want to hand over the leadership to others, they are fearful that people will not do what they said they would do and the project or ministry will fail. As one staff person told us, “The parishioners have jobs and duties of their own. We can’t ask them to do what we were paid to handle. We have the experience, expertise and time to accomplish what has to be done. Volunteers do not have that luxury.” Perhaps, but this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; staff members become over-worked and “in charge” while others help them out but are not part of creating or planning the project or ministry. Spreading Out the Ownership When staff members experience burnout because of the extra work they are given, we ask whether they have a partner to share the load or a committee to work with. One staff member might be responsible for pastoral ministry but that does not mean she has to do the scheduling and arranging of hospital or nursing home visits. A committee of experienced volunteers could do this instead. The pastoral minister meets with this group of four to six people on a regular basis to make sure all the bases are covered, sharing both the decision making and scheduling with her co-workers. A music director chooses the music for the liturgies and makes up a worship aide for each Mass. Trying out a different model, he might instead work with a small team to choose the music. He would act as a resource and guide to the team rather than be the only one in charge. He and the team together would plan the music for each season and then enlist others to print the worship aides, schedule accompanists, file the music or remind musicians about their commitments. This frees the music director to do what he does best – direct music, explore options, motivate singers and raise the level of congregational singing. Find A Partner – Form A Team Rather than staff members seeing their work as “my ministry,” “my project,” “my responsibility,” “my problem,” “my success or failure,” the focus shifts to “our ministry,” “our project,” “our responsibility. Whatever problems need to be faced, whatever success is to be gained, whatever failure to acknowledge is shared either with one other person as a partner, or by a team of people working together to research, plan, decide and assess what has to be done. This partnership might include another staff member so that the director of religious education and the school principal are operating as co-leaders, as are the liturgist and music minister, the youth minister and adult formation director, the pastor and administrator. The partner could also be a seasoned volunteer who might be a head catechist, a talented cantor, a pastoral minister, the head of the finance council or the like. This other person is an equal partner with the staff member. The two of them meet regularly to define roles and share the ministry. They would also form a team or committee to work with the two of them to set goals, make decisions and share ownership of the ministry or program.