Activities of the Parish

By Fr. Jeff Lorig, Pastor

The activities of a parish will flow from its purpose. In a recent bulletin article, I explained that the purpose of the parish is encapsulated in the ministry of the pastor. A parish without a pastor is not a parish. The Church has specific expectations of her pastors, which you can read about in that other article.

But let’s be honest, there’s a lot going on in a parish. How does a pastor sort out what takes priority of his time, his staff, and the parish budget?

One of the fruits of this past year working with both parish councils has been the revamping of our Parish Council Guidelines. Now most might find this a drag, but I find the exercise especially important in sharpening a council’s focus. Both councils have had a practice of committees and groups reporting to the council. I personally do not like this way of running a council meeting because the meeting easily turns into an informational dump and if everybody is honest, we begin to experience what is known as “Death by meeting.” As business leadership guru Patrick Lencioni says, “Bad meetings are the birthplace of unhealthy organizations, and good meetings are the origin of cohesion, clarity, and communication.”

That’s all well and good, but the pastor still needs to know what’s going on at his parish. One of the fruits of our revamping process at St. Joan of Arc has been our discussion and understanding of the relationship between the Parish Council and all of the committees and groups that are part of the parish activities. The following is a summary of that discussion.

There are three categories of activity in a parish. It’s possible there are more, but these three seem to answer a lot of questions about distinct levels of strategic alignment of parish resources including parish staff’s time, parish budget, and parish facility space.

  1. The first category is a parishioner’s personal apostolate. The parish really doesn’t have much to do with the project or group except to allow the use of its facilities (maybe rent free), communication in the bulletin, and offer encouragement from the pastor or one of his staff when needed. A personal apostolate is an activity that is parishioner initiated and driven. It may be a fantastic initiative and the pastor may eventually want to make it a priority for the parish, but it needs to be part of parish’s strategic plan.
  2. The second category is a parish club or group that uses the parish’s tax ID, name, image or likeness. The Men’s Club, Ladies Guild, and Athletic Club are good examples of this. They often do excellent work and support the parish in many ways. At this level, the parish has oversight of finances and has some input about direction and leadership (usually when there’s a problem), but for the most part, the clubs do their own thing.
  3. The third level is parish ministry. Parish ministry primarily supports the work, ministry, and responsibilities of the pastor. Parish ministry should also include the overall parish strategic plan for making disciples (aka evangelization), which is the mission of the Church because it is the mission that Jesus gave to his Apostles. In this category, the pastor or one of his staff should be involved in the direction, format, and leadership of the group. The fact that most parishes do not have a strategic plan for making disciples and growing the parish is telling. As the saying goes, “A goal without a plan is just a dream.”