Friday, August 27, 2010

Defining the Culture of your Ministry

Programs define what you do; Culture is determined by who you are.

Recently a friend asked me to define the culture of Broken Bay Youth Ministry.  Whilst I was able to share a few thoughts off the top of my head, I realised that there is no definite answer at the moment.  The challenge for us at the moment is to define the culture that we want to develop in our Diocese.  The challenge for you is defining it in your ministry.

The reason this is so important at the moment is because we have a number of parishes that are looking to begin a youth ministry.  What will the youth ministry feel and look like?  What will the parish begin with and what we will recommend they don’t do?  Ministry is more than a program it is relational, it has a look and a feel.  This look and feel is the culture of a ministry; it is this unique culture that makes your ministry different to the one down the road.

Here are four questions to ask about the Culture in your ministry:

  1. What will you begin?  When you are sitting down looking for ideas, some ideas are attractive and you would like to give them a go in your ministry.  Perhaps you have seen another ministry in your area that has a better feel or a more positive attitude than where your ministry is at the moment.  In your ministry you could begin a whole number of activities or programs, but which ones would support your mission, your style or culture?  In your ministry what behaviours or attitudes could you begin or encourage that would strengthen your ministry?
  2. What will you promote?  When you look at your ministry there are things that you are good at and you should promote them more.  We all promote our events or programs but we should promote the strengths and passions within our ministry.  There are also behaviours that you want to encourage and celebrate.  Perhaps you can celebrate people who “go the extra mile” in service so that you promote a culture of service. In your ministry what is the behaviour and attitudes that you could promote to new members?
  3. What will you stop doing?  When you look at your ministry closely you will see things that you don’t like.  You need to stop doing those things and teach people what you do want.  For example you may have a culture of lateness, so teach people about the value of being on time by starting meetings on time, even if people are not there yet.  You may have a culture of “it is will be alright on the night”, so change the culture by asking people to submit their program a week before an event.  You just have to stop certain behaviours so that new people will pick up the behaviours that enhance your culture.
  4. Major on the Majors and Minor in the Minors.  What ever you repeat as the leader, others will think is the Major thing.  If the leader of a youth ministry majors on social activity, then young people will think the major focus of the youth group is having fun.  If the youth ministry leader focuses on Bible study or catechesis, the young people will see that as the major focus.  If people keep referring to your ministry as “small” and talking about the attendance then people will think numbers are a major issue.  Remember to keep you focus on the major reason your ministry exists.  For example, Broken Bay Youth Ministry exists to assist parish based youth ministry, so social events or mission trips are nice but they are a minor part of our focus.  What are the behaviours and attitudes that enhance the major focus of your ministry?

By reflecting on these four areas in your ministry, people will pick up more of the positive behaviours that you want to develop in your ministry.  Your ministry will feel more like you want it to feel and look more like what you want it to look like.

Mark McDonald
Mark McDonald is the Diocesan Coordinator of Youth Ministry for the Diocese of Broken Bay.  You can follow Mark on twitter @mrmarkmcdonald

Defining the Culture of your Ministry – Part II

Programs define what you do; Culture is determined by who you are.

In a Part 1 we had a look at four areas that build the culture of your ministry.  In this post we will look at a practical example of what that might look like in an imaginary parish.  This practical example might help you understand more about applying the general principles in your ministry.

Our made up parish will be called St Luke Parish for this example.  St Luke is a parish with one primary school, one Catholic high school and one government high school in the area.  The Parish has had a part time youth minister for two years as a trial.  The parish has three parish interns who are volunteering in the youth ministry team that we will look at in this example.  Imagine that you are also part of the Youth Ministry team at St Luke Parish.

Here are the four areas of Culture that we will reflect on in this youth ministry:

  1. What will you begin?  Recently you heard about another Youth Ministry in the Diocese that has been running the Youth Alpha Course and you will look to run the course in a few weeks after a period of promotion.  This will encourage the young people in the ministry to develop a culture of learning (catechesis).  You want people to learn more about their faith and Alpha will enhance this.  One of the Interns heard about another parish that has some hospitality after their youth mass.  The Interns think this will work in St Luke parish.  This will develop a culture of hospitality and friendliness around the Youth Mass.  This will also keep the focus on the Youth Mass which St Luke’s have been working on for 12 months.
  2. What will you promote?  Whilst the team have been working on the Youth Mass for 12 months, you haven’t really promoted the music ministry.  You will look for ways to promote the music ministry with young musicians as a way of drawing them into the ministry.  This will create a culture of inclusion where everyone can add their gifts to a ministry.  You also want to develop a culture where young people prepare for the Sunday mass during the week.  The Facebook group is one way of developing this culture.  An Intern will update the group page with links to the Sunday readings each week.  By providing links to the young people will become familiar with one tool that will help them study the Bible themselves.
  3. What will you stop doing?  After months of social outings the Parish Priest feels this is distracting from the focus on the Youth Mass.  A culture has developed where people turn up sometimes and don’t RSVP at other times making events hard to plan.  Also people are choosing the social events yet say they don’t have any “spare time” for serving at the Youth Mass.  So the Youth Ministry will stop offering social activities on Friday nights and build a culture of staying after the Sunday night youth mass as a way of keeping the social connections.  The music ministry also decided that they will stop music rehearsal 30 minutes before the Sunday mass so that musicians can socialise with people arriving for Mass.  This will give space for CD music which will create a more vibrant atmosphere than the last minute practice.
  4. Major on the Majors and Minor in the Minors.  After reflecting on your ministry, the Youth Ministry Team realise that the Youth Mass is important to the ministry, it is your Major.  The ministry team will work with the Interns to create a culture of service around the Youth Mass.  The attitude that you want to develop is that the Youth Mass is the high point of your ministry, not just something that we have to do.  So everyone in the ministry will place a major focus on building a culture of serving in the activities before, during and after the Youth Mass.  It is also important to develop a culture of invitation (Evangelisation) that encourages people to bring their friends to the youth mass not the social activities.  The social activities are a minor part of the culture so as a team you decide to reduce the emphasis on this for a few months.  The Interns suggest that the annual Christmas party be seen as a chance to celebrate the success of the youth ministry over the year.  This will be an “open mic” night where people share the stories of the year and the success of the ministry.

Now this is just one example of building culture.  In your ministry go beyond the programs you are offering to have a look at who you are as a ministry and what you are inviting new people to join.

Mark McDonald
Mark McDonald is the Diocesan Coordinator of Youth Ministry for the Diocese of Broken Bay.  You can follow Mark on twitter @mrmarkmcdonald

Friday, August 20, 2010

3 stages of engaging presentations

What does a scenic flight in an aeroplane have to do with presentation skills?  If you reflect on the three stages of giving a presentation, there are a lot of similarities to an aeroplane flight.  There is usually a starting point to any flight the same as there is always an introduction to any talk, speech or presentation.  There are usually a couple of points of interest in any scenic flight, and in any presentation there should be a few points of interest too.  Every scenic flight must come to an end as should a good presentation.

Have you ever heard a talk that never really grabbed your attention?  Perhaps the introduction never got off the ground.  Or perhaps you have heard a talk or speech that went on and on and on; they didn’t know how to “land it”.  So here are three simple tips for giving a great presentation in your ministry setting using the image of an aeroplane flight:

  1. The Take off:  When an aeroplane is getting ready to take off it uses the most amount of energy of the entire flight.  When you begin your presentation you will have to use a lot of energy to get the attention of the audience.  If you loose people in the take off you may not get them back, but they are stuck with you.  Even if you know your topic, you must give some thought to your introduction.
How you can kick off your presentation?

  1. The Cruising: when an aeroplane gets into the air it aims for its cruising altitude and then turns down the engines to cruising speed.  An aeroplane doesn’t fly at full speed and cruises at an efficient speed.  In the cruising part of your presentation you might have to come off the energy level a little.  People can’t keep their energy up for a constant time so adapt the pace in the middle section.
Just like an aeroplane flight there are usually only two or three points of interest.  In your middle section don’t confuse people with 10 or 15 key points.  You want two or three key points that get you to your destination but add interest along the way.

What are the 2 or 3 key points of your presentation?

  1. The Landing:  when an aeroplane takes off it knows where it is going to land.  A long “holding pattern” before landing can be hard for the passengers.  When you are giving a presentation you must know how you are going to land or finish before you begin.  What is your final destination?  Keeping the audience wondering when you are going to finish is not a good idea.
How are you going to finish your presentation?

These are three really simple stages to any presentation.  There is one more thought to add using the aeroplane analogy: 
How many planes can a pilot fly at once?  A pilot can only fly one plane at any given time.  So too you should have one only one key theme each time you present.  Some people will get up and talk for the allotted time, packing in as many themes and topics as they can.  Apart from confusing the audience, each theme is undervalued because it is not explored properly.

So the next time you are giving a presentation remember:
  • fly one plane (theme)
  • give energy to the take off (introduction)
  • have 2 or 3 points of interest while cruising (body) and
  • nail the landing (conclusion).

written by Mark McDonald
Mark McDonald is the Diocesan Coordinator of Youth Ministry for the Diocese of Broken Bay.  You can follow Mark on twitter @mrmarkmcdonald

Thursday, August 19, 2010

One Year In - an Intern's Perspective

This post is a reflection from Riley Scott one of our Interns.  

One Year In

The WYD Parish Internship Program is at about the halfway mark - one year through, with one left to go: as good a time as any to reflect on where we are and where we're headed.

From the stories of others and my own time thus far, we've all of us experienced the internship differently. Personally, as in life, so in ministry: realized in retrospect, the most rewarding times have been the most challenging or demanding or uncertain, etc. Stepping out and stepping up, the rewards have well been worth the efforts (e.g. to care, to try) and risks (e.g. the pain of failure). Dedicated service has seen me feeling more a part of my parish than before, such that as a spectator a vital aspect would be missing; in giving, it feels I place myself in right relation to the community, without which life experienced within would be attenuated.

For the hours of the week we give, the Diocese extends an invitation to Madrid; for the heart we devote in service, we hear an echo of Christ's invitation to enter into a deeper relationship with God. To complete the average weekly hours for some is easy, for others it less so, but in any case the extra step we're all called to is the spirit with which we do those hours. Just as we'll have to actively experience Madrid when there to get from it all we can, so too with the ministry we now do: we can perform the requisite tasks mechanically or with heart and both will get us there, but when we try and care and give ourselves for it, we gain something else in the process; why settle for the former when we can use this as an opportunity for the latter?

In one sense we're halfway through the journey, our progress measured by the numbers in our logbooks, and it will all come to an end in a year or so. But I hope each person feels it in another sense, that this a stage of a journey we each started before and will continue long after the internship program, that can't be captured by something as simple as a number or name, and isn't about where we are on the face of the earth but where we are in relation to God.

A blessing perhaps sometimes unrecognized or unacknowledged, many are working with us without the motivation of Madrid (and so forth), and without their help a few of us probably wouldn't make it. Many thanks to all involved, from fellow interns to support staff to parishioners, especially to those that go beyond what any could reasonably expect of them, that, with servant hearts, serve us as we serve others. I hope we as a group can have an undeniable, substantial, positive impact, that our deeds may be a light that reveals the glory of God; a success such that no doubt is left that the program ought be continued and another group given the same opportunities and support for an equally meaningful and fulfilling journey.

Peace and God bless,
Riley Scott

Friday, August 13, 2010

The greatest tension in Youth Ministry?

Is faith caught or is faith taught?  Pick up any book on Youth Ministry and you will find that it has a particular bias to this question.  Many of the popular models of Youth Ministry have some good ideas but maybe they don’t solve the issues you face in your ministry.  So as a youth ministry leader which model or theory should you choose?  This is perhaps the greatest tension in Youth Ministry today.

Dig a little deeper and you will find there two camps of Youth Ministry:

Camp One - Catechesis focused
Key Goal – Giving young people the foundations of the faith for their future
One Extreme form – the Baltimore Catechism
If you look at the development of Catholic Youth Ministry it came out of the Religious Education movement and the Social Movements.  The basis of this style of youth ministry is that youth ministry prepares young people to be adult members of the Church.  With this goal in mind youth ministry leaders are encouraged to provide opportunities for young people to learn their faith, perhaps the motto is “Faith is taught not caught”.

One extreme version of this mindset is the old style Catechism.  The Baltimore catechism was meant to be learnt by heart, even if the young person didn’t understand the answer.  The thinking was that young people would learn the faith as a child and learn to understand it as they grew up.

Camp One - Evangelisation focused
Key Goal – getting young people to begin a relationship with Christ
One Extreme form – The Altar Call
If you look at the development of Evangelical Youth Ministry there is a lot of emphasis on young people making a personal decision to follow Christ.  The basis of this style of youth ministry is that youth ministry leaders have to take the Gospel to young people or else they are not “saved”.  With this goal in mind Youth Ministry leaders are encouraged to provide opportunities for young people to have a personal experience of God, perhaps the motto is “Faith is caught, not taught”.

One extreme version of this mindset is the pressure of the Altar Call.  Young people are told that responding to one altar call and repeating a prayer said by the Leaders will guarantee their salvation.

Faith is caught AND taught
Perhaps this tension is good because it encourages all of us in Youth Ministry to see that the focus should be Evangelisation and Catechesis.  The goal for youth ministry could be:
“Helping young people to begin a relationship with God that will grow and develop through life long Catechesis.”

Both camps have got some elements right and have grown Youth Ministry yet both sides are also missing some important elements of Youth Ministry

Please comment on how you see the greatest tension in Youth Ministry.  Join us next week for further thought on this tension.

Friday, August 6, 2010

What is your purpose? Part III - Stewardship

What does the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25 have to do with your God given purpose?  More than you might think.  There is one more thought that we need to add to the recent blog post, “What is your purpose?  We looked at three areas where you need to explore your God given purpose.  God wants you to make a significant contribution to our world through your career, your personal life and your Church ministry. 

There is one more thought that needs to be added to this series, Your God Given purpose is a gift from God to give Glory to God.

In the Parable of the Talents, three servants are given money by the Master of the House.  Each of the servants has to care for the money while the Master is gone.  There are three thoughts about this reading that apply to your God given purpose:

  1. Your purpose comes from God – In this parable the money comes from the master, the servants have not earned the money themselves.  Sometimes we forget where our God given purpose comes from; we believe that we have earned it.  We can have the attitude that we have worked hard to get ourselves into the position we are in.  We believe that it is our study and diligence that got us into the Career or Hobby or Community group.  Yet if we have to be honest it is God’s grace that gave us the ability to study, the ability to work and the opportunity to take on the tasks that we taken on in our career, personal life or ministry.
How are you using your God given purpose to give glory to God?

  1. Your purpose goes back to God - We can so often focus on what the servants did with their “talents” that we forget that they had to give the money back.  We are given stewardship over our God given purpose not ownership.  We are accountable to God for the opportunities that come our way when we are following our God given purpose.  The history of our Church and the Bible are full of stories where God gives and takes away.  The book of Job in the Bible is the story of faithfulness when God takes away the blessings in Job’s life.  We need to realise that we steward our purpose until God wants us to move on.
How are you stewarding your God given purpose?

  1. Your purpose is teaching you about faithfulness – At the end of the parable the Master takes the small amount of money off one servant and gives it to another.  Sometimes we can be worried that we are not reaching our potential.  Yet if we read this parable, we can see that if we are faithful in the small opportunities, greater opportunities will come our way.  Perhaps God is using the season that you are in to prepare you for a greater season in the coming years.  Your faithfulness now can help you reach your God given purpose in the years to come.
Are you being faithful to the small parts of your God given purpose?

Please leave a comment.

Please join us next week as we begin another topic that will enhance your ministry in your local community.

Friday, July 30, 2010

What is your purpose? Part II - Seasons

In a recent blog post, we had a look at “What is your purpose? We explored three areas that you need to explore your God given purpose.  God wants you to make a significant contribution to our world through your career, your personal life and your Church ministry.  Over the course of our life we will change jobs, hobbies and ministries many times.  We can think of these periods as seasons, just like the seasons of the weather. 

  • Spring: We need seasons for preparation and growing.  The spring seasons in our life can be exciting but it also require a lot of patience. Perhaps you are doing further study for a new position in ministry or a new job.  In our personal life we go through “spring cleaning” when we want to create space for a new activity to enter. 
  • Summer: We all have season of busyness.  If your career, hobbies and ministry all seem to be firing up you can feel great because you are achieving a lot.  In our busy seasons we can also feel that we are really living during the summer seasons of our life.
  • Autumn: We all go through seasons of decline.  Our career, personal life and ministry can’t be constantly growing.  Sometimes we loose momentum or perhaps we are ready for a change.  How we manage our autumn seasons can really determine the productivity of our next spring.
  • Winter: We all need a seasons of rest every once in a while.  We all need to take a break and regain our energy levels.  God wants us to take a weekly Sabbath (Sunday) and we should take a regular sabbatical.  How long since your last resting season?

If you were to look at each of the three areas below, could you see alignment in the seasons?  Perhaps you are living the perfect life because you have a good balance of the seasons in your life.  Or perhaps you are fast approaching burn out and the seasons you are in are warning you of what is coming.  To continue to fulfil your God given purpose you should ask yourself these three questions:

  1. What season is your career in? If you want your career to reach its God given potential, you have to have seasons of rest so you can be productive during each growth season.  Plan out your year so that your career matches the seasons you go through.  Become aware of the seasons in your career to maintain your purpose for longer.
  1. What season is your personal life in? There are seasons for growth and seasons for loss.  Remember that there is a time for every season under Heaven.  When you take care of yourself, you will be in a much better position to make a significant contribution to our world.
  1. What season is your Church ministry in?  You will be going to Church every week for the rest of your life.  It would be boring if there weren’t changes.  You need spring times to keep you growing spiritually.  Whilst we would rather avoid the dry times, even the Saints went through dry times with God.  The key to finding your God given purpose in the Church is to find the ministry that gives you life rather than drains life.

Please leave a comment.

Friday, July 23, 2010

What is your purpose?

In a recent blog post, we had a look at “what fires you up?  We had a look at our passions, the things that we are discontent with and things that we enjoy doing.  There is a sense that many things could fill any one of these categories.  Over a life time there will many things that we are passionate about and many things we will get involved in.  But how do we narrow our focus to one key purpose for our life?

If we look at famous people they can be know for one key purpose that they undertake.  Mother Teresa did many things but her driving purpose was the poor people on the streets of Calcutta.  St Ignatius did many things in his life but his driving purpose was the establishment and growth of the Jesuits.

Whilst we may not achieve fame and fortune in our own life, God wants us to do something significant with our life.  Here are three areas where you need to define your purpose in life:

  1. What is the purpose of your career? We can move from job to job but what is driving your decision about which job to stay in?  Many people chase money or status in their career but never find true fulfilment.  To really find meaning in your career you must find the jobs that match your life’s purpose.  If you find yourself in job that doesn’t give meaning to your life, God might be calling you onto other things.  To find the purpose of your career, take the lead from three areas in the post “what fires you up?”.

  1. What is the purpose of your personal life? Again there are many hobbies or interests that you will have in your personal life, but some of them are not where you make a significant contribution to society.  In your personal life you should spend your valuable spare time making a difference in the community.  You should spend your spare time with a sense of purpose rather than distraction or entertainment.

Have you ever asked someone why they give up hours each week to a “hobby”?  My father will spend most weekends umpiring baseball because he feels he can make a difference in the sport.  Many people take on coaching or umpiring positions in sport so they can make a difference.  Many people commit years of time to community service agencies such as the Bush Fire Brigade so they can make a difference.   How is your personal life making our society a better place?

  1. What is your purpose in the Church?  There are many things that need your time in our Church.  There is always more work to be done in your ministry.  The people who get burnt out in ministry are often people who are taking on too much.  If you look at people who spend decades serving the Church they usually have narrowed their focus to their main purpose in the church.  For example there are catechists who have served for 30 year because they are passionate about children in state schools.  For a given season you might serve in a ministry that really needs you, but to serve the Church for your entire life, you have to answer the question “what is your purpose in the Church?”

Perhaps you are going through a season where your purpose in all three of these areas has alignment.  On the other hand perhaps you are going through a season where your purpose is unclear in all three areas.  Whatever your situation is, pray that God will lead you to make a significant contribution in your career, personal life and the Church.  

Please leave a comment.

Friday, July 16, 2010

What fires you up?

I was at a conference recently when the speaker, Robert Fergusson, said “fire overcomes fear every time”.  At first I was puzzled.  Robert went on to say that anyone who is really fired up about their subject matter will be able to overcome any fear they have of public speaking.  Anyone pumped up enough about an extreme sport will be able to overcome the fear the task should naturally raise in someone.  So the best way to overcome your fear is to stay focused on achieving your goal.

Many of us have at least one fear within our ministry, what if it doesn’t work?  What if I can’t get support? What if I can’t find resources to make it work?  What if nobody comes?  Yet if we take this image of “fire overcomes fear”, when you are passionate enough (fired up) you will overcome your fears.  So in ministry how do we get “fired up” in a positive way?  Here are three simple questions:

  1. What are you passionate about? When someone doesn’t want doing a certain job you can always tell.  The check out operators at my local supermarket don’t want to be there.  Yet when someone is passionate about their subject, topic or ministry it has a natural pulling power.  When I hear someone speak passionately about their mission trip I want to book my plane ticket right away.  When you are passionate about your ministry it fires up the other people around you.
How can your passion move people from caring about your ministry to helping in your ministry?

  1. What are you discontent with? Is there some problem that makes you a little angry?  Do you ever wonder why nobody is doing anything to fix it?  We all have things that we feel need to be fixed, solved or corrected.  You might be the solution to a problem.  This discontent with how things are may give you an insight into what might fire you up.  If you can align your “holy discontent” with your ministry then you are more likely to overcome the fear of running the ministry. (find out more about this here)
How can you use your discontent to find a positive solution to a problem?

  1. What do you enjoy doing? After almost 20 years in youth ministry people ask me why I still work with teenagers.  Because I enjoy youth ministry I find it gives me energy to keep going.  The people that I admire are those who work in children’s ministry; they have so much energy and patience.  People in ministry stay around longer when they enjoy what they are doing.  Perhaps you need to look at the specific tasks within your ministry that you enjoy doing; do more of that.  Have a look at the specific tasks that drain you of energy and see if you can delegate those to someone else.
How can you do more of what you enjoy doing and delegate the rest to others?

There are obviously parts of every ministry that are hard to handle.  Yet someone will still need to do them for your ministry to succeed.  Perhaps instead of enduring or fearing them, in the future you can stay fired up about your passions and enjoy your ministry.

Please leave a comment.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Building castles or pitching tents?

We have an article by guest author Francis Voon from the Parish Support Unit.  If you have a story or idea for the blog, please contact Mark McDonald via email

The word castle is derived from the Latin meaning 'fortified place.' Originating around the 9th Century in Medieval Europe, castles were fortified, multi-purpose structures. They provided defensive protection from enemies and were bases from which raids could be launched. They were centres of administrative rule and symbols of power which individual lords built to control the people, travel routes and natural features of the surrounding areas. 

Castles were designed with polygonal or concentric defence walls and in the 12th century, towers were added, enabling soldiers to defend and attack with flanking fire. Other design elements that were once military tactics, such as moats, became divorced from their simple usefulness as they evolved into symbols of power with the intention to impress and frighten off enemies.

In the 15th century, gunpowder artillery became powerful enough to break through stone walls, and so new structures were devised which made castles uncomfortable and undesirable places to live. As a result, they went into decline. From the 18th century onwards, there was a renewed interest in mock castle construction which had no military purpose.

Let us contrast these mighty, solid, unmovable fortresses with the simple dwellings of the ancient Israelites. When Moses took his people from one desert to another, they were essentially nomadic, picking up tents, setting down tents, rolling away tents, pitching tents. Even God’s tabernacle, where the presence of the Lord ‘dwelled’, was a movable tent (see Ex 40:36-38) – not surprising then, that the word ‘tabernacle’ derives from the Latin meaning ‘tent’!

As they dwelt in tents and moved constantly, they could not farm crops. So for sustenance they had to rely, not on the work of their hands, but completely on God. They met to gather manna from heaven, give thanks to God, partake of God’s free gifts and continue on their journey. (Eucharistic overtones, anyone?!) Quite simply, tent-living invited the Israelites to trust in God alone, live together in community, and be ready to move whenever the presence of the Lord indicated it was time to go on.

Perhaps there are valuable lessons to be learnt from castles and tents. There are certainly many questions the two contrasts raise that we can ask ourselves. Are we soldiers defending the castles of our own belief? Or are we pilgrims moving with the presence of God?

Do we become swept up in building fortifications as we battle to defeat others in ‘apologetics’ raids? Do we preach from high flanking towers of morality while turning blind eyes to abuses of power within the human structures of our church ever in need of repentance?

Do we build elaborate but empty moats of outward religious observance that are designed to impress others of our Catholicism? Or do we eagerly respond to relationship building with God as we practice looking for God in the ‘manna’ of our very lives?

Can we learn to leave our safe, immovable, forts of stone? Can we share the journey with others God blesses with along our path (even though the dwellings from which they come are made of straw, cardboard or mud?!)

Pope John XXIII said in his opening speech to the Second Vatican Council that “our duty is not just to guard this treasure [of the Truth of the Good News of Jesus Christ], as though it were some museum-piece and we the curators, but earnestly and fearlessly to dedicate ourselves to the work that needs to be done in this modern age of ours.”

Together, let us have the courage to pray: Journey with us, Lord, as we live in the messy, temporary tents of a pilgrim, wholly dependent on your gifts, calling others to join us as we continue to walk the path towards making your kingdom come. Amen!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Recruiting Volunteers

Recently we looked at customer service in ministry.  Some of the companies that have great customer service have great staff or good staff to customer ratios. In a ministry setting the presentation of your ministry may be as good or great as your leaders and volunteers.  So how do you recruit more volunteers to improve your leadership ratio?  Recruiting volunteers and building a volunteer team are as important to your ministry as the content of your ministry.

So here are four things to remember about volunteers in your ministry setting:

  1. People do care and want to help – Australians are generous people, it is just that sometimes you just have to ask for support before you can see this generosity.  People have so many things to think about that they may not put their hand up to volunteer unless they are asked directly.  When people do care about your ministry, you need to invite those people into your ministry as volunteers.  Perhaps people start in a supportive role by helping behind the scene, leaving you to tackle the up front leadership role.
How can you move people from caring about your ministry to helping in your ministry?

  1. People do have time, although limited – People are always busy and sometimes they look at how many hours you do as a ministry leader and think they could never give that much time to the Church.  So how can you break down volunteer positions to manageable amounts of time.  Perhaps you can ask people to volunteer for one session per month, or volunteer to setup the session then go home.  People do have spare time but as a ministry leader you need to understand their other time commitments.
How can you break down the volunteer jobs into manageable portions of time?

  1. People are capable of a great deal – there are many talented people in your parish with skills that you need.  Perhaps they have never run a ministry before but they could do great things for your ministry.  Volunteers will give everything to a ministry if they are treated with respect.  As a ministry leader look to use people’s gifts and empower them to be the best they can be.  Don’t just delegate a task to a volunteer; empower them to use their initiative to complete a task.
How can you show more belief and trust in your volunteers?

  1. People need to be thanked – we can’t pay volunteers with money but we can thank them at every opportunity.  People can tell if you are genuine in your appreciation or are just thanking them to get more out of them.  When you are sincere in your appreciate of your current volunteers and they will appreciate an future volunteers they recruit.
How can you show appreciation to your volunteers?

We can all do with more volunteers in our ministry because people move on to other things.  You can never have too many volunteers so never knock back someone who wants to help.  If you do recruit more volunteers than you need, use your experienced volunteers in leadership and training roles, again volunteers are capable of a great deal.

Please leave a comment on how you recruit volunteers.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Customer Service tips for your ministry

In all my years of ministry service I have never had any formal customer service training.  It wasn’t until I served as a volunteer parking attendant at a Funeral that I saw the value of customer service.  On a day of sorrow and loss, people were leaving the car park after the funeral thanking the volunteers for their wonderful help and service.  It seems that the little things like saying hello to people as they drove into the car park made a difference.

I don’t know a lot about customer service, perhaps if I had more jobs in the retail sector I would have received better training in customer service.  I do know that when it comes to the church, we don’t think of people as customers or consumers.  We aim to treat people as members of a community or a family.  Whilst this is how we should treat members of the Church, some ministries have high number of visitors or new members, so how can we include them. 

Here are a few customer service practices that every Church or Ministry could learn:

  1. First Impressions – if people are visiting you for the first time what do they see?  Try to think and see as they would, not what you want them to see or think.  Whenever you visit a shop or retail store for the first time, you get an impression of the company behind the shop front.  The same is true of your ministry, the first time someone visits you they get an impression of your ministry and the parish. 
How can you improve people’s first impression of your ministry?
  1. Visitor Friendly – do people feel that they can visit your ministry?  Does your ministry feel like a club for a select group of people?  When I enter a retail store I know if they want my service by how the staff treat me.  So how can you make sure that visitors feel welcome, do you have a person who greats visitors and answer their questions?
How can you make your ministry more welcoming to visitors?
  1. Building your Brand – have you noticed that Apple products have a similar look or style?  They have one of the most respected “brands” of any company.  The golden arches is recognised anywhere as McDonalds have built their brand.  Whilst you don’t have the same marketing budget, does your ministry have a “brand” or style?  If you want people to start to recognise your ministry then they have to identify the brand.  The brand can be a name or style or a logo but it is more than that.  For example Soul at Pittwater parish have brand that goes deeper than their logo.
How can you build the brand of your ministry or group?
  1. Repeat business – why do you return to your favourite restaurant?  Many people return to their favourite cafĂ© because they know the coffee is good or the staff are friendly.  How can you get visitors to come back to your ministry?  Perhaps you need to develop some flexible predictability in your ministry.  Your ministry has to be predictably good so that if people turn up again they know what they are getting.  Yet you should be flexible enough that you change things before it becomes stale.  This is a hard balance to achieve but many aspects of ministry are hard to balance.
How can you generate repeat business in your ministry?

Maybe your ministry looks a little different that this; please adapt it to your situation.  Whilst we can’t start treating members of our church purely as consumers of our ministries, it is important to learn from the customer service principles that our church members have come to expect from their shopping experience.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Getting service hours in Winter

I noticed that the winter time mid year sales are starting in the shopping centres and it is time for the Ski season to begin.  Winter time has interesting implications for ministry in a parish context.  Some experienced ministry follow the rule “never start a new initiative in winter”.  The unwritten rule developed because people are more uncertain about coming out for a meeting at night when it is cold.  Others find it difficult to drive at night time or public transport isn’t as appealing in the rain.  Perhaps people in your parish are in a bit of a mid year slump; there isn’t the energy of the new year to drive fresh starts.

So as an intern how do you get your hours in?  There are still four hours of service that you need to get in each week so where can you serve?  Here are a few thoughts about getting service hours in winter time:

  1. Administration work – if people aren’t coming out for meetings, perhaps the parish has more material going out to the people.  Perhaps you might help in the parish office with mail outs or newsletters.  Maybe you could prepare a special “winter warmers” newsletter just for the winter months.
  2. Sacramental programs – the sacraments still happen even if it is cold or raining.  Maybe there are events that you could assist at.  Some interns have been helping at Confirmations to help organise the children while the Sacramental Coordinator assists the liturgy.  Perhaps you could assist with Baptism preparation nights by providing a cup of warm soup as people arrive.  Even being available to open and close doors at church can make people feel welcome while keeping the cold wind out of the church or hall.
  3. Research team – perhaps you spend hours on the internet, reading this blog, but others don’t have time for searching for new material.  Perhaps you could start a research team that helps ministry leaders find new material on the web.  Interns seem to know where to find things online that older ministry leaders just don’t know where to look.  Remember to log your hours and commit to a set period of research.  You can stay on task by trying to find three articles or resources each research session and report each week to the ministry leader on what you found.
  4. Winter afternoon sessions – if people won’t come out at night time maybe Sunday afternoon activities are more appealing?  There is something about the afternoon sun in winter that makes everything feel better.  Perhaps use the afternoon time to run a prayer group in the church.  Move the bible study to after lunch and bring soup or nice coffee.  If people won’t come out at night, shift your events to times when they will venture out.
  5. Planning for spring – just like a garden, good winter planning can lead to a fruitful spring.  It is the pastoral planning during winter that captures the spring time enthusiasm.  If your Junior High youth group plan to invite students finishing year 6 at the end of the year, then plan out each session now.  Planning meetings held with the committed leaders in winter will deliver well planned events to a fresh crop of participants in spring.

Perhaps this winter won’t be that cold and maybe your ministry participants are committed enough to come out rain, hail, snow or shine.  But if you find things slow down as it gets colder try these tips.  If you have your own tips for winter time ministry then leave a comment, we would love to get your advice, besides it is to cold to go outside, we can stay here a bit longer.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Content matters - Part IV

In a previous post I wrote how “content matters” in your ministry.  This week I would like to expand our thinking to how mission matters.

How are you going in your ministry at the moment?  Do feel tired and worn out?  Do you feel full of energy and passion?  Do the ideas flow naturally or are you just doing the same old thing?  The answers to these questions get to the heart of the Mission vs Maintenance spectrum.

Redemptoris missio says that missionary activity is a matter for all Christians.  Some of us grew up with the impression that missionary work is what goes on overseas.  Perhaps others grew up with the impression that mission is another word for social justice.  Mission is more that overseas work or social justice, it the transformative work of the Church in our world. 

Here are three thoughts about the content of your missionary activity:

  1. Mission is about Jesus – when we become more like Christ we feel drawn to the work of Jesus.  The content of any missionary activity is becoming more like Christ and making more disciples.  Sometimes people get involved in good works because it makes them feel better or because it makes others feel better.  When we see people as Jesus sees them we have no option but to act as Jesus would act.  Good works that do not come out of a relationship with Jesus is not mission but humanitarian work.

  1. Mission is a witness – many times people focus the content of mission on the work.  The focus becomes teaching scripture or handing out food or campaigning for a good cause.  The second focus in mission should be our witness.  People can see when you are just going through the routine; people are inspired by those who have a passion for the area they minister in.  What ever mission activity you get involved in it should come out of the passion that God has given you.  Your involvement in mission is not about doing good works but being a witness to how God sees you and sees the people you are ministering to.

  1. Mission is a journey – sometime we can feel good if we are able to give $50 dollars to a charity.  But mission is a long term journey rather than the short term efforts of a charity campaign.  We can buy the badges and drop coins in the bucket but can we journey with people in a long term mission.  The mission of the Church happens when a Catholic commits to their mission over the long term.  Here are a few example:
    • A Catechist with 15 years of service
    • A parent who helps the youth ministry long after their own children move on.
    • A musician who mentors young musicians into liturgical music
    • A team who establish a long term partnership with another parish.

What areas Mission excite you?  What passions do you apply to your missionary activity?  Please post a comment or share your thoughts.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Content matters - Part III

In a previous post I wrote how “content matters” in your ministry.  This week I would like to expand our thinking to how catechesis matters.

Recently I had to take my eight year old son to Church for a catechesis session for his Confirmation.  He wondered what this “Cat of Chesis” was all about so we had a little joke that he was going to see a “cat from Chesis”.  After attending the catechesis session he said to me “it is just like a lesson at school”.  I think my son suffers a similar misconception to other Catholics who attend Catholic school; that is they believe that Catechesis is another name for religious education.  Catechesis and religious education are similar but different.  So what is Catechesis and why does content matter?

1.      Catechesis is about Jesus – “The name of catechesis is given to the whole of the efforts within the Church to make disciples, to help people to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, so that believing they might have life in His name, and to educate and instruct them in this life and thus build up the Body of Christ.” (Catechesi Tradendae, n 1)
Whilst there is a temptation for ministers to use a Catechesis session to teach people information, the focus of catechesis should be content that draws the learner into a deeper relationship with Jesus.  The content needs to be chosen carefully so that it helps the people to explore and believe, not just be informed.

2.      Catechesis is a witness – “Catechesis is an apprenticeship of the entire Christian life which promotes an authentic following of Christ” (General Directory of Catechesis n 67).  The key to catechesis should be the interaction between the minster and the participant.  In your parish or ministry there should be some “apprenticeship” as the participant is witness to the life of the Leader.  The content of catechesis should not be driven by a curriculum (which is religious education) but by the questions the participant has.  For example at WYD the best part of the morning catechesis is the Q&A with the Bishop as it is about the questions the young people have.  When a participant wants to draw closer to Christ, they have questions that need answers yet the leader should be more of a witness than a teacher.  In catechesis the style should be “do as I do, not just what I say”.

3.      Catechesis is ongoing – can we ever profess to know everything about God?  Is there ever a time when we can say we understand the fullness of God and the Church?  It is natural for us to grow in our understanding of God but there is always more to know.  As ministry coordinators, interns, volunteers or leaders we need catechesis too.  To be involved in on going catechesis is to be continuously pursuing a deeper relationship with God.  The best witness to this is our own Bishop David who says that he still gets new insights into the scriptures every time he is involved in Lectio Divina.

What areas do you need more catechesis in?  What areas of your walk with Jesus could grow deeper by finding a suitable witness who can spend some time with you engaging in catechesis?  Please write a list of what you would like to know more about and ask for the help of someone who can “disciple” you in this process of Catechesis.

Stay tuned, next week we will look at Mission.