Creating a Thriving Parish During the Pandemic

Whether we become a stronger or weaker church depends on what we do now in this crisis.  Craig Groeschel says, where there is a problem, there are opportunities.  We can use this time to work with the Lord to create His new normal.  A new normal in keeping with the Lord’s promise that He is creating something new, that new wine does not fit into old wineskins and that the Lord will expect His followers to take part in this creation.

Pat Lencioni, an international leadership expert, a New York Times best-selling author, and consultant  tells us quite clearly that if the leadership culture is not healthy, the parish will not bear fruit.

You might think that building a new culture would be impossible with everyone working remotely.  Lencioni tells us that it’s VERY possible to create a new culture in order to fulfill the mission of the parish AND come out stronger on the other side.  In his latest webinar, Surviving or Thriving: Rethinking Parish Leadership in a Time of Crisis he gives 3 steps to building a healthier culture in the parish.

Build a culture of prayer in the office.  Not just Mass, adoration, rosary, or Liturgy of the Hours, etc., but a reorientation of relying on God for everything you are doing.  As St. Paul said, “we live and move and have our being in Christ.”  Live into that.  As a group, using Zoom or other web sharing apps, start the day with prayer and a reflection, stop and pray halfway through the day as a group.  Make your office a “nuclear powerhouse of prayer.”
Examples of a “nuclear powerhouse of prayer”

  1. Everyone practices discernment in decision-making. Scripture, Tradition, Experience in the room, other voices, silence, meditation and spoken prayer, and, finally, time are all part of the way in which decisions are made within the leadership team.
  2. Lots of different types of prayer are welcome: lament, petition, blessings, intercession, praise, contrition, silence, meditation, contemplation, lectio divina. We are the keepers of a rich treasury of prayer methods.  Access them.  We deprive ourselves and others of the power of prayer matched to time, people and temperament when the defaults are just the three.
  3. Praying for one another’s particular hopes, dreams, joys and sorrows. Taking it all to God in prayer—not just the work, but the people.  God desires intimacy and this allows for it.
  4. Sharing with those with whom you are on a leadership team prayer methods that have yielded God-encounters. Witness to the power of prayer to one another.
  5. Worship together in liturgies of the Word, music, praise and thanksgiving, in penitence and grief. Worship does not always have to be sacramental.  Use other people as prayer leaders.  Enable a praying community to exist with or without ordained clergy. 

Build a culture of teamwork.  Break through silos.  Create a leadership group as a single unified group.  Spend time in the group speaking of concerns and aspirations, of how they can all work together, and begin to imagine together what the Lord may be creating.  Get the leadership staff together a couple of times a week to talk about these things.  Have a Zoom session up for several hours (“office hours”) so anyone can “drop in” to talk.  You’re creating a team of relationships that will last after the crisis is over.
Activities that build a culture of teamwork:

  1. Contingency thinking. If this happens, then…and that means we…
  2. Imagining the future together
  3. Tying each part of the parish’s work to the mission statement concretely and reminding one another of how you all fit into the mission
  4. Covering for one another (that means cross-training or knowing enough about what the other does to be able to be there for the people if they cannot)
  5. Suffering together. This one is particularly apt right now because no one is escaping some level of grief, loss or death in this situation.  How this is handled can make or break a team.

Create a culture of spiritual openness among the team.  Are they involved in spiritual friendship with each other?  Do they talk about spiritual books they’ve been reading?  How well can they support each other spiritually?  Do they share encounters with Christ with one another?  If these things aren’t happening in the office, they won’t be happening “out there.”
Activities that build spiritual companionship:

  1. Sharing of God-moments
  2. Mystagogical reflection on sacramental experiences
  3. Spiritual reading done together and discussed
  4. Group spiritual direction in the areas most struggle: consistent prayer life, witnessing to the faith, the interplay of faith in other relationships like with a spouse, children or colleagues
  5. Telling the truth about faith experiences that either did or did not reach the spirit—in other words, being honest about what’s nourishing your spirit and what is not. I believe if this were happening now, many would be saying Mass online is not cutting it, Adoration online is weird, etc.

Lencioni’s free webinar, from which this information came, can be found at https://amazingparish.org/thrive/ 

Perhaps this is what is already happening and so your parish leadership is poised to come out of this crisis thriving.  If not, Lencioni makes it clear, and we agree, that now is an opportune time to change what you’ve been doing.  You can build or rebuild your parish culture, beginning with the leadership teams and a crisis provides the opportune time to begin…especially a global pandemic that has completely altered “the way we’ve always done things.”  Don’t know where to start?  Looking for more guidance?  Contact us.  We’re happy to help you with coaching and mentoring. 


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