What to Do When Someone’s Not Working Out (h/t Patrick Lencioni’s “The Ideal Team Player”)

One of the toughest situations in ministry is what to do when someone’s not working out.

This “someone” might be a person on staff or might be a volunteer. This “someone” could be a lead catechist or part of your support team providing administration or facility maintenance. What makes a situation like this so challenging for those of us in ministry, is that quite often, we’re nice or at least aspire to be nice–and as a result we shy away from addressing a situation out of concern that we’ll end up hurting someone.

In The Ideal Team Player, organizational health consultant, Patrick Lencioni, shows us a pathway of how we can work through such a situation with

love, maturity, and professionalism.

The goal Lencioni puts forth is to help those who aren’t working out change or move out/on to something else. This might mean another ministry within the parish–or maybe a different sort of service role. (p. 43). If you’re thinking, wait, that’s not the kind of ‘love’ I want to be a part of! Hang on. Lencioni proposes that:

The most unhappy people in a company are the ones who don’t fit the culture and are allowed to stay. They know they don’t belong. Deep down inside they don’t want to be there. They’re miserable. (p. 61)

The insight here is that when someone seems to be “not working out,” they too might be suffering, may be feeling like a ‘fish out of water’ or unsatisfied themselves–this is why as leaders we are compelled to act, rather than letting an unhealthy situation persist without attention.

Now, if you’re thinking this means get rid of the person as quickly as possible, terminating (i.e. firing or downsizing) them if an employee or banning them from a ministry team if a volunteer, stop. It’s absolutely not healthy to terminate someone unexpectedly or without their input into the process (unless, for example, there is an allegation that clearly violates parish/diocese policy, moral/ethical behavior, etc. that has been investigated and found credible). Doing this sends chilling ripple effects through the community, reducing trust in leaders and creating the impression that we as leaders are more about “efficiency” or “getting rid of a problem,” than living out our vocation as a Christian.

Okay, so now that the sudden, unexpected termination of a staff member or volunteer who has not credibly violated policy or civil law is off the table–what to do?

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Image via Air Mobility Command

Lencioni encourages this attitude for leaders: know you’re not going to “just fire” the person, and instead ask, how do we give this person a chance to be a team player?–to grow or adapt to fit your ministry’s culture, needs, and expectations (133). This means, sitting down and talking to the person. Not talking with other leaders about this person without ever including them, not talking to other staff/volunteers about the person–talking to the person in question. Directly.

Lencioni directs, “don’t make it a witch hunt or anything” (p. 134). Make it an invitation. Tell the person what you’re trying to do as a leader with culture, with the specific expectations for their role, etc. Then see if the person “has the stomach for it” (p. 134). This is keeping it simple. Lencioni emphasizes, “most training and development comes down to how much a person wants to change” (p. 134). Your goal as a leader in this conversation is to discern if this person is willing to change, willing to grow.

If you’re thinking you can know this without speaking to the person directly, you’re wrong. When we only speak to others about someone else, we’re not giving that person a chance as an individual. And, in a broader sense, we’re not building a culture of trust surrounding how we invest in people and our ministry/parish’s mission and culture. Don’t make this mistake. Go for health in your ministry organization. Invite people into growth or a peaceful, loving transition to a role where each can flourish within the Body of Christ, lived out at the most local level.

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Lectio Divina: Yes, Do It

One of the “hardest” sacrifices I make when leading faith formation for teens or adults is to resist feeling pressured to shorten prayer, and to instead embrace prayer time as the most important 4-8 minutes of our time together.

Theologically, it’s obvious! 😀 I mean, definitely better for someone to spend time listening for God’s communication, than to listen to me for 5 minutes more.

Or, as the psalmist writes:

“Better one day in your courts, than a thousand elsewhere” (Psalm 84:11).

As a result, I make the time to do lectio divina when forming disciples. I’ve learned that this means not waiting until the end of a time together, because I know that I get wrapped up in whatever we’re discussing and never leave enough time. One way to make the practice unavoidable is to have a group meet first in a chapel, sanctuary, or visibly prayer-inspiring space–and then afterwards walk to a different location for discussion. Or, with a discipleship group that always drifts in late, I lead lectio divina smack in the middle of class–as we transition from discussion of previous material to new material–so that everyone is present (and joke that this is the “height” of class–it’s all downhill from here!). The point is, find something that works for your environment of faith formation–and stick to it, do it.

By actually practicing a prayer discipline like lectio divina during time together, I’m modelling that anyone can do this on their couch, at the kitchen table, with their spouse, etc. at home. I’m providing a concrete, tested way a person could pick up their Bible and start to read and pray with it daily (or maybe weekly!)–whatever it takes to start that habit of conversing with and listening to God. I figure if God can use me in whatever small way to start that habit, then the Holy Spirit can take care of the rest–forming the disciple and guiding him/her in true wisdom through the Word of God.

To encourage you, here’s an awesome graphic organizer tool/template from Katie Anne Bogner:

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click the photo for free templates and ideas

 

Read more here to find out how she uses this.

Children’s Liturgy of the Word Guide: Welcome and Engagement

The first movement of Children’s Liturgy of the Word is welcome and engagement.

New Year's candlesIn a catechetical setting, we begin by helping children disengage from the world and step into a sacred place, a set apart time. In Liturgy of the Word for Children, we are not disengaging in this same sense (since the children are moving from one liturgical space to another). However, the transition of walking and moving to a new place presents an opportunity to remind the children of their presence in a sacred place and prepare to participate in the liturgy. (While also giving a release for wiggles/squirms before the proclamation of the Scriptures).

Practical Ideas

Active:

“What do you see that makes this a place for worship?” (altar, lectionary, candle, holy water, ambo, liturgical colors, etc.) “We can use our bodies for prayer too…we show that we are God’s children by making the sign of the cross on our very own bodies [demonstrate/repeat gesture]; we can walk in a reverent and prayerful way [walk quietly/slowly with hands crossed]; we can bow and/or genuflect because Jesus Christ is our Lord and King [demonstrate/repeat]”

Song/Visual:

“What colors do you see on our altar?” “What does _____ color remind us of?” [purple=preparation, white=celebration, green=growing (ordinary time), red=Pentecost]; lead into “Liturgical Colors” song. Can have children wearing any of the colors in the song raise hands/stand up during that part of song. Can sing the song a second time and challenge the kids to remember to “freeze” and stop on the correct liturgical season of the day.

Prayer:

Reinforce “Glory to God” as praise [some might remember this from the main assembly]. Can say “Glory to God” loud, soft, fast, and slow to practice listening and preparing for quiet. Or, can sing the tune from Mass for “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will” following various directions (loud, soft, etc.)

Song:

Any song of praise can be a good transition to allow children to stand/gesture/move and then deliberately sit them in a different way (i.e. circle, semi-circle, etc.) to prepare them to listen and reduce temptations for moving/touching each other. If the Gathering Hymn was memorable, feel free to repeat that refrain. An“exiting” song [i.e. Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord, Jesus Loves the Little Children, etc.] could also be repeated.

Sensory:

Can welcome children by name/ask name, giving hand shake; dimming lights and lighting a candle for a special moment (and then turning lights fully on) can bring engagement and calm, transitioning into the new space

Verbal:

Many ditties (short rhyme/tunes) exist to transition children from entry to seated/listening, for example “Everybody Sit Down (first 42 seconds) (tune: Shortnin’ Bread) or the non-singing “Criss Cross Applesauce

Ready for Kingdom Living?

“the LORD, your God, will bless you in the land you are entering to possess”  –Dt 30:16

Being a Christian is about earning check marks in God’s book, right?

Wrong.

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Image: “Vast” by IronPoison via Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

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And as the people of Israel stand ready to enter the promised land, we see how belief leads to action. See, God has already set aside the blessing of land for his chosen people. The Lord had a plan way back when he rescued them from slavery in Egypt. The blessing already exists. Israel doesn’t have to keep God’s commandments in order to “earn” the promised land, God has already given it freely to them. The issue, however, is Israel’s ability to live and dwell in God’s land. God doesn’t force us to change our lives to conform to his ways. But, without leaving behind our worldly ways of thinking, and transforming our lives in order to live joyfully in God’s kingdom, there’s simply no way we would ever be content in God’s promised land!

Think of it this way—life in God’s kingdom is different than our earthly reality. God’s kingdom is based on love. As we follow the Lord Jesus as his disciples, we gradually want to change our ways, to conform to his example. Why? Not to “earn” blessings, but to become people who can live in God’s kingdom, living by God’s rules with joy. The kingdom of God has come—it exists now and in eternity. The question is, are we ready to live there, to possess God’s blessings both now and forever?

When Your Pastor Announces a Credible Allegation

Scene Soffits Microphone
Public Domain via Max Pixel

Over the past week I’ve watched my parish pastor lead a pastoral response, within the context of our local church, to the announcement of a credible allegation of inappropriate sexual behavior with an adult male by a priest who’d served our parish community.

In my own small attempt to keep victims and those hurt (rather than those acting immorally) first, I’m not going to mention the name of this particular priest. I’ll share a bit of the background though, for context. He had a long history with my parish, having served as an assistant chaplain to the fellowship, and association of lay faithful (from 1983 to 1991) that preceded the formal, canonical establishment of my parish, Christ the King in Ann Arbor. In the past decade or so, he’d been active in various ministries based in the parish, as well as a neighboring Catholic radio station, and celebrated Mass and the sacrament of reconciliation in our parish and in the chapel of a local office park.

Okay, so how did the news unfold?

Tuesday Afternoon: Bishop informs my pastor

Wednesday: Parish sends out all-parish email from pastor, informing us of the diocese’s announcement of credible allegation, and encouraging anyone affected to contact the diocese or him personally. Local Catholic schools also sent out the diocese’s announcement.

Friday: Through an all-parish email, our pastor announced that following all Sunday Masses, he would hold Q&A.

Sunday Mass: Our pastor speaks at the end of each Mass, sharing what the credible allegations were, that the bishop had conducted an investigation, and that the diocese had shared information with local prosecutors (the possible charge might be something in the realm of lewd behavior, but also might not meet standards for a formal charge–only our speculation at this point). I was deeply moved by Fr. Ed (our pastor)’s authenticity and vulnerability. He tried very hard not to cry–and may or may not have succeeded. He encouraged anyone who may have additional information or who could have been affected to get in touch with he or the diocese. Though the recipients of unwanted inappropriate sexual behavior were adults, Fr. Ed called them “our kids”–because some were likely adults who had grown up in the parish community as children.

Sunday Q&A: I attended the post-Mass Q&A. Again, I was impressed by how direct, blunt, and forthright our pastor was. He didn’t hide behind legal language. He shared his own feelings of sadness, shock, and anger. He allowed all questions–which stretched quite a range of perspectives, i.e. those who’d lived with the priest in the past spoke, those who’d been positively impacted by his ministries, parishioners who happened to be attorneys shared opinions, those who work with the elderly spoke (note: this priest is elderly suffers from some health afflictions and lives in assisted living), and those who had known him for more than three decades. There were two Q&As, and the second one, I was told, went as long as needed to allow all questions. [I was at the first one, which did have a necessary set end time due to the second Mass needing to begin.] Our pastor demonstrated very open listening, though was direct in closing off speculation that veered into not believing the allegations, questioning the conclusiveness of the bishop’s investigation, or wondering about the specific identities of those making the allegations (i.e. parishioners? non-parishioners? etc.). A strong statement was made about our co-responsibility as laity, and our role in accompanying anyone who has an allegation to bring–supporting them spiritually and practically in getting to the right person to hear the concern. I did notice that most of the people at the well-attended Q&As were predominantly those with more than two decades of life in the parish, those who would have known this priest from his younger, more active years. As someone younger and newer to the parish (<5 years) I’ve had very little public contact with him, and so I think those like me may have had less specific need to attend the Q&A (plus many of us have young children…and they’ll only happily play on the parish playground for so long after Mass!).

In closing

I don’t have anything more to share at this point, simply wanted to document the pastoral communication and leadership I observed in what would be called a “crisis response.” Without a doubt, I hold my pastor in higher esteem than I did before this began, I trust him more than I did eight days ago. Evil is never God’s will. Period. But where evil is present, where injustice occurs–our response certainly matters.

Disclaimer: I’m assuming that facts and details may expand over time from what is presently publicly known, but this is my take as I can observe it now as a parishioner.

Why Serve in a Parish

Parishes (or local churches) can be frustrating places for many an enthusiastic, devoted, and mission-oriented follower of Christ. Often due to human sin and blindness of a variety of sorts, people cannot find a place to belong, to be accepted in service. This shouldn’t be the case, but, it’s a reality (and it can hurt, take time, and require great discernment). I wanted to share an encouragement, from my own life, on why it’s worth it to keep trying and hang in there–even when one’s local church/parish feels like it’s [or you’re!] falling, we can at least be falling together.

My husband and I began serving on the Alpha Team for our parish’s first season of parish-wide Alpha in fall 2017. Going into it, we knew from all of the homilies at Mass how important this was–to follow Jesus by being love to others, making space in one’s life for conversation and relationship-building. I’d already been quite immersed in Divine Renovation and the DR Guidebook, and had been incorporating Alpha content into classes for years–so we were “low hanging fruit” to our Pastor and Senior Leadership Team’s exhortations to get involved with Alpha.

What I didn’t know, was how much God was going to make His presence known in my life through the Alpha Team experience. After serving as a Table Host and Session Leader, I was invited to join the Alpha Core Team. My focus was on developing volunteers as Table Hosts and Helpers, helping us build more and more amazing interpersonal, relationship, and conversation skills so that we truly connect with those we encounter.

This has changed me, personally, as it’s drawn me to be attentive to who I’m called to accompany in my own life–and to treat those relationships, no matter now nascent, as a priority, as if they were a “calendar event” I need to keep making time for, keep trying to schedule…no matter how many failed attempts it takes.

Being given this specific mission from staff and those of a different generation at my parish has been an experience of shared trust and mutual accountability, of being invested in by brothers and sisters in Christ in a way that isn’t just about Alpha, but is personal. This is something new. Many parishes are places where generations “guard” certain ministries, hold on to leadership roles, or simply don’t trust (or give the benefit of the doubt) anyone who’s “new” or thinks a bit differently due to different life experiences.

God shows His loving presence so much through my co-workers on the Alpha Team who intercede, both in prayers and actions, for me. Service within a parish can transform relationships (even while some, inevitably, remain painfully broken within the Body of Christ, especially a the local level). It doesn’t erase pain, but good can still come forth. Bottom line, we must not give up on it, but pursue it. 

I think this ancient hymn sums up both the challenge and grace:

English Translation (Ubi Caritas)

Where charity and love are, God is there.
Christ’s love has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And may we love each other with a sincere heart.
Where charity and love are, God is there.
As we are gathered into one body,
Beware, lest we be divided in mind.
Let evil impulses stop, let controversy cease,
And may Christ our God be in our midst.
Where charity and love are, God is there.
And may we with the saints also,
See Thy face in glory, O Christ our God:
The joy that is immense and good,
Unto the ages through infinite ages. Amen.

Why do Liturgy [of the Word with Children]?

Why do liturgy?

This question could be asked of any of us, of any age-level–why do liturgy? For each of us, liturgy offers an unparalleled experience of being joined to Christ and made worthy to offer divine worship in the Holy Spirit.[1] This experience is not limited to adults, nor limited to the Liturgy of the Eucharist–it inherently includes all of the baptized, all those filled with Christ and the Holy Spirit. And in doing liturgy, sharing in this divine worship with Christ our Savior, each of us–child, parent in the pews, and Liturgy of the Word for Children is formed.

Liturgy teaches each of us, “not by means of an artificial system of aim-conscious educational influences,” but by simply creating “an entire spiritual world in which the soul can live” as God desires.[2] Doing liturgy in any form disposes us by wrapping an individual in Christian witness, the witness of those present on earth, and of the communion of the blessed in heaven.  Liturgical habits can provide words and actions ready to become the response of ongoing conversion, months, years, or even decades later in a person’s life.[3]

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little liturgists [cc-by-nc 2.0, Alves Family]

While liturgy has an objective aspect (meaning, the Mass is the Mass, even if “celebrated poorly”), the objective truth of liturgy, “has no end in itself apart from the formal, and therefore subjective, response of the faithful.”[4] This is where Liturgy of the Word for Children plays an essential role–encouraging adults to open themselves to the fullness of the liturgy to discern, through the Holy Spirit, how to foster a liturgical environment where our younger children hear, experience, and respond to Christ.

We do this confidently, knowing that in his earthly ministry, Jesus himself affirmed the religious potential of young children, correcting those who would assume that children have no place in the Kingdom of God.[5] Likewise, we trust in the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit who lavishes supernatural gifts of grace on all of the baptized, calling each of us to be committed to spreading the Good News.[6] In doing liturgy, we respond to this call with humility, trust, and love for God and His people.

[1] Mediator Dei, §20; see also Synod of Bishops, XI Ordinary General Assembly, Lineamenta, “The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church” (2004), §13.

[2] Romano Guardini, The Spirit of the Liturgy (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1955), 66.

[3] Timothy O’Malley, “The Habit of Worship, the Domestic Church, and the Pedagogy of Cultural Catholicism,” Church Life vol. 3, no. 4.

[4] Louis Bouyer, CO, Liturgical Piety (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1955), 35. Referencing Mediator Dei.

[5] Matthew 19:13-15

[6] Pope John Paul II, Christifidelis Laici, para. 21, Pope Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, para. 13.