I’m back from summer classes! 🙂
One small, but notable lesson from the summer was the power of seeing.
One professor in particular immediately stood out to myself and many of my classmates. Why? Because she looked like many of us. She was a woman in her 30s and had the speech, mannerisms, style of dress, etc. to match. And this stood out…because most business professors are not of that mold.
This has a direct application to ministry. When we’re trying to welcome, evangelize, or teach, personal connection with the one providing witness matters. And, being able to see oneself in the messenger counts. Now, this is in no way about simple tokenism. No, instead it’s about putting some intentionality behind often overlooked aspects of our ministries.
- What do our ushers, greeters, and hospitality volunteers look like? Are they representative of the parish? If not, some intentional, targeted recruitment might be in order. It’s often comforting or reassuring for a visitor to encounter someone similar to them upon entering a parish for the first time.
- How about those who lead adult faith formation groups or speak in a parish over the course of a year? Is there diversity in age, gender, life state, etc.?
- Or, thinking of those who volunteer with youth? Is there gender diversity? (Since we want our young men/boys and young women/girls to see like-role models int he faith)
One of the challenges that all ministerial leaders face is striking a balance between being simply happy to have any volunteer (yes, I’ve been there). And, doing some targeted recruitment when volunteers in one area of parish life have become unrepresentative of the parish as a whole or the surrounding population.
Bottom line, if the “first line” volunteers in our parishes aren’t representative of the parish as a whole or aren’t diverse enough to resonate with those who might happen to visit, we have to address the situation and work for positive change, so that the power of seeing a Christian witness who looks, talks, and acts like oneself can be a reality for every non-evangelized person who visits a ministry site.