Overview of “Look to the Master” (Chapter 1 of “Multiply the Ministry: A Practical Guide for Grassroots Ministry Empowerment”)

Chapter 1 (titled “Look to the Master”) of Sean Reynolds’ Multiply the Ministry: A Practical Guide for Grassroots Ministry Empowerment (Winona, MN: Saint Mary’s Press, 2001) provides a convincing argument for why nearly all ministers today (ordained or otherwise) can no longer be specialists, but instead must be skilled as coordinators.

Reynolds roots his central concept in the reality that ministers today are expected to:

  • Be experts in a particular field or broadly trained (theology, formation, etc.)
  • Design, convene, and [often] lead commissions, teams, and task forces
  • Build leadership development systems for recruiting, training, organizing, and managing volunteers
  • Recruit (identify competencies for role, job descriptions, hiring process), develop (evaluate, progression in knowledge/skills), and lead other ministers and staff
  • Organize diverse groups (volunteers, staff, committees, etc.) to plan and deliver ministry
  • “Reconceptualize” (vision, mission, structure, etc.) the ministry organization
  • Manage transition and growth

In order to do this effectively, a minister must be a coordinator and one who can empower and lead others to success. A solid observation from Reynolds. I’d also add, it also takes leadership, managerial, and administrative skills that must be taught and practiced–as leaders are made, not born [an argument for the importance of pastoral administration/leadership/management courses in lay and seminary formation].

Reynolds is clear that this is more than just a secular leadership book, explaining in his Introduction:

“Somehow we need to learn to do what Jesus did. We need to learn from the Master the art of multiplying our ministry. This manual is for those who by vision and intention or by sheer necessity must call, mentor, and form those who would follow us in our ministries. Some have the title ministry coordinator. Most do not—even though they must function as ministry coordinators as they go about the jobs of director of religious education, pastoral minister, youth minister, liturgical minister, evangelization coordinator, campus minister, catechetical leader, and so on.”

Reynolds then formulates a link between the organizational theory of Harvey and Blanchard and the life of Christian discipleship (see bold outlined boxes below).

MultiplytheMinistryTable

This is an important contribution by Reynolds, because it helps us see how organizational theory (from the business and nonprofit sectors) is indeed relevant to how we do ministry. While Jesus Christ was not an organizational theorist in our modern sense (and we shouldn’t lessen the true identity of our Lord and Savior by describing Him as such!), his call to discipleship certainly did empower his followers. The gift of the Holy Spirit and our baptismal vocation to be sharers in the prophetic, priestly, and kingly mission of Jesus Christ is the most empowering invitation and privilege any of us could experience in our entire lives!

Reynolds’ framework is certainly useful, along with many other organizational leadership theorists (i.e. Weber and Tuckman) and other ministerial frameworks (i.e. FOCUS and Evangelical Catholic) for describing the life of discipleship.

A major caution, however, is reducing discipleship to ministerial involvement or status as a volunteer. Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples provides a 5 threshold framework that builds into the life of an intentional disciple–a necessary step before one can truly and effectively be empowered as a volunteer and/or leader for years to come. FOCUS Catholic campus ministry and the Evangelical Catholic’s frameworks do a better, more explicit job of ensuring that conversion (not merely parish membership, presence, etc.) is the start of discipleship. These resources could work well in combination.

In summary, Multiply the Ministry is a good resource that I’d recommend for ministers who are hesitant or reluctant to see themselves as coordinators in today’s ministry fields. It’s basic, but practical (especially the later chapters). It’s an older title (2001), but still relevant. However, for those that are already knee-deep in coordinating (aka beyond the basics), I’d encourage you follow in the footsteps of Reynolds yourself–start to look outside the “Catholic church” reading list to business and nonprofit organizational theories or books by non-Catholic authors to broaden your perspective, and then integrate and apply it back to your own experience.

h/t to my former classmate Laura Billeci  for remembering this book chapter and its relevance to ministerial leadership and discipleship 

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