Here are 10 pieces of sound wisdom which have been passed on to me by my colleagues and mentors over the years. I’ve noticed others who are just starting out as leaders in ministry have lots of enthusiasm. That’s great. Here are some ways that you can make sure that it’s there for plenty of years to come.
1. Pace yourself. You’re going to want to take on lots of things, because it’s the joy of ministry that invites us. A good rule of thumb is to pick two out of the three things you’d like to do, and do them well.
2. Over plan. Especially in the beginning, over plan your events. Write out every single detail down to the minute. Always have a back-up. Two chalices? Put out three purificators. Taking photos outside after confirmation? Make sure you have a designated indoor location in case it rains.
3. …but plan for flexibility. Remember that people are people. Your plan should leave room for what if’s, contingencies, and little unexpecteds, like a power outage during summer or a weather cancellation in the winter.
4. Build teams. When you get sick, or need to fly home for an emergency, who’s going to visit people in the hospital, shovel snow, or cover that mass no one else wants to cover?
5. When you raise a problem, be ready to offer a solution along with it. I learned this from a colleague who managed well-known fast food franchise for many years, before serving in parish ministry. This leadership strategy encourages the everyone on the team to take a proactive stance. When applied as a personal ground rule, it has the power to disarm the negative remarks and personal attacks that are often disguised as “constructive criticism,” because the only kind of complaints that ultimately come to the table are ones where the complainant has an investment in bringing them to a positive resolution. This is one of my favorite pieces of wisdom.
6. Less is more. In music, in ministry, in life. Before adding a mass, hiring new staff or singing more songs, focus on what’s in front of you, and give it 100%
7.What worked in your old parish might work in your new parish…but it might not. What were the key principles of your former successes? If they work, great, but don’t be disappointed if they aren’t well received in your new place.
8. Communicate with God regularly. Listen to the voice of God in your heart. Listen for the voice of God in prayer & scripture. Listen to the voice of God as spoken through the voice of others. When that voice of God affirms you, take a moment to thank God for the opportunities you’ve been given to give glory to his name.
9. Form your own opinions. Seek out a few people who can guide you with wisdom, who don’t have a vested interest in the outcome of your decisions, and who will support you with the freedom to form your opinions. They don’t have to all be pastoral ministers either. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was from a parishioner who was the retired Police Chief of large municipality in NJ. Look to people with different kinds of experience who can guide you to make prayerfully considered and well-informed decisions of your own.
10. It’s not always about you. Sometimes there are problems you can’t solve, circumstances you can’t control and perceptions which you cannot change. Negative feedback or an inappropriate remark is often a reflection of many other things that are going on in that other person’s life- and my spiritual director says to pray for that person. She’s right. We never know for sure what another person is going through, but a lot of times the things we think are directed at us because of who we are, actually are things that would have been said or done regardless of who was on the receiving end. Furthermore, some problems, circumstances and perceptions were never things that were meant for us to solve, control or change–at least not on our own. It’s quite possible God put us in these situations as instruments so that he could do the things that often seem impossible to us.