The human family is the domestic church; our parishes we call a parish family. Amid the rich network of relationships, the parish office remains at the core. And, if we look closely, we’ll see the same opportunities present in family life for growth, for strengthening, and for the formation of individuals and communities made to set the world on fire.
Jesus said that he came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many. As the head of our Church and model for every family, his words and actions make clear Life, a life lived in the center of the Father’s will. Perhaps it is best then to look at how Jesus lived this service with his own small family of faith – his disciples.
Taking them aside
Frequently we see in the Gospels Jesus taking the disciples aside to teach them and form them into men and women, capable of living and carrying the Good News. How are you forming your parish staff?
I once heard a speaker say, “Don’t be more spiritual than God”. The point being that God created everything that is, and works through every aspect of the human person. Spiritual formation is essential to be an effective witness of God’s love to our parishioners and visitors. But so is human formation and professional development. Are you empowering your parish staff to be excellent?
Would your staff be able to participate in a prayer to begin each day? What about a monthly lunch to receive teaching on a topic relevant to the Church? Is there currently infrastructure in place to ensure staff members receive ongoing skill development and professional training?
He sent them in pairs
How many of us are tempted to micro-manage those around us? Well, if the Gospels are any indication, Jesus sure didn’t! Instead, he formed his disciples through prayer, teaching, and the witness of his lived example. Empowering them for the mission of forming other disciples, he then sent them out.
In giving the disciples an opportunity to put into practice a new way of life and mission, he also gave them the support of and accountability of another disciple. Likewise each pair had the assurance of a “home base” to which they could return. This was a space to share the joys and address the challenges of their individual and communal mission, which brings us to our next point.
Returning to Capernaum
Jesus shared fellowship with his disciples. Were there difficult personalities and interpersonal conflicts? Most likely. In fact, we have several accounts of Jesus correcting the disciples, and speaking clearly on the importance of addressing conflicts with a brother or sister head-on. And yet Jesus undeniably chose relationship and community as the context in which edges were smoothed and trust could be born. We need to trust each other to work together.
How are you consciously building community among parish staff? Are you functioning as a team, as a fellowship of disciples, or is the subliminal message, ‘fend for yourself’?
God is a community of persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Authentic witness to God’s transforming and communal love and the work grounded in him admits the beauty of relying on each other, the necessity of sharing talents, and of pouring ourselves out for the good of each other – starting with the fellow staff person right next to me.