Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Aim High, Shoot Low

We are in the midst of the beginning of lots of change in our Archdiocese. I have no idea where I'll be, or what our parish will look like, five years from now. But at least, we're trying to be proactive and do some planning, be transparent and honest, and think big about the possibilities. I'm reading up on pastoral planning and trying to fill my toolbox. In all the leadership books I read, they talk about successful organizations being willing to try new things, to think "outside the box," to be willing to fail and learn and change courses when things aren't working.
I'm cool with that. I want to try new things at the parish, and I'm pretty comfortable with re-do's. I think it's a matter of attitudes, a matter of looking differently at same-old situations. Maybe it's because I'm the youngest kid in my family that I quickly get annoyed at hearing that my ideas won't work, couldn't work, before we get to even give things a try. I've been hearing it since I was little. But hey, maybe that's the life of an innovator.
A couple of years back I started urging the staff at our parish to stop assuming the worst of our parishioners. I wanted us all to stop saying things like "they won't understand" or "no one will come to that" or "that's too serious/deep/traditional/etc. for our people." I wanted us to start saying things like "let's try it, and see who comes" and assuming that our people were faith-filled, wanted to know God and grow in their faith. It was a HARD habit to break, and lately we've begun to fall back into old habits of assuming our people are shallow and half-hearted.
But I'm starting to realize I'm as guilty as my co-workers. As a youth minister, my default position with teenagers was that they didn't know much about the faith, that they were doubters- seekers, but doubters- and that they needed convincing. It's a much more comfortable position to be in as a teacher, where you know more and are more secure than your students. Working with adults, I'm afraid I've kept starting from that default position, assuming the groups I work with are illiterate about the faith. But the fact is, most of the parents in my GOF group are very faithful people, with a real dedication to the Church and to their family's faith. I'm just starting to realize that I need to teach to those people in my groups, rather than shooting for the lowest levels and trying to convince. What does that kind of teaching look like? I'm not so sure... but it's something I want to think about more.
As we begin this scary pastoral planning process, I want us all to go in assuming the best of our people- not to say "this won't work" or "they won't want to do this" but instead, thinking about how this church of people can become better evangelizers, more faithful, grow stronger and go deeper.

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