Editors Note: This is John Rinaldo’s fifth blog in his series on Multi-Parish Youth Ministry:
1. Multi-Parish Youth Ministry: A Gift and a Challenge
2. Multi-Parish Identity: Healing the Change
3. 8 Principles for Multi-Parish YM, Principle 1
4. 8 Principles for Multi-Parish YM: Principles 2 and 3
As we continue to delve into the eight principles for effective multi-parish youth ministry, we’ve reviewed many “big picture” practices such as vision, structures, and empowering leadership. Now it’s time to dig deeper into the details with administrative issues and shared prayer and worship.
Jesus Centered Ministry
Principle 4: Administrative Issues
There are so many questions that need to be addressed in a multi-parish setting when it comes to the administrative work. For instance, where will the office be? How does the budget work? Who’s the support staff for youth ministry? Who supervises the coordinator?
These are all good questions and there is no one right answer for each of them. One thing is true, however. These questions need to be addressed at the beginning to reduce any conflict or confusion. So let’s walk through them.
- Where will the office be? In a suburban setting where the parishes are situated closely together (a few miles apart), it might make sense to have an office in each parish. This is a good strategy for numerous reasons. For one, this will allow you to have face time at all locations and to be a part of the parish staff. If the office was situated only in one parish, that parishes’ staff would get to know you well, but you would not be integrated into the other parishes, making collaboration more difficult.
- How do we work the budget? It has been done numerous ways. Some prefer to have the budget housed in one parish, making the cash flow easier to manage. This would require each parish to pay the parish in which the budget is housed the agreed upon amount each year for salaries, programming costs, etc. For programs that consists of more than three or four parishes, it might make sense to have an externally housed budget, managed by the Diocesan Office if possible. Again, each parish would pay the amount due each year into that budget. There are pros and cons to each strategy, so discuss them thoroughly in advance, thinking about all contingencies, including tax implications.
- Who’s the support staff? If you are lucky enough to have any at all, this is probably the easiest one to solve. Pick a support staff from whichever parish makes sense, considering the work load, ministry involvement of each, and location of the youth ministry office. Again, this decision should be made in advance with the support and “buy-in” from the pastors.
- Who supervises the coordinator? There should be one supervisor. Anything more will cause conflict in interest and strategy. A suggestion would be to have an annual meeting with the pastors of all the parishes to review and evaluate the ministry, but then have the pastors agree on who will be the one supervisor. It is important to maintain this hierarchy for clear communication. If a pastor who is not the supervisor has a concern about an aspect of the ministry, he should communicate that with the supervisor who will then communicate that to the coordinator. Every pastor should feel comfortable to talk to the coordinator at any time, but when it comes to strategy and planning, the lines of communication need to be filtered through the supervisor.
Principle 5: Shared Prayer and Worship
As Catholics, mass is the source and summit of our faith. Therefore, how do we manage a Sunday liturgy when we have a multi-parish youth ministry effort? Do we have a youth liturgy at one parish, on a rotating basis, or at all the parishes? Fair warning: this can be a very touchy subject for pastors and lay ministers alike. There is no easy answer and, again, this should be discussed in advance.
The best answer depends on the situation. If all the parishes that are involved have a set youth liturgy, then the best option will be to let them continue as is while reaching out to all those liturgies and the youth and parents that attend. If only one parish has a youth liturgy, then the best option may be to encourage the youth to attend that specific liturgy, if the other parishes are not interested in developing one.
If each parish is interested in starting and maintaining a youth liturgy, as the coordinator of youth ministry for all those parishes, you may not want to be the one that is in charge of the liturgy. It is impossible to facilitate good youth liturgy if you cannot attend that parish each week. The parish that wants to start and maintain a youth liturgy should find the team and resources from within their parish and involve the youth ministry coordinator as a consultant and resource.
It is important from time to time to have liturgy as an entire youth ministry community, whether that happens on retreat, quarterly at one of the parishes, or at another youth event. These shared experiences of liturgy are important and can bring the youth ministry community together.
As leader, we are excited and consumed by the big picture questions of vision. In any ministry, a leader must spend time on these smaller, less exciting details. This is more true for a multi-parish youth ministry. The more time that is spent reflecting and acting on these smaller questions, the more likely the multi-parish youth ministry will succeed.