To Whom It May Concern:
In agreement with the clearly delineated Diocesan norms for termination of employment, below are just a handful of the reasons we were forced to fire Jesus of Nazareth from our Parish Staff here at Our Lady of the Emptying Pews:
He was never in the office.
He was constantly leaving work to “go and pray.”
He never turned in a single bulletin announcement.
He invited all the “wrong kinds of people” into the Parish community.
He turned over tables at the annual Parish ministry fair.
He encouraged people without master’s degrees or PhDs to share, preach and teach.
He refused to utilize clip art.
He had his “team” set up for his own farewell dinner.
He gave the Church keys to a fisherman instead of returning them to the front desk.
He formed catechists and executed a parish plan without first forming a committee.
And finally – in a display that demonstrated complete lack of pastoral discretion – he was unwilling to use his special “gifts” to multiply fish and tartar sauce and, thus, prevent the K of C from looking quite foolish at the Lenten Fish Fry.
As anyone can clearly see, Jesus of Nazareth was unwilling to abide by time-honored rules and expectations as set forth by people at the parish who are long-since dead yet whose memories we celebrate with every rule (“sacred cow”) we choose to heed (feed rather than slaughter).
Joylessly yours in Christ,
Members of the Perish(ing) Staff
Whether you find the above letter insightful or idiotic, jovial or juvenile, the truth is that modern ministry can often taken on an institutionalized form that Christ never intended.
That’s not to say that Christ did not like structure – He did, to be sure. He didn’t just choose the Twelve to mirror and relive Israel’s existence in perfect fidelity. In choosing and empowering the Twelve and the Seventy-two, Jesus created an infrastructure that offered His truth and healing presence to the masses and – in time, through apostolic succession – at all Masses.
Jesus doesn’t need you, He wants you
A careful examination of Scripture reveals something beautiful about Christ’s calling forth of the apostles from the group of disciples (Mk 3:13, Lk 6:13): while Jesus desired them, He didn’t “need” them. Jesus wasn’t about to fulfill God’s mission alone. As the perfect leader, He understood the importance of delegation and empowerment in building God’s Kingdom on earth. Notice that Jesus sought them out…He didn’t wait for them to come. Do you actively seek out Core Members – throughout the year – or just wait and hope they come knocking on your door?
Jesus didn’t judge His team’s effectiveness by outward appearance
Have you ever fallen into the trap of thinking you need a younger, hipper Core Team? Do you believe that “thin and sleek” is the way to teens’ souls? To be clear: there is no perfect Core Team. Having all young souls or all older souls doesn’t create the optimal balance of energy and wisdom or of openness and life experience. Christ Himself reminds us (Matt. 7:2) to look deeper than the outward appearance. This is yet another reason that a Core application process, ongoing training and true discernment should go into every potential Core Member’s involvement. Don’t just take warm bodies and don’t just dismiss bodies that seem “too out of the mold.”
Jesus didn’t measure ministry effectiveness by activities, but by prayer
Consider these words from His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI:
Do not become utterly absorbed in activism! There would be so much to do that one could be working on it constantly. And that is precisely the wrong thing. Not becoming totally absorbed in activism means maintaining consideratio — discretion, deeper examination, contemplation, time for interior pondering, vision, and dealing with things, remaining with God and meditating about God. One should not feel obliged to work ceaselessly; this in itself is important for everyone, too, for instance, every manager, too, and even more so for a Pope. He has to leave many things to others so as to maintain his inner view of the whole, his interior recollection, from which the view of what is essential can proceed. -Pope Benedict XVI, Light of the World, with Peter Seewald
Jesus modeled delegation and dependence on others so that the ministry and mission could move forward (Luke 9:1-6). If it was modeled by Christ and affirmed by the Pope, it’s time for all the “one-man shows” to seek and allow others to help…so you can pray more!
Jesus didn’t put a time limit on God
Jesus didn’t judge His success by immediate change (Jn 1:11, Lk 8:15). Change takes time. People don’t just need time for their eyes to dilate to Christ’s Light, but for their souls to adjust as well. Don’t rush change. Don’t put God on the clock. The more people you bring along on the journey the better. Share and impart the vision (Hab. 2:2) and trust that, in God’s time, the collective journey toward God is going to pay off.
Jesus knew how to handle frustration
Enthusiasm is contagious, but so is negativity. Ministry is difficult. Ministry is stressful at times. Ministry can suck all the joy right out of you if you let it…so don’t let it! Take a page out of Jesus’ playbook. Be steadfast in love and stand firm in truth (John 6:51-58, Luke 9:37-42). Don’t cater to the crowds and don’t react to negativity; virtue demands more. Stand in the face of adversity. Kneel in the presence of divinity. Laugh in the face of negativity. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).
Jesus didn’t do things in a manner that a lot of modern parish staffs would be comfortable with, to be sure. Jesus’ Church has survived and thrived for two millennia, however, and will not cease (Mt 16:18).
If you want your ministries and, indeed, your parish to thrive long after you’ve been called home to heaven, delegate now. Empower others with Christ’s mission and watch that commission change the face of the world for years to come.