Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Manifesto -- Part Seven

Chapter Four: Project Design
The fourth chapter of Effective Church Operational Systems maps out the implementation plans for the Strategic Way. It explains the bones of the program, summarized this way:
1.      “Implement an effective ministry operating system in a Roman Catholic parish.
2.      Implement the elements of the Strategic Way Process
a.       Establish a clear destination statement including mission, vision, values, outcomes,   summary, and slogan.
b.      Develop and document parish level strategy.
c.       For each parish ministry develop and document its objectives, metrics, and strategy.
d.      Develop and document activity procedures for ministries.
e.       Optimize the organizational structure of the parish.
f.       Match the right leaders to lead the organization in the right places.
g.      Establish a network of leadership teams throughout the parish structure.
h.      Establish an ongoing evaluation and improvement process for all ministries.
3.      Develop a process for creating a strong leadership team and learning culture.”
It is a complex implementation system that seeks to replace the existing parish structure with one that has little in common with the present structure of a typical Catholic parish. Deacon Dean writes, “The driving force of the tacit mission of the parish was providing sacraments and the liturgical year. Maintaining the existing ministries was the primary goal. Therefore, very early on team building was a fundamental objective.”

Apparently, the sacraments are no longer considered the "tacit mission" of All Saints Parish.The question is: If providing the sacraments and following the liturgical year is not the primary goal, what is?
Again, that word ‘transformation’ is at the forefront.
One of the most troubling aspects of Effective Church Operational Systems is the pointed emphasis on transformation. This transformation is not yet categorized or defined. General outcomes such as a “relationship with God” or “living Gospel values and principles” are used, but there is not an explanation of how Catholics, within the structure of the parish, attain holiness.
However, based on what is left out of the thesis, one can surmise that the desired transformation is more an ideological one, rather than a Catholic understanding of a deepening holiness based on the sacraments, Church teachings and the tried-and-true structure of Catholic parishes.
While lip service is paid to God and to Biblical principles, The Strategic Way focus is solidly man-centered. It involves copious implementation strategies, which translates as a massive amount of busy work—planning, organizing, strategizing, and assessing of the parish, parishioners, staff, and so on. This type of activity can easily delude individuals into thinking they are accomplishing much, when in truth, very little progress is being actualized. See Figure 17, above, from the thesis. Click on it to make it bigger.
This intricate web of an organizational structure graphically illustrates the intended reach of this new system.
Dean writes, “Making an accurate assessment of where a parish truly is, takes brutal honesty…To create a parish level baseline current situation assessment the staff will conduct a SWOT (listing Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis. This is generated through conversations among the staff and with the Parish Pastoral Council (the principal advisory board to the Pastoral Administrator).” (Note: The SWOT assessment from June 2010 parish “Strategic Planning Rollout” can be found here. On page 18 of the 34 page Power Point presentation, 'sacrament' is listed as the sixth of seven values.)
He further writes, “The leaders must lay aside the assumption that the inherited organization is structured in the best way or that the existing ministries must all remain, that no more are necessary. Starting with a blank slate, the core leadership team designs the organization from the ground up in the most efficient way possible.”
Again, one can see the emphasis is on the complete overturn of the existing parish organizational structure, and its replacement with one that is foreign to a traditional parish. Through intensive training techniques, it promotes a form of lay clericalism. Instead of a proper understanding of the apostolate of the laity (see here for a correct explanation of the role of the laity as promulgated at Vatican II), it seeks to replace the ministerial priesthood with a ministerial laity.
This seems to be at the core of the desired transformation of both parishioners, and the parish organizational structure. Deacon Dean writes, “…church leaders can create the environments that cultivate transformation among individuals…the objective of personal transformation must be at the center of the mission of the parish.” He further states, “Personal transformation is the foundation of communal transformation. As people grow spiritually, they begin living Gospel values and principles. It transforms the culture of the community.”
Chapter four culminates with the idea that the “parish will intentionally cultivate a mindset for the leaders to see themselves in ongoing transformation as leaders, beginning with the paid staff. Reflective dialogue, especially during staff meetings and individual meetings among leaders, will be expected…as individuals learn and as the team learns, mental models change—the way we understand the world. As they use systems thinking, they begin to see the interconnectedness of the world around them and have a deeper understanding of the way things truly operate.”
Again, this is a quiet, yet aggressive technique of re-forming how a person thinks. It contains elements of group think (also, see here for a short video on group think.) Beginning with and concentrating on the leadership in the parish, this technique seeks to work from the top down to transform All Saints Parish, person by person, ministry by ministry.
Could this be a modern-day example of Pharisaism? Through a rigid system of guidelines, rules and behavioral modification, are parishioners being systematically steered towards a man-centered expression of unity, rather than the bond of unity in Christ?
Next: Chapter Five, “Outcomes,” is nearly 100 pages in length. It details the actual implementation of The Strategic Way in All Saints Parish.


  1. The SWOT assessment was interesting: http://www.savingourparish.com/Articles/Strategic_Planning_Rollout.pdf

    Always intriguing to learn how leadership sees the parish....

  2. Look at page 9 and 11 of the SWOT assessment. The Central Office believes the elderly are a threat. And the cemetery is a 'financial burden.' How come they hired a full time person for it then?

  3. I noticed page 26. That survey that went around. I answered it but looking at it now I think its strange. Why ask a bunch of confirmed catholics if they are following Jesus?

  4. 5:53pm

    Always disturbing to learn how the parish sees the leadership...

  5. Nothing pleasant about this dissection and regurgitation but critical to expose.

  6. His strategies will never work. Staff and leaders can't positively influence others with spirit guided creativity and leadership because those qualities are suppressed by Deacon Dean. In other words, if your mind is hijacked by systems thinking, how can you help individuals? It must be very stressful for those that work for him. My prayers are with them tonight.

  7. I agree. Mind control causes anxiety and conflict within. I will pray for the staff too.