Monday, January 2, 2012

The Manifest -- Part 8 continued again

“Facilities” and Finances

Next, Chapter Five goes over the financial state of the parish. (Note: Please keep in mind that some circumstances have changed since last year.)

Graphs and figures that were used for the parish rollout plan in 2010 are used to illustrate the financial status of the parish. Deacon Dean writes, “At current levels of funding, All Saints Parish cannot properly manage the cost of just one worship site. However, reducing to one site will provide the best situation to build stability and future financial strength. The parish will have to run a capital campaign in the future to properly deal with its needs.” [Emphasis added]

The largest threat to All Saints Parish, according to ECOS, is finances. “The current economic conditions do not offer a great deal of hope for substantive change in the area. The greatest source of finances comes from the mainly elderly population; unfortunately, the parish has over 100 funerals per year. School enrollment is down two-thirds over the past ten years. Gossip, especially in this small town environment, is a huge threat that will require effective communication to counteract. The youth minister who resigned three years ago runs her own youth ministry program out of the local firehouse drawing many parishioners away from the parish youth ministry.”

Speaking further about the need to make hard decisions, he says, “The financial problems of the parish do force some major decisions that will certainly cause negative responses from some, but these decisions are unavoidable. These decision[sic] best position the parish for strength.”

As mentioned, some things have changed in the last several months. Providence Housing Development Corporation withdrew its $475,000 offer to buy the St. Vincent de Paul church and property, and according to parish leadership, the financial situation has turned around. Immaculate Heart of Mary Church is still for sale, however.

The thesis makes clear that other options for the pastoral care of All Saints Parish have not been seriously considered by parish leadership. The focus is on sacrificing churches in order to transform the parish into a Protestant-style community heavy with various lay-run ministries.

A Re-org

As part of the implementation of the Strategic Way, the organizational structure of the parish was rebuilt “from the ground up in a more logical and efficient manner.” What resulted is six “Key Ministry Areas.” They include: Worship, Pastoral Care, Children’s Faith Formation, Teen Faith Formation, Adult Faith Formation, and Support Ministries. These ministry areas are scored again from 1 to 5 (with 5 being best). I will mention only a few points, since the assessment is quite long and evaluates and scores each of the parish ministries and programs.

Many of the objectives are admirable, for instance, the desire to build up and expand the Pro-Life ministry in our parish, and the desire to maintain the Family Faith Formation program, even though the former director was ‘laid off’. However, the enormous amount of time, talent, and perhaps treasure it has taken to transform the organizational structure must be questioned, not to mention the lasting harm that occurred when well-liked and highly respected staff members were removed.

In the area of Worship, Level 1 being “People experience worship mostly just at Mass…”, and Level 5 being “All Liturgies are well planned…People want to come to the liturgies,” the parish is scored at 3.
The strategy for improvement is: “Empower the liturgy committee to become a real planning Liturgy Planning Team with specific roles and responsibility. Since most sacramental celebrations, other than Eucharist, currently do not involve collaborative planning and are usually the sole responsibility of the clergyman, the clergy need to develop a tool for evaluation and developmental improvement.” [Emphases added]

What the Congregation Needs to Hear

Under Worship--Liturgy and Rituals, the parish scores a 2.5. The strategy is for collaborative planning. “The leadership team and Parish Pastoral Council will discuss what messages they think the congregation needs to hear. Pastoral Administrator [sic] will provide preaching schedule eight weeks in advance for three month periods. Preachers will provide the central idea of the sermons, keeping in mind the destination statement, five weeks in advance for same period. Music directors will provide music selections three weeks in advance…” [Emphasis added]

Prayer Ministries are scored at a Level 3, with a strategy to make intercessory prayer a focus. “Strategy: To provide multiple group prayer opportunities that include, but are not limited to adoration, rosary, novenas, and divine mercy devotional. To establish leadership teams for all of these groups and coordinate them under a new intercessory prayer ministry.”

Chapter Five closes with a time frame for complete transformation. “It will take another full year for Leadership Teams to integrate fully the Strategic Way and Leadership Culture into All Saints Parish….It will take an additional two years for the process to become natural and fluid with most ministries. However, for real change to take place in an organization that had habitually functioned with certain patterns that only changed out of necessity, a complete operational system change in five years is a significant accomplishment for a pilot program…While All Saints Parish will benefit from this operational system change, the real value of this successful experiment will be in the ability of transferring the operations system into other parishes.”

Deacon Dean then describes a potential threat. “Another threat to securing full transition into the new operational system will be if the leader of the parish changes. A new leader could easily undo what has been done. However, if the patterns are set strongly enough and the new leadership team is confident and capable of operating the system, they can train the new leader to also work the system. It will require openness and patience from both parties and the Bishop to be aware of appointing the right fit.” [Emphasis added]

(Next: Chapter Six – Final Summary and Future Studies)

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