A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Time for a Change

Posted on: May 15, 2014

“ A change is as good as a rest,” my mother has often said. But we’re not always open to change in our parishes. Even when it’s a good thing.

For example, one church I attended offered two Sunday services, with more contemporary music at one and hymns at the other. In the summer, the music alternated between traditional and contemporary music each week—and people used to the other service weren’t happy, even though they had the chance to worship in a different way, with parishioners they didn’t often see.

At another church, I once volunteered to help with a church bake sale. Although I showed up early, I wasn’t allowed to do anything—even to put away the tables afterward—because the people in charge were the ones who had always run the sale and didn’t welcome my help. Needless to say, I didn’t volunteer again.

“This is the way it’s always been done, and these are the people who’ve always done it.” I read once that a priest who comes into a new parish can face this challenge. But I think it’s also true for those who join a parish or want to get involved in a ministry group.

We need to leave room for our parish priests to recognize parishioners’ gifts and draw upon them—and we need to do the same in our ministry groups. So how can we make it happen?

  • Hold a ministry fair. Just before the summer holidays, so people can hit the ground running in their new roles come September; after school starts in the fall, when people are getting back into their routines; or in January, when it feels like a fresh start. (And holding a coffee hour at the same time can encourage parishioners to spend time at the ministry fair.) By offering sign-up sheets for allministry groups, we can give parishioners a chance to use their gifts and enable volunteers to step away from a ministry group they’ve served in for a long time to take on a new challenge.
  • Keep an ear to the ground. Accountants in our parish could bring their skills to the finance council; Early Childhood Education students could help with the children’s liturgy; a professional organizer (or even just a neat nut like me) could organize the church’s storage spaces. To be able to draw on these skills—to ask parishioners to volunteer for an activity or a ministry group, or to recommend them to our parish priest when a ministry group leader is needed—we need to know about their skills in the first place. A couple of parishes I belonged to even asked new members to list their work experience and some skills they could use in serving the parish.
  • Let people help. Maybe new volunteers have contacts in the community that could help with a fundraising event. Maybe they have excellent desktop publishing skills they could use to create beautiful programmes for special services. Or maybe they’re just willing to work hard at whatever task they’re given. If we say we need volunteers and people offer their help, we need to let them get involved and not resent their efforts or suggestions. For a ministry group where a few people do a lot of work, some new faces could mean the workload lightens for everyone and volunteers enjoy their work rather than burn out.



Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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