Finding and Developing Unpaid Parish Leadership in the Local Church

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Oelker, Jeffrey
Master of Arts in Pastoral Theology
The goal of this pastoral project is to research volunteer and lay leadership programs and resources, and ultimately develop a well-rounded parish leadership program that starts with our gospel call to serve, goes through a discernment process with theological reflection, a matching (and identification) of one’s gifts with service opportunities and may include formation components in the areas of catechesis, spirituality and leadership, organizational and relationship skills development. In essence, my ultimate goal is to improve the commitment and contributions of unpaid parish leadership as well as increase the number of ministry volunteers in the parish. I would also like to identify proven methods for getting more people involved in parish ‘ministry. I have found that many unpaid parish leaders do not know how to lead and they do not know “what to do or how to do it” when they come together in meetings after volunteering for shared ministry. Often, due to the demands on the priests’ time, there may be no clergy present at these meetings. Although I have already personally developed and led several strategic planning sessions, updated the parish mission statement, added a vision statement, and facilitated the development of parish values and strategic goals in my role as parish administrator (Director of Ministry and Operations at St. Louis de Montfort Parish in Fishers, Indiana), my regular attendance at leadership meetings supports my thesis that we have a long way to go to ensure confident, competent and committed engagement in our parish lay leadership.