When Saint Paul writes to Timothy to advise him on the important qualities to look for in prospective bishops, he begins by listing a number of attributes. He then makes the astute observation that a bishop must also manage his own household well, “for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for God’s church?” (1 Timothy 3:5). If this was true of bishops in the early days of the Church, it is even more true of pastors and Church leaders in today’s society.
Unfortunately, it is rare these days to find young priests and religious who have much experience or training in administration. I confess that I felt no little trepidation at the prospect of entering into parochial ministry with nothing but my Bachelor’s in Applied and Computational Mathematics and the excellent philosophical and theological instruction I received at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology.
How do you hire good staff members at a parish? How does a campus minister manage conflict? What are the best practices for managing non-profit finances? These questions were on my mind as I prepared for full-time ministry, and I hoped that I wouldn’t have to learn the answers the hard way.
Thanks be to God that there are good answers to these questions and professionals who are willing to share their expertise with young Dominican leaders! A little over a week ago, 30 young Dominican friars — 10 from the West — in a variety of ministry and leadership positions had the great opportunity to meet in St. Louis to participate in the Dominican Leadership Development Workshop given by the Leadership Roundtable. The Leadership Roundtable is an organization of laity, religious and clergy working together to promote best practices and accountability in the management, finances, communications and human resource development of the Catholic Church in the United States.
Because this workshop is part of our ongoing formation as Dominicans, we were able to bring to the discussion our own experiences of administration, both good and not so good, and to focus on the issues that we found most important. I benefited greatly from one presentation on “Mission and Vision” that explained the important steps to take in developing a vision for the direction of a ministry, and the key points of failure that lead to the majority of strategic plans being derailed after only six months. The Workshop also provided an excellent opportunity for us to get to know friars from the other American provinces, and to build the relationships that are the foundation of inter-provincial collaboration.
In a way, our week in St. Louis felt too short. There were certainly topics which were not covered and some that we would have liked to spend more time on. So it is good news that this is merely the first in a three-year cycle of workshops. On the other hand, I feel much more confident in approaching the ministry of administration with a framework for success, knowing that, even if I don’t know all the answers, now I know professional and dedicated people who can help.
By Fr. Christopher Wetzel, O.P.
Parochial Vicar at St. Dominic’s Church in San Francisco