Friday, February 27, 2015

Starting a Parish Ministry: 10 Practical "how to" tips

Recently quite a few people have asked me tell them about the process by which I started a ministry at our church.   After writing out my story of how it happened and where it is today, I found that although it was personal, the post lacked the practicality advice that I so desire in life!  This post is designed to provide just that - The practical How To's for starting your own ministry.  There will be a lot of questions, and a lot of individuality, because really you are needing to tap into God's actual intentions for your specific work he has designed you to complete for Him.  That is a pretty amazing thing!  I write this prayerfully with the hope that He will guide us both - me as a write and you as you read!

#1 - Do your homework.  Find out what ministries are currently at your parish and find out what they do.  The worst thing in the word is to go to your priest with an idea only to be told "um - we have that already".

#2 - Create a mission statement and an outline for your ministry.  Know who you are serving and in what capacity you will serve.  What is your purpose and how does it differ from the purposes of other ministries currently serving your parish?  How does your purpose align with the purpose of Our Church?

#3 - You must have your priest's support.  Not just permission. Get him jazzed about the ministry.  You really need to have him on your team.  Starting anything new is generally a challenge met with much opposition and more differing opinions as there are people involved.  If you know you have his support, you will have the confidence and ability to put much aside and proceed.  A bulletin announcement is great, but to have him speak from the pulpit about how essential your ministry is - or to have him attend an event and tell other about it- well that is the best publicity you can have.

 #4- Start to network.  Once you see the need, confirm that it is not the prevue of another ministry, have the priest's support in filling the need, start reaching out to other ministries.  Key things to remember here - there are generally never enough volunteers for anything.  Folks who have been working in ministries have often been doing loads of work without 'recognition' and many are already bordering on burnout.  Don't threaten to take away the few volunteers they do have.  Be supportive of what they are doing and emphasize your desire to bring more un-involved people into ministry life.

 #5- Make friends with the office staff.  One of my best friends was at the time in charge of scheduling. She conveniently came on as Parish Liaison for our ministry.   She was already part of the staff at the parish so she had the ear of the priest, she knew what was going on politically, and she was able to easily process the paperwork stuff (announcements, reimbursements, deposits, PO's etc)  for our group. We have retained a deep and lasting friendship through our early ministry work with one another and my job was made so much easier by having her as a part of our core team.

#6- Create a marketing plan.  You already have your mission statement and an outline of you ministry.  Now you need to market it.  How do you make it something others will remember and want to be a part of?  We did little business cards, pew cards, hilarious videos to play after mass.  We had donuts and muffins for sale - not to make money but to bring attention.  We made & sold chic looking t-shirts by a local t-shirt company.  Even our big Mother-Daughter Tea was a chance to sign up more moms to our group.

#7-Create a business plan.  How are you going to run this group?  My mission was that we never take money from our parish, but rather be able to give back to the parish.  In order to do that I needed to have fundraisers, and a budget because refreshments & speakers get expensive.  But there was also plenty of free stuff too.   We started with some easy things like bake sales - to both raise awareness of our group and give us some seed money.  If you have the intention of growing beyond your parish someday that should be a part of your plan too.

#8- Pray pray pray.  This really should be number one but if you are reading this you probably have already been in conversation with Our Lord about the topic!  So keep praying.

#9 - Don't be easily offended.  Critiques of the ministry are not critiques of YOU.  Just because you are the head of a ministry that does not mean that every misstep is a reflection on your character. You are going to forget deadlines and loose receipts, misinterpret words and step on toes.  Don't take things personally.  Act out of love and practice humility and you will be just fine.

#10- Know when to turn it over.  Ministries need to be bigger than one person.  The Women's Sodality at our parish began in 1949!  It has been running for 65 years.  They have a new prefect each year.  They have circles and prayer teams and a budget.  It is amazing to see.  Once you have helped create the ministry, bring in others and give it some longevity.  It is God's ministry, not yours, and it will last as long as the parish responds to His call to keep it going.  Even if it lasts for just a season, it was important for that season.  So know when to turn it over to fresh ideas and a new face.

Starting the Mom's Ministry at our parish was an amazing adventure for me. It was hard work filled with joy, done in the company of some wonderful women who are my closest friends still today.

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