Last week a friend shared with me that earlier in the month he had a discussion with a few other men and some were lamenting the fact that they had 4 or 5 different Advent daily reflections being delivered to their email inbox.  Some were overwhelmed and felt like “failures” because they couldn’t get all of them read each day.  Too much of a good thing had quickly turned into a bad thing.

The solution?  “Just do 1 reflection and do it well!  Hit the delete button on the other four and don’t feel guilty about it,” my friend advised.

This is such a common problem in our culture.  We swim in the message that “more is better” and we believe it.  Very soon we are drowning in too many good options, ideas, programs and activities.  The good things we are trying to do to draw closer to the Lord or serve His mission become a source of stress and simply add to an already over-filled calendar. 

The Lord is inviting us to unclutter our hearts and find silence and instead we are drawn into even more frenzied activity. As I visit with parish leaders, I see this same thing happening within parishes and in our ministries as well.   Many people feel overwhelmed with too much to do already and feel pressured to take on more projects and tasks at every turn.

I don’t believe the Lord intends our service to His mission to foster this lack of peace and I am hopeful that the Characteristics of a Stewardship Parish can assist parishes in fighting this tendency.  

The Characteristics can provide a framework that encourages strategic planning, team building and communication.  These tools can help clarify our mission, discern priorities and let go of programs and tasks that are not fruitful.  They can help build a more positive and collaborative culture within the parish that energizes those who participate in its ministry.  The Characteristics can also provide standards that help us all strive for excellence and keep our focus on the New Evangelization.  These tools used by those whose lives are firmly rooted in prayer can be very fruitful.

In those parishes where ministry seems to be vibrant and parish leaders remain energized and positive, I see leaders who have taken the approach of taking on one or two things at a time and doing them well.  

Faithful but small steps taken day after day cover a large amount of ground in the long run.  I have also observed them planning well so their direction is clear, and they aren’t tempted to get off track by the newest fad or trend.  They have structures in place and culture which encourages them to keep reminding each other of the goals they have set and primary reason they are there. They strive to be encouraging and inspirational and to pray and work for the perseverance to keep going; knowing that it isn’t about programs, it is about a Catholic Way of Life.  I am looking forward to working alongside parishes and celebrating the successes along the way in 2019! 

Merry Christmas! 



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Barbara Scherr (605) 209-3418

Five Dysfunctions of a Team

The last several years I have heard Patrick Lencioni, who is an active and practicing Catholic, speak several times on the five dysfunctions of a team. The first time was at the Amazing Parish conference in Denver, in which I even bought his book, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Parable.” However, the book ended up on my bookshelf after the conference, where it remained for over two years until this past July. The second time I heard Lencioni speak was in July at the Convocation of Catholic Leaders on the Joy of the Gospel.

            After the convocation, I decided it was time to get the book off the bookshelf, dust it off and actually read it. I was also encouraged by Susan Safford, who is the new Director of Pastoral Ministries for our diocese, who has asked that her team, those ministering in the Offices of Native Ministries, Faith Formation, Family Life, Youth and Young Adults and Stewardship and Vocations, read the book as well.

            I have enjoyed reading the book. It had some great insights on how to be more collaborative and tips on avoiding a “silo mentality” in ministry. He also cautions against the temptation to settle for maintenance rather than striving for mission. As summer draws to a close, and our children, youth and young adults head back to school, we have an opportunity to reflect on how we do ministry in our parishes and diocese. We can then use this information as we gear up for the coming fall with its many activities and programs.

            I would like to give you a summary of the five dysfunctions of a team as outlined by Lencioni.  He begins by telling the story of a former client of the million-dollar company who said, “If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.”

            I think one of the hopes of Bishop Gruss is to get all of his pastors and all the parishes rowing in the same direction and his pastoral letter is a great help in this endeavor. But my perception is that these 5 dysfunctions are present in every parish and every diocesan office to a greater or lesser degree and they keep us in maintenance mode and hinder our ability to truly be missionary disciples.

            The Dysfunctions

Dysfunction # 1: Absence of Trust

This occurs when team members are reluctant to be vulnerable with one another and are unwilling to admit their mistakes, weaknesses or needs for help. Without a certain comfort level among team members, a foundation of trust is impossible.

Dysfunction #2: Fear of Conflict

Teams that are lacking on trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered, passionate debate about key issues, causing situations where team conflict can easily turn into veiled discussions and back channel comments. In a work setting where team members do not openly air their opinions, inferior decisions are the result.

Dysfunction #3: Lack of Commitment

Without conflict, it is difficult for team members to commit to decisions, creating an environment where ambiguity prevails. Lack of direction and commitment can make employees, particularly star employees, disgruntled.

Dysfunction #4: Avoidance of Accountability

When teams don’t commit to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven individuals hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviors that may seem counterproductive to the overall good of the team.

Dysfunction #5: Inattention to Results

Team members naturally tend to put their own needs (ego, career development, recognition, etc.) ahead of the collective goals of the team when individuals aren’t held accountable. If a team has lost sight of the need for achievement, the business ultimately suffers.

            For more information on the five dysfunctions of a team see:


Fr. Mark’s Musings        

Maintenance vs. Mission

This past weekend some 90 people from the cross the diocese gathered at Terra Sancta for a “Making Disciple Seminar” sponsored by the parish of Our Lady of the Black Hills in Piedmont and Catherine of Siena Institute out of Colorado Springs, Colorado. 

One of the things I heard at this workshop is that one of the obstacles of parish communities living lively faith is that they are stuck in maintenance mode. In the book “New Evangelization: Overcoming the Obstacles” Fr. Robert Rivers, CSP, who is the director of the Paulist National Catholic Evangelization Association compares the difference between a maintenance – orientated parish and a mission – orientated parish.

Maintenance – Oriented Parish

It is an inwardly looking parish.  It is focused on the everyday needs of making the parish machinery work. There is a sense of going through the motions just to get things done. Overburdened by this, the maintenance – orientated parish succumbs to focusing solely on its current members, who absorb most of its time, energy and resources. Evangelization thus becomes an item on a list of things to do when the pastor has the time.

Mission-Oriented Parish

Is one that looks outward and sees the souls that are need of care, love, and forgiveness.  It involves the active life of the Holy Spirit by incorporating the necessary atmosphere of openness by welcoming and inviting people to come and see, by having a deliberate sense of pastoral purpose and goals, by making decisions that are inspired, and by using the spiritual and personal gifts of its members. In this way not only is the gospel being made alive, but through the spiritual and corporal works of mercy the kingdom of God is being built.

Sherry Weddell, the author of “Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus” says that in our generation “mission is the only maintenance that works!”

At this present moment in time would you say that your parish is more maintenance- orientated or mission – orientated? This would be a great question for discussion with your Pastoral Councils and Stewardship committees.

Fr. Mark’s Musings

Host, Guest, Stranger

This past week I have been reading a number of articles on hospitality and I came across these two definitions by Father Robert Rivers, CSP, in his book from Maintenance to Mission: Evangelization and the Revitalizing of the Parish. Fr. Rivers describes hospitality in these two terms. First, “the word hospitality is derived from the Latin word “hospes” which means host as well as guest. It has been defined as the act, practice, or quality of being friendly and solicitous towards guests, new arrivals.” Secondly, “Christian hospitality goes back to the practice of philoxenia, a Greek word that means to make the stranger a friend.”

What definition resonates more with you? What about your parish community?

I like both of them myself however, I was really drawn to the hospes definition of hospitality because it challenges one not only as the host, but also as the guest.

Can you think of Scripture passages that describe Jesus as all three? Host, Guest and Stranger?

                To get us going:

Jesus as host feeds the 5,000. Matthew 13:13-21; Mark 6: 3-44.

Jesus as guest receives the invitation of Simon the Pharisee to dine at his home in Luke 7:36-50. Jesus as stranger perhaps can be seen in the separating of the sheep and the goats in Matthew: 25:31-46.

What Does A Mission Driven Parish Look Like?

The last month or so I have been reading two books in preparation for Pastoral Ministry Days. As some of you know, the theme was “I was a Stranger…Welcoming the Stranger through Hospitality.” The two books were The New Evangelization: Overcoming the Obstacles, edited by Stephen Boguslawski, OP and Ralph Martin and Becoming a Parish of Intentional Disciples, edited by Sherry A. Weddell. Both of the books describe the difference between maintenance-oriented parishes and mission-orientated parish.

I wanted to share with you Bobby Vidal’s list of characteristics that describe a maintenance-oriented parish versus a mission-oriented parish. Vidal wrote the fourth chapter in Becoming a Parish of Intentional Disciples. Booby Vidal is the Director of Evangelization and Lay Formation at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Church in Santa Clarita, California.

Characteristics of the Maintenance – Driven Parish

The parish is fragmented into a community of communities, has many programs and rarely talks about its communal identity.  Pastoral practice in the maintenance-driven parish focuses energy, time, and resources on:

1.       Getting parishioners involved in the many events, activities and experiences of the parish.

2.       Recruiting and training individuals to take on leadership roles.

3.       Getting parishioners to commit to different tasks that would give them more time, talent, treasure to the parish.

4.       Sustaining the current structures of the parish, thereby maintaining the number of people in the parish.

5.       Relying solely on catechesis as a means of transmitting the faith.

6.       Sustaining the inward life of the parish by providing formation for ministries exercised only for the parish (for example, parish catechist, lector, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion).

7.       Communicating parish events and experiences with language that only “parish insiders” would understand.

Characteristics of a Mission- Driven Parish

The parish is diverse in its makeup but united and how it understands its communal identity. The parish has different evangelizing experiences that connect and relate to one another, creating a clear and simple path for individual individuals to become intentional disciples. This path is visible and the community understands that it has a priority — all other experiences of the parish flow from this path or flow to it. The parish regularly talks about its communal identity as one that makes disciples. Pastoral practice in the mission – driven parish focuses energy, time, and resources on:

1.       Helping all people to encounter Jesus Christ and experience conversion through parish events and activities and also in life events outside the parish.

2.       Forming individuals in discerning their individual charisms and’s and their God-given vocation.

3.       Helping individuals to commit their entire life to Jesus and then to live out that commitment daily.

4.       Sustaining a culture of discipleship, thereby nurturing and sustaining the work of conversion in individuals.

5.       Transmitting the faith through pre-evangelization, the initial proclamation of the gospel (kerygma), and catechesis in a systematic way within all the parish events/activities.

6.       Answering the outward call of the parish to the secular world by providing formation for individuals to take on parish ministries and equipping individuals to transform the secular world.

7.       Communicating events and information with language the parish “insiders” and “outsiders” would understand and be welcomed and challenged by.

Missionary Questions

  1. How can we create the opportunities for individuals to encounter Jesus Christ and experience the conversion to this event or activity?
  2. How can we form individuals to discern their charisms and vocation?
  3. How can we assist individuals to commit their entire life to Jesus?
  4. How can we create a path to discipleship that is owned, supported, and sustain by the whole community?
  5. How can we transmit the faith through pre-evangelization, the proclamation of the kerygma, and catechesis in a systematic way?
  6. How do we form others in the task of transforming the secular world with the light of the Gospel?
  7. How do we communicate an event or experience we are planning in a way that parish outsiders and insiders will understand and feel welcomed and challenged by at the same time?

I suggest you take these characteristics and questions to your next team meeting to discuss where you parish is at—maintenance or mission? It might also be helpful to revisit the questions that were discussed during the PMD breakout sessions. Bridget will be sending a scanned copy of your parish’s notes to your pastor and your team. Please let us know how our office can assist you as we continue to welcome the stranger.

Fr. Mark’s Musings 3/27/15