The Office of Stewardship
Mission is King
Recently I have been reading Matthew Kelly’s latest book, “The Culture Solution.” It is his first secular book in many years and is written primarily for those working in corporations who desire to create a positive work culture. However, I have been thinking about the principles set forth in the book from the perspective of our Stewardship initiative and the emphasis placed in the Foundational pillar of having a mission and vision statement and a pastoral plan for the parish.
Some parishioners have had the courage to honestly share with me that they have seen mission statements come and go over the years; that “we spend a lot of time developing them and then nothing is ever done with them.” I whole-heartedly agree. Many times, efforts are made to develop mission and vision statements, develop plans that are never used and soon forgotten, both inside the church and outside it.
However, it does not immediately follow that we should throw the whole idea out. I am reminded of Chesterton’s often repeated quote,
“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”
I think the same argument can be made for strategic planning, from which typically flow mission statements, visions and plans complete with goals. It’s not that they are inherently without value, it is that using them well is difficult and so very often they are “left untried”.
Instead of abandoning the idea of developing a mission, vision and pastoral plan completely, I would suggest we look at the challenges inherent in using them and work to remedy those challenges. Why? In Matthew Kelly’s words, “mission is king.”
“Every organization needs an unchanging point of reference. This becomes the organization’s North Star, building confidence on nights when the skies are clear, and pointing the way on stormy nights even if only with glimpses.”
When speaking of corporations and non-profits, there might be a need to find this “north star”, but in the Church we already have our “North Star”: it is Jesus Himself. He is the reason for all that we do.
Even so, we fall into many pitfalls when we leave our “North Star” that vague, when we don’t take the time to prayerfully discern what aspect of Jesus’ mission He is calling us to participate in in this time and in this place. One such pitfall becomes clear to me in light of the Gospel story in Matthew chapter 16:13-23. Just after Peter declares Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, Jesus begins to share with them that he was going to suffer, die and be raised. “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.” Jesus then strongly scolds him saying, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
In my own life, I have many times been Peter. I come to an understanding of some aspect of who Jesus is and what He desires from us and I take this truth and run with it. Oftentimes, I am so busy on this “mission” that I fail to notice I have run right past Jesus, whom I am supposedly following. Like Peter, I am in need of a rebuke – a reminder that I need to “get behind me.”
The reality is, whenever we vow to follow Jesus, we rarely have a sense of the whole plan from his perspective. As Henri Nouwen says,
“He gives us enough light for the next step and the rest is faith.”
The only way we can be sure that we will continue to make the next right step, is if we are constantly begging the Lord for direction. The human tendency is to begin a work for the Lord and then very quickly let it become “our” work, “our” ministry. We take ownership, we get comfortable, we know best, we want to continue doing what we have always done and we often get off track. We no longer have our eyes on the North Star (Jesus); we are doing our own navigation.
If we truly want His Mission to be King and to remain King, then we need to prayerfully develop a mission, vision and pastoral plan for our parish that is rooted in prayer and discernment. Then we need to avoid the pitfalls of not following through on the direction this plan is leading us by setting up systems which promote, reward and encourage the fulfillment of the plan. Most importantly, our systems and structures need to root our churches in prayer and give us a concrete, planned way to return regularly to the True Navigator and beg for direction for the next step.
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606 Cathedral Drive
Rapid City, SD 57701
2101 City Springs Rd Ste 200
Rapid City, SD 57702