Break Down the Silos

Made for Mission by Tim Glemkowski

The 4th principal or key Tim talks about in his book Made for Mission is “Align Everything.” He starts with a pretty observant thought:

Segmentation is, for good or ill, very common in parishes, which means many parish initiatives operate in silos. Everything has its own bucket with its own staff person in charge, budget, and volunteers.

Made for Mission, page 135

When I worked in the parish as a middle school youth coordinator and later a different parish as a youth minister, I found this to be very true. No one was really interested in what I was doing because it was “with those scary teenagers” and to be honest, I wasn’t really interested in what they did. The only time that rule was broken was if someone had an opinion about what I should be doing, or if I had an opinion about what they should be doing.

Not very healthy. It’s an embodiment of the cultural phrase, “You do you.” You’re in charge of your thing, so just do it … don’t ask me for help. Because asking for help means I’m incapable of doing my job. And if I’m incapable of doing my job, they’ll just find someone else to work lots of hours for little reward. So never let someone see you sweat.

Most of you are shaking your heads right now thinking “that negative attitude doesn’t permeate our parish.” Yes, I exaggerated quite a bit, I don’t think it was ever that bad. However, the logic of silo and segmentation can easily lead right to that path.

The truth is that parish ministry focused on evangelization and discipleship is hard, very hard. It’s working to change long ingrained behaviors of our culture and our people. It’s a ‘heart-changing business’ and unless we all work together, we’re going to fail.

You might be saying, “But Katie, look at all of the successes we’ve had in the last few years. We’re not failing.” Not in the short term, but if we don’t work together for long term outcomes, we fail.

If our Adult Formation program is amazing and forming disciples, but our children aren’t receiving good formation and disappearing after communion, are we winning?

If our first communion preparation is out of this world fantastic, but the Mass has been watered down with a focus on only what feels right and not what is right, will our children continue to have that same fire we instilled in them?

If our youth ministry program is amazing, but there’s no follow up in college or focus on young adults (until they’re retired or having their own children), are we winning?

If we are on fire for Christ as a parish, but don’t reach out to the communion in service or in sharing the Gospel, are we successful?

Each of these ministries I mentioned tends to be “it’s own thing,” disconnected from the rest. It’s more than just “reporting out at a staff meeting or parish council meeting.” It’s about working together to achieve our mission given to us by Christ in Matthew 28: Go and make disciples.

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