The area that I want focus on is the roles of volunteers at the parish and staff members and share about our vision using those positions moving forward. This past year we have asked for a lot of volunteers for various positions and I’ve had a few people ask why we don’t just hire people to do those jobs. Which was interesting to me because it wasn’t long ago that I had people asking me why we were hiring so many people to work here!
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that today we have invested more money in our parish staff than ever before. I would argue that this has been a good thing for us because it’s allowed us to offer more ministries at the parish and has also taken some of the pressure off of the priest so that hopefully he doesn’t have as much on his plate as he might have 20-30 years ago...although as Father Dennis always says one of the so called curses of ministry is that the more work you do evangelizing people, the more things start to grow and you end up creating more work for yourself because now there’s more to do! So maybe he would disagree with that point.
Anyway, part of that growth of our parish staff came through a process where we would justify expanding a person’s job by combining various ministries together for them. Probably the best example of this was a few years ago when we hired Andrea Gleason. Andrea was young and talented and we thought the parish would really benefit from having her on staff. But we had to ask ourselves how we could afford to pay her something significant enough to make it worth her time. We decided, as a lot of parishes do, to combine a bunch of smaller jobs together and make her responsible for all of them. This allowed us to bring someone on board that would expand the ministry that we offered at the parish, while also saving us from having to ask for volunteers for those areas that we combined, all while offering her a salary that would allow her to stay here for a longer amount of time (or at least longer than the average volunteer is able to stay).
What seemed like a win, win situation ultimately didn’t work very well in the sense that Andrea ended up wearing so many hats that she never felt like she was able to excel in the areas that she was most talented. Which in reality is probably the case for all of us that work here at the parish to some degree. But that situation also didn’t work well because in replacing volunteers with staff, we kind of said that we didn’t need volunteers anymore, which sounded good since people are getting more and more busy which makes it more difficult to find volunteers. In addition though, while we thought having a paid person would allow them to stay in the position longer, we really weren’t offering them a salary where they could afford to do that job for long. Today it seems like people are looking for full time jobs with benefits and we’re going to have a hard time keeping a person around for more than a couple of years unless we’re able to offer those things.
So what does this all mean for us as we move forward? I think we have learned that we have to find a better way to utilize the three roles of our workforce, full time, part time and volunteers so that we can work efficiently and reduce turnover which creates confusion and chaos. Part of doing that is by continuing to invest in our staff without trying to give them more responsibilities so that they can work out of the areas that they can be most successful. This means that for example, we’re moving away from having staff teach religious education classes. Instead we want our staff to be there to work with volunteers more as opposed to asking for volunteers and just dumping responsibilities on them, which has sadly been the practice in some areas in the past. This approach will allow volunteers to feel more a part of the ministry, working side by side with the staff instead of feeling like they are a last resort filling a void because no one else would do it.
Overall I can’t say enough good things about our staff and I am really grateful for all of the volunteers that we have at our parish. There are so many things that get done behind the scenes by people that quietly go about their work (How many of you knew that we had someone who washed the altar linens each week until a couple of weeks ago when we announced that Diane Kohagen was retiring??) As we move on to this new year I pray that the Lord will continue to provide us with great people to volunteer and work at this parish!