Parish Transition

Change is both necessary and purposeful. And yet, human nature resists change and all systems seek stability. Change can create anxiety and when people are anxious they do not relate well, learn well or make the best decisions. Change is easier for people when it is self-directed. This is especially evident in organizations when a decision (e.g. parish merger or assignment of a new pastor) is seen as coming from elsewhere. Unmet and unrealistic expectations, conflict and confusion can often complicate the already anxious process of transition for a parish and a pastor. Anxious pastors and parishioners deserve support at this critical juncture. The key to successful transitions is skillful leadership. 

Transitions are opportunities for a parish to reconfirm purpose, renew commitment to pastoral priorities, and envision new possibilities. Read about Leadership in a Changing Parish. The Parish Life Office provides support to parish leaders through open-ended consultation, process facilitation, training for transition teams and topical workshops. A sampling of workshop topics includes:

  • Spirituality for Change: Uncovering the paschal rhythm in change, packing for the journey, a pillar of fire and a column of smoke (parish staff, transition team and pastoral council)
  • Transitioning and Merging Parishes: Understand the role of a transition team, use a faith sharing process for newly merged parishes, receive answers to the most frequently asked questions about procedures, staffing and facilities, etc. (for parish staff, pastoral council and ministry leaders)
  •  Dealing with Difficult People: What makes people so difficult? What are the likely troubling personalities? How does a leader bring out the best in people who are at their worst? How can all leaders redirect negative energies that emerge in times of transition? (for parish staff and ministry leaders)
  • Growing an Engaged Church: Learn what the latest research tells us about why people come and stay, and explore ways to engage core parishioners in response to emerging needs and newcomers (for parish staff, pastoral council and ministry leaders)
  • Managing an Emotional Parish: What are the characteristics of the parish as an emotional system? How does a leader defuse anxiety in the community? How does a parish leader stay calm AND engaged? (for parish staff)

Parish vitality does not just happen. It is the result of strategic thinking and effective leadership. One of the hallmarks of effective leadership is the ability to mobilize a community and focus its energy in a strategic direction. Completing a Parish Planning Survey is one strategic step that all parishes can take in assessing their progress toward vibrant parish life. Once you have collected completed survey contact our office to have the results tabulated and receive a report. The Parish Cafe is a listening process that can be used to discuss the results of your survey and energize the community for its vital mission. Contact the Office of Parish Life for expert analysis of your planning survey results and for facilitation of a parish cafe.

For more assistance with your parish transition,
contact: Office for Evangelization and Parish Life
(716) 847-8393.