Transformation: Using our Strengths to Transform the Culture of our Parish
“Behold, I make all things new.” (Rev. 21:5)
Clearly, we serve a God who is about transformation. It is this transformation that is the stuff that dreams are made of for Pope Francis: “I dream of a ‘missionary option,’ that is, a missionary impulse capable of TRANSFORMING everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.” Joy of the Gospel, 27 (Of course, the emphasis is added.)
Fr. James Mallon, in his book Divine Renovation, writes: “I am convinced that the primary challenge of the New Evangelization is nothing short of TRANSFORMATION of the culture of our churches, which means a conversion of our values.” (Sure, I added the emphasis again. I won’t do it any more. You get the message.) He said later in an interview: “the only way that this transformation can be brought about is through leadership.” Strength-based ministry is the key to the burst of new life and remarkable renewal in Fr. Mallon’s parish.
This week, lay ecclesial ministers from across the archdiocese are being formed in this same kind of strengths-based ministry. They have, with the help of the Gallup organization, identified their top five individual strengths, what it means to minister from their strengths, and how to identify and work with the strengths of others. Often, we go from cradle to cubicle or office working on our weaknesses. Strength-based ministry looks at where God has blessed each of us in a unique way for the building up of the Kingdom.
Benjamin Franklin reminds us:
Hide not your talents.
They for use were made.
What’s a sundial in the shade?
Fr. Mallon’s strengths, by the way, are: competition, achiever, activator, command, and connectedness. Mine are: connectedness, strategic, maximizer, ideation, and belief.
What are yours? What are your colleagues? Key parishioners? What values would you find in strengths-based ministry as a staff? Do you feel that you have identified your strengths and put them to use?
I love this notion of transformation by nurturing our God-given strengths, rather than focusing on our weaknesses. We all have unique gifts to share, and every gift is needed: transformation occurs in those grace-filled moments when our gifts encounter the needs of those around us–in our communities, parishes, schools, and workplaces.
I haven’t taken the official Strengths Finder test yet, but I believe my greatest strength is empathy, and I rely upon it daily in the course of my work by attending to the needs of those I serve in my capacity as the “data steward” at the Archdiocese. It’s easy to think I know what someone else wants… until I set aside my biases in favor of listening deeply to what is being asked.
A friend once posed this question to me, and it has continued to resonate ever since: “What is the kindest thing I can do this moment?” Every time I act upon the answer to that question affords a possibility for transformation.