Last month, I asked many of you to complete an online survey that included a question about your biggest challenge. Sixty-five people responded to the survey. Of those, twenty people (about 30%) listed communications issues as the thing that caused the most difficulty.
The challenges of ministry
For example, one respondent said: “Ministry silos — lack of vision and coordination.” Another said: “Having to ‘stay in my own lane’ of music and not being allowed to weigh in in liturgy despite having a masters in pastoral liturgy.” And another: “Power games between those who coordinate or lead ministries.” Several folks commented on the “lack of communication between clergy presiders and liturgical ministers.”
The next-largest group of responses had to do with frustrations with music ministry. On the one hand, some music leaders are having difficulty recruiting new members. Once they have people in the choir or ensemble, they are having trouble getting their singers and musicians to commit to ongoing training or showing up for rehearsals or even showing up for assigned liturgies. On the other hand, some music ministers cited their own lack of musical training as a significant roadblock.One of the biggest challenges to liturgists, musicians, and pastors? Communication issues, from a lack of coordination to being shut down in meetings, make everything more difficult. Click To Tweet
Third on the list were people who find a lack of liturgical formation to be impeding parish liturgy. For example: “lack of liturgical knowledge among the team;” “lack of people understanding their role in liturgy and how important each role is;” “lack of a defined liturgy committee;” “Decades of poor catechesis and formation;” “seeing liturgical ministry as volunteerism/stewardship rather than as a response to God’s gifts;” “poor formation, worse preparation — people merely going through the motions;” “the new fundamentalism that is sweeping into the church and the newly ordained.”
And at a very-close-fourth on the list, some folks complained about lack of time and burn out.
Three pastors responded to the survey. They said their biggest challenges were “to get some of the liturgical ministers to see their involvement as ministry and not show” and “connecting the language of ritual with the language of life” and “lack of specific ministers, i.e. altar servers, and shrinking assembly.”
What makes ministry fulfilling
By far, the biggest response to the question, “What is the most fulfilling aspect of your ministry?” had to do with some aspect of well-celebrated liturgy — 25 of the 65 respondents. Here is a small sample of the responses:
Hearing people sing at mass; helping the community to have meaningful worship experiences each week; Bringing beauty and inspiration to the mass; When the members of the assembly around me enter into worship wholeheartedly — interior attention and exterior participation; It brings me so much joy when I look out to our congregation and all (mostly all) are singing and participating in the liturgy!; Feeling the spirit move during liturgy in spite of our foibles!; when members of the assembly have the “I get it” look; Joy of the assembly; Those moments when things seem to click; When everything works and a liturgy sends us forth to proclaim and live the gospel.
Who responded to the survey?
Of those who identified their ministry in the parish, there were:
- 3 pastors
- 25 directors of music or liturgy or liturgy and music
- 8 cantors or other music ministry
- 4 lectors or communion ministers
- 6 directors of religious education or other faith formation ministry
- 8 RCIA directors or team members
- 6 pastoral associates
- 2 evangelization ministers
Of those who responded to the question about being paid or volunteer, 45 said they are paid either full or part time. Twenty said they are volunteers. Of the part time folks, many said they also volunteer beyond their paid hours.
I came away with one surprising insight from the responses. While I knew that poor communication is often a frustration in pastoral ministry, I was surprised to see that it topped the list. I would have thought lack of liturgical formation issues would have ranked much higher. Or course, 65 responses is nowhere close to a significantly representative sample, but the priorities were still interesting.
What resonates for you?
So now I am wondering what you think of these results. Whether you took the survey or not, do these responses resonate with your own?
When you think about it, is it really poor communication issues that keeps your parish from having the best liturgy possible on Sunday? And if so, what are some concrete solutions you can suggest for the rest of us?