Ten Tips for Starting a Parish Ministry

We never know why God has called us to do something, but when we feel His call, it is our duty as faithful servants to respond with a loving and resounding YES!

If you are feeling God’s call, then open your heart and read on . . .

1. Do your homework.

Find out what ministries are currently at your parish and find out what they do. It’s a terrible feeling to go to your priest with an idea only to be told, “um . . . we have that already”  or to begin the work with permission and later discover you are stepping on the toes of existing ministry workers.

2. Create a mission statement and an outline for your ministry.

Know whom you will serve and in what capacity. What is your purpose and how does it differ from the purposes of other ministries currently serving your parish? How does your purpose align with the purpose of the wider Church? Is your ministry’s purpose primarily evangelism? or Catechesis? Service? Community building? Knowing the answer to these questions will help you communicate effectively about your ministry and help you to garner support from others.

3. You must have your priest’s support.

You need more than his permission. You need to get him jazzed about the ministry. You really need to have him on your team. Starting anything new is challenging, and you may meet opposition (and more differing opinions than there are people involved). If you know you have the support of your priest, you will have more confidence and the ability to put others’ negativity aside and proceed. A bulletin announcement is great, but to have your priest speak from the pulpit about how essential your ministry is, or to have him attend an event and tell others about it, well, that is the best publicity you can have.

4. Start to network.

Once you see the need for a ministry, have confirmed that it is not the mission of another ministry, and have the priest’s support, then you can start reaching out to other ministries to network. As you start to recruit help, remember that volunteers can be hard to find. Those who have been working in ministries have often been doing loads of work and many are already bordering on burnout. Be supportive of what other ministries are doing and emphasize your desire to bring more uninvolved people into ministry life. Ask God to provide you with the people and the guidance you need, then invite people face-to-face to do specific things.

5. Make friends with the office staff.

When I started my first ministry, one of my best friends happened to be on staff and in charge of scheduling. She conveniently came on as Parish Liaison for our ministry. She was already part of the staff at the parish so she had the ear of the priest, she knew what was going on politically, and she was able to easily process the paperwork (announcements, reimbursements, deposits, PO’s etc.) for our group. We have retained a deep and lasting friendship through our early ministry work with one another and my job was made so much easier by having her as a part of our core team.

6. Create a marketing plan.

You already have your mission statement and an outline of your ministry. Now you need to market it. How do you make it something others will remember and want to be a part of? Our Moms Ministry created little business cards, pew cards, and even hilarious videos to play after Mass. We sold donuts and muffins to bring attention to our ministry. We made & sold chic-looking t-shirts by a local t-shirt company. Even our big Mother-Daughter Tea was a chance to sign-up more moms to our group.

7. Create a business plan.

How are you going to run this group? My mission was to never take money from our parish, but rather be able to give back to the parish. In order to do that, I needed to have fundraisers and a budget to cover the costs of  refreshments and speakers. We started with some easy things like bake sales to both raise awareness and give us some seed money. If you have the intention to grow beyond your parish someday, that should be a part of your plan, too.

8. Pray, pray, pray.

This really should be number one, but if you are reading this you probably have already been in conversation with Our Lord about the topic! So keep praying. You should be praying more than planning. Go to Adoration with a notebook and just listen to what He speaks to your heart.

9. Don’t be easily offended.

Critiques of the ministry are not critiques of you. Being the head of a ministry does not mean that every misstep is a reflection on your character. You are going to forget deadlines and lose receipts, misinterpret words and step on toes. Don’t take things personally. Act out of love, practice humility, and don’t take offense easily.

10. Know when to let go.

Ministries need to be bigger than one person. The Sodality of Our Lady has been running in our parish since 1949. They have a new prefect each year or every few years. They have guilds and prayer teams and a budget. Once you have helped create the ministry, bring in others to  give it some longevity. It is God’s ministry, not yours, and it will last as long as the parish responds to His call to keep it going. That said, even if it lasts for just a season, it was important for that season. Know when to turn it over to fresh ideas and a new face.

There will be a lot of questions and a lot of discernment in this process. You need to tap into God’s actual intentions for the specific work He has designed you to complete for Him. That is a pretty amazing thing! So pray, plan, and get working.

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Feel called to do something, but find the idea of a parish ministry sounds overwhelming? Why don’t you try starting with a small group study? Blessed is She has a free small group study waiting for you. If you have specific questions or need mentoring through this process, we are here for you.

Written by MaryRuth Hackett. Find out more about her here

This post first published at her blog, Parenting with Peer Review. Reprinted with permission.

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