Written by Keith Strohm
One of the obstacles for most parishes as they try and become Houses of Lay Formation is the work of overcoming decades (and centuries) of inertia. Embracing a mission (over a maintenance) mindset requires a great deal of prayer, planning, communication, evangelization, and execution.
And most parish communities don't possess the culture for such work.
Think of it this way:
Most councils, commissions, and committees meet only once a month. In any given three year term (which seems to be how most councils are set up, for example), that means the group will meet only 36 times for an average of about two hours (7-9 seems to be the standard). That's a total of 72 hours in three years to accomplish major undertakings.
That's the best case.
Leave aside the fact that Parish Councils are supposed to be consultative bodies to assist the pastor and assume that the group in question is actually a working group. Now consider that most parishes "take the Summer off" from June-August. That's three months off every year for three years (a total of 9 meetings of 18 hours that are "lost").
In addition, the first meeting of the year is usually more of an orientation/catching up meeting, and the last meeting of the year (or the December meeting, depending upon the fiscal calendar) is often a Christmas party), thereby costing the group another 6 meetings (or 12 work hours) over three years.
That leaves a council, commission, or committee only 21 meetings (or 42 hours) in which to complete their mandate. Now, some work may get done between meetings (but that isn't necessarily the norm). However, given that major initiatives (like building parish-wide formation programs) could take years of regular frequent meetings (in my last parish, it took 3 years of weekly meetings for a Council to adequately form, plan, and execute--through the creation of various commissions--on a parish-wide initiative), the working culture in most parishes isn't conducive to the kind of formation and planning it takes just to start some of the work that is necessary to transform our parishes.
And yet, any suggestion that a committment for a parish work group might be more than just once a month is met by horrified stares and declarations of impossibility from parish staff and parishioners.
How can we transform our parishes if the folks who have the charisms, talent, and experience to do so don't make the committment?
How does the work get done at your parish?