Nones, meet the Outs

Much has been said of late about the "Nones"—those who claim no religious affiliation at all.  Certainly Catholic parishes (and dioceses, movements, apostolates etc.) must become more adept at engaging the Nones, at reaching out to them in fulfillment of the Great Commission that Jesus gives us all.

Catholic leaders—Let me introduce you to another group.  They are the Outs.  And you work with them every day.

“A gut-wrenching stress-fest.”

Ministry should be joyful and life-giving, at least much of the time.  On your leadership team, though, is probably at least one person who is:

Stressed Out
Burned Out, or
Freaked Out

And this might surprise you:  It’s not the daily tasks of ministry—the pressure to produce effectively within reason—that trouble leaders and their staffs the most.  It’s what author Patrick Lencioni, and we at the Evangelium Consulting Group, identify as a lack of organizational health.

Here are some key traits of an organizationally healthy leadership team:

Minimal politics
Minimal confusion (often a result of the silo mentality)
High morale
Low negative turnover
Enhanced effectiveness in ministry—both the results and the experience of serving God’s people

When these traits are strongly present, the experience of serving God’s people is in many ways joyful and life-giving.  There are bad days and occasional hard times for sure.  But leaders know they’re working with teammates who trust each other, who can speak the truth in love, and who are mutually and totally clear about their core purpose, how key decisions are made, and what they should be focussing on. 

To the extent that the opposite traits are present—and they creep in oh so easily—ministry can be what one Out describes as a gut-wrenching stress-fest.  Are you—or a key staff member—feeling stressed out?  Burned out?  Freaked out about getting ministry done amidst the emotional turmoil that characterizes leadership teams that aren’t intentional about organizational health?  There’s hope.

Dozens of Catholic leaders—hundreds, actually—who have become acquainted with building a true leadership team and ways to see authentic growth in organizational health (remember—low politics, confusion, turnover etc.) are experiencing real, positive change in how they and their upper-level staff serve God’s people.  A good starting point for learning the basics of organizational health is Lencioni’s book The Advantage.

The Margins

Pope Francis challenges us to be aware of people on the margins—reaching out to them, be they unchurched, alienated, Nones and so on.  In addition to the margin at a distance from us, we should also be aware of the marginalized who might sit in staff meetings with us on any given day: coworkers who are marginalized by the stress, isolation, inner turmoil and sense of being overwhelmed that can bubble up when our leadership team isn’t as organizationally health as it can and should be.

If you’re a Catholic leader who now realizes that you work with at least one Out—or that maybe you’re an Out yourself—I encourage you to learn more about organizational health.  It’ll help your leadership team be all-in for ministry to each soul entrusted to your care, leaving none untouched by God’s mercy and love.