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Posted February 12, 2011

Book: Principled Ministry: A Guidebook for Catholic Church Leaders
Authors: Loughlan Sofield, S.T. and Carrol Juliano, S.H.C.J.
Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, IN. 2011, pp. 141

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Decades of prominence in the promotion and development of effective Church leadership culminate in this latest book by Loughlan Sofield and Carroll Juliano. More than a “how-to” leadership guide, Principled Ministry offers real-life examples of principled ministers who are serving the Catholic Church and invites readers to incorporate these disciplines into their own leadership style. These disciplines include:

– Set boundaries

– Facilitate, don’t dominate

– Think developmentally

– Be comfortable with conflect

– Avoid ambiguity

An Excerpt from the Book:

Principle 10: Facilitate, don’t dominate

One mantra for a pastoral leader is ‘never do for others what they can do for themselves.’ In other words, facilitate, don’t dominate. This principle, which sounds so simple, is often a stumbling block for those in helping roles such as ministers, caregivers, and pastoral leaders. Those who work with others who are especially vulnerable, such as the very young, the very old, and the infirm, are particularly prone to doing too much for the people whom they serve. It is often disrespectful and an affront to human dignity to do for others what they are capable of doing for themselves.

There are a number of reasons why leaders fall prey to overstepping boundaries and providing care to those who are capable of taking care of themselves: 1) the action responds to a need in the helper, 2) there is a misperception of need, 3) the helper is trying to maintain a sense of superiority, and 4) simple arrogance.

One area where it is most difficult to see the potential in the other is when someone we know and love begins to experience diminishment, as with aging or poor health. A common response to watching a loved one struggle with simple activities is to prematurely rush in and do for them what they are capable of doing for themselves. This response can be an unconscious attempt to allay one’s own discomfort and feelings of helplessness rather than a genuine response to the needs of the other. I experienced this when my then ninety-two-year-old mother lost her sight. I found myself rushing in too frequently to assist her with simple tasks that had become more difficult for her. She ultimately convinced me that she was capable of doing much more than I allowed her to do. I had to learn to become more patient because my overhelping wasn’t really helping her. Rather, I was allaying my own pain at seeing her grow old and frail. When we are more overly solicitous and protective of people than is required, we too easily contribute to their deterioration.

The model for implementing this principle of not doing for others what they can do for themselves is Jesus Christ. Throughout the gospels Jesus is revealed as a caring, compassionate person, one who constantly saw gift and potential in others that was evident to only a few. He took a motley group of fishermen, prostitutes, tax collectors, and outcasts and challenged them to do what few before or since have done because he saw and respected their potential.

Table of Contents:

The Ministry of Jesus: Pre-eminent model for Church leadership

The self-defined leader

1. Set boundaries

2. Trust your gut

3. Think tenses

4. Be comfortable with conflict

5. Avoid niceness

6. Seek supervision and consultation

The discerning leader

7. Act like a chameleon

8. Assess the desire and capability of the other to change

9. Think developmentally

10. Facilitate, don’t dominate

11. Feed and frustrate

12. Consider multiple causes and multiple responses

13. Think needs

Tasks, functions, roles, and skills of principled ministry

14. Avoid ambiguity

15. Create a climate that fosters dialogue

16. Be direct, gentle and consistent

17. Model and challenge

18. Avoid triangulation

19. Collaborate

20. Learn to deal with difficult people

21. Be a vision maker

The leader as change agent

22. Stay with the pain

23. Avoid preaching and teaching

24. Focus on others as allies, rather than adversaries

25. Recognize parallel process

26. Explore parallel process

28. Think culture

29. Avoid labeling

30. Be competent and compassionate.