The challenge for pastoral leaders is not lack of imagination, but the need to control it. Too many ideas and focal points become a hopeless, meaningless collage. Pastoral leadership needs to come back to the same themes again and again, getting out the same messages if they are to have any impact. Religious leaders are good at one-on-one interactions, but this is not how the ordinary Catholic interacts with church leaders. A preacher or presider might be at the same Mass only every other Sunday, sometimes less. Parishioners might attend only once or twice a month, and those who do attend might be distracted or focused on something entirely different from the message conveyed in words and ritual. Parents who attend school meetings or religious education meetings come together only a few times a year, or only once a year. Most Catholics hear messages infrequently, and the medium is very often the message. How many articles in the parish bulletin come back to a common theme? Or are they simply random, more or less reflecting the calendar and generic liturgical themes? Parish organizations, social activities, devotional groups, and other gatherings can be challenged to talk up one or two themes over a long period of time. The challenge for pastoral imagination, then, is not having too little imagination, but having too much. The most successful pastors are often the most accidental—those whose strategic vision just happens to coincide with the needs and orientation of the faith community. Often pastors do too much and see too many possibilities and nuances. They can learn much from those accidental successes by limiting and simplifying the message. © 2005, Bryan Froehle.
Authors Bryan FroehleRestricted