Parish leader: “I built it and they didn’t come.”

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Sometimes, despite our best efforts, programs fail. Our great ideas are overlooked. What we think should matter to people doesn’t. Rather than jumping to the conclusion that people don’t show up because they don’t care or that we’re not very good at our ministry, take another look. Perhaps the timing was poor, the communication inadequate, or the program has run its course. When we look at the bigger picture we often discover creative ways to move into future planning and implementation.

Satisfying as they are, there is a limited amount of learning to be derived from our successes. Failure, on the other hand, has much to teach us. It gives us a wider glimpse into the needs and the concerns of the people we serve. Teresa of Calcutta once said that we are not called to be successful, but faithful. This means not equating success with the number of people who show up. Remain faithful to the mission, and you may recognize that the work you are doing is having a greater impact than you realize. And remember not to equate the failure of a program with failure as a minister.

TO DO» Write down five reasons why parishioners don’t show up for programs or other events. Better yet, poll a few people and ask why they didn’t choose to participate. Then, armed with information, move ahead with hope instead of cynicism.

TO PRAY» Jesus, remind me to keep my eye on the deeper mission to which I am called. After all, ministry is not a numbers game.


Popular speaker, catechetical leader, and ministry consultant, KATHY HENDRICKS is the author of numerous books, including Everything about Parish Ministry I Wish I had Known, and Forming Families in Faith: Cultivating Catechesis in the Home, both from Twenty-Third Publications.

Excerpted from Pep Talks for Parish ministers and leaders by Kathy Hendricks. Copyright 2016. Published by Twenty-Third Publications. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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