Who’s In Your Braintrust?

CatmullQuoteI recently read Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull, one of the founders and president of Pixar Animation. The book is a wonderful lesson in the business of creativity, told through the history of Pixar’s rise as the most respected animation company in the world.

In the fifth chapter Catmull talks about the Pixar “Braintrust,” a group of “funny, focused, smart, and relentlessly candid” leaders within Pixar who come together on a regular basis to offer honest, constructive feedback on various projects related to the work of the company. These meetings involve a lot of frank talk about what is working — and what isn’t working — in any given Pixar movie during the course of its production. Anyone in the Braintrust, regardless of their official position within the company, is expected to contribute with their honest opinions.

Catmull discusses the need for this kind of candid conversation, unencumbered by ego or territoriality, in any creative endeavor. I would argue that it is also necessary for the work of ministry.

Everyone who works for the Church — and especially those of us in leadership positions — should be about one thing: building up the Kingdom of God. What that means will depend on what ministry we are engaged in, but the bottom line is that if we aren’t going about our Father’s work, then we aren’t being effective in our ministry.

Unfortunately, as fallen human beings, we sometimes (often?) fail to maintain a relentless focus on the things of God and instead put our energy and attention on our own projects and desires. Being able to have candid conversation about what is and is not working is essential to the tasks of ministry. We should have the fortitude and integrity to ask probing questions, give honest opinions, and challenge one another about what is effective.

(And I hope it goes without saying that we should do collaboratively with one other, rather than behind each other’s backs.)

In my diocese I am blessed with colleagues who are unrelenting in their focus on improving our ministries and who are unafraid to question, challenge, critique — and praise! — each other in appropriate, loving ways. It’s not always easy (as one of them likes to say, “Collaboration is hard work!”) but it is rewarding in ways I could never have dreamed when I entered into ministry.

Who is in your Braintrust? Who can you turn to for honest, candid discussion about your ministry? If you can’t think of anyone, how could you foster relationships with others to develop your own “braintrust?”

Parish Employment and Parish Membership

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I am sometimes asked by parish catechetical leaders (especially principals) whether they should become members of the parish that employees them when they are hired. I don’t think there is a hard and fast rule (and in my rural diocese there are certainly circumstances where worshiping at a different parish would be impractical), but in […]

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Preview: Sunday Prayer for Catechists 2014-2015

As I’ve previously mentioned, I was privileged to write this year’s Sunday Prayer for Catechists book from Liturgy Training Publications. The book is out now and I’ve received very positive feedback (including notes from two of my childhood catechists!). A preview of the book is available on Google Books: Sunday Prayer for Catechists 2014-2015 is available […]

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Free Webinar Series: Building a Better Disciple

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I’m pleased to announce that this fall I will be offering a free webinar series entitled “Building a Better Disciple.” Over the course of five webinars we will explore what it means to be a Christian through the lens of Acts 2:42: “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, […]

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Designing a Great Catechetical Office

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Our catechetical office recently learned that we will be moving into a new office suite in a few months. Our existing suite is being converted into new meeting spaces that will be larger and more convenient for people meeting at our pastoral center. With this move we have the opportunity to design our new offices (within […]

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Leadership Bibliography

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I was recently asked by a colleague to help put together a list of some resources for lay leaders in the Church. What I put together is by no means complete, but it does include a number of resources that I have found extremely helpful in the six years I have served as a catechetical […]

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Canned Programs and the Person of the Catechist

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Recently the members of our department have been looking at and reviewing some of the new Confirmation programs that have been making the rounds. (We’ll be publishing some general thoughts and recommendations in the coming months; I’ll be sure to share them here on my blog.) One trend I’ve noticed is that all the programs […]

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7 Sources for Parish Social Media Content

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Whenever I talk about parishes’ use of social media I always try to point out that a Facebook page, Twitter account, or Instagram profile won’t do much good if isn’t being updated regularly with new content. Fresh content shows that your serious about reaching our with new media and worth following. But creating content isn’t […]

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Come On Up to the House – My Guest Post For Margaret Felice

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Today I’m honored to have a guest post over at the indefatigable Margaret Felice’s blog. Margaret is a religion teacher by day and opera singer by night; she’s hosting a series of guest posts highlighting favorite songs that have a spiritual significance to the authors. The song I chose, “Come On Up to the House” […]

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Defeating the World by Embracing the Cross: Under the Influence Of Jesus Blog Tour

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One of the great gifts of the New Evangelization is the reminder that, as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to evangelize the culture because, like us, it is in need of conversion. Christians, we know, are called to live, work, and play within the world without taking on the attitudes and habits of […]

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