Growing in Holiness through Middle Management: Part IV – The Kingly Ministry of Christ

Christ Driving the Money Changers Out of the Temple (Valentin de Boulogne, 1618)

(Looking for the start of this series? Go to Part I, Part II, or Part III.)

Of the kingly ministry, Pope John Paul II says

Because the lay faithful belong to Christ, Lord and King of the Universe, they share in his kingly mission and are called by him to spread that Kingdom in history. They exercise their kingship as Christians, above all in the spiritual combat in which they seek to overcome in themselves the kingdom of sin (cf. Rom 6:12), and then to make a gift of themselves so as to serve, in justice and in charity, Jesus who is himself present in all his brothers and sisters, above all in the very least (cf. Mt 25:40). (Christifideles Laici, 14)

Through the kingly ministry, then, we are called to overcome sin and Satan — through prayer and participation in the sacraments — and, through the life of holiness thus gained, to give that life as gift to others.

This is the “servant leadership” end of administration — our responsibility for overseeing that the organizations we lead carry out there missions. On the surface this may seem like the least interesting ministry we engage in — but in truth it is one of the most vital, for it is the bedrock on which a well-functioning organization rests.

Indeed, the most important job of an administrator is making sure that the right people are in place to carry out the work that needs doing. Hiring the wrong person derails your momentum, demoralizes good employees, and costs more time and money.

As a result, we need to take our time to make sure that we are hiring the right individuals. This includes knowing what qualifications, education, and experience the job requires “ not just hiring the pious mother who always attends daily Mass because “she obviously has an interest in churchy stuff.” Unfortunately I think we have many parishes where faithfulness is confused with qualification. While we certainly want the people working in our parishes and schools to be faithful Catholics, we also want them to have the qualifications necessary for the job.

Sometimes this will mean waiting to hire until the right person comes along. As I alluded to above, hiring the wrong person will ultimately cost more in the long run. Patience in the hiring process is a virtue and ensures that the right people are “on the bus” as Jim Collins puts it.

Exercising the kingly ministry also means ensuring that resources are properly allocated. This means budgeting! I know a lot of people hate filling out annual budgets (I do too!) but, as a vice-president of finance I worked with was find of saying: “Budgets are moral documents.” By that he meant that budgets tell us where our real priorities and values lie. If we say we want a robust youth ministry in our parish, are we giving the youth minister the resources necessary to carry out that vision? If we want to bring in new members, is there a line item for evangelization and the RCIA? These are hard questions, but necessary if we are honest about what it is we want to accomplish in our parishes.

Finally, the role of the kingly ministry means that we need to call a royal feast every once in a while! Celebrating our accomplishments and acknowledging successes demonstrates the virtue of hope. It is very easy to get bogged down by everything that is wrong in the Church — difficult parishioners, low Mass attendance, dwindling school enrollment. By celebrating the good that we do we remind ourselves that, with Christ’s help, we are bring about the Kingdom of God — and it’s not a fruitless struggle.

Growing in Holiness through Middle Management: Part I “ Introduction

Priest, Prophet, King / photo by Br. Lawrence Lew, OP / Flickr

This past weekend I offered a breakout session at my diocese’s biennial adult enrichment conference entitled “Administration as Service: Practicing Leadership in the Light of Christ.” I had planned to record the talk; unfortunately my laptop zonked out on me the day before and, while dealing with an unfamiliar machine, I forgot to start my audio recorder.

Instead of recording the talk in my office, I’ve decided to offer the major talking points as a series of posts.

I began the presentation by offering a story told to me by Barb Rossman, the first CEO I worked with in Catholic healthcare. Like many other hospital administrators, Barb started as a nurse. She enjoyed having her “hands on patients,” helping them to get better. She eventually became a manager and finally entered administration.

When she became an administrator, however, she had a difficult time understanding how her role fit into the mission of the hospital. As a nurse it was clear: her job was to help treat patients in a very direct way. How did her new role contribute to the health of patients? She no longer had her “hands on patients”; what was her new role about?

What she eventually came to realize is that, while she was no longer a direct caretaker, her role was now to be a “caretaker to the caretakers.” Her role was to ensure that those working for her had the tools, resources, and knowledge to do their jobs well.   This was the spirit that Barb took to her role: to help those who help the patients.

Barb’s story is a perfect example of Christ’s admonition in the tenth chapter of Mark’s Gospel: “[T]hose who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” (Mk 10:42-45)

In fact, this sort of leadership can lead us to holiness! As the Council Fathers stated at the Second Vatican Council:

[I]n the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle: ‘For this is the will of God, your sanctification.’ However, this holiness of the Church is unceasingly manifested, and must be manifested, in the fruits of grace which the Spirit produces in the faithful; it is expressed in many ways in individuals, who in their walk of life, tend toward the perfection of charity, thus causing the edification of others. (Lumen Gentium 39)

In other words, no matter what your station in life, you are called to live it out in holiness!

As those baptized into Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, we do this by participating in the three-fold ministry of Christ: priest, prophet, and king. In the next three parts I will outline how administrators participate in these ministries through their work as leaders of their organizations.

Photo: Br. Lawrence Lew, OP / Flickr