What Web Browsers Can Teach Us About Methodology in Ministry

Permit me a little rant for a moment:

A friend mentioned on Google+ yesterday that he is not allowed to install Chrome on his office computer. I’m sure his IT department has perfectly legitimate reasons. Heck, as someone who’s done a little IT work I understand the value of standardization across a company’s platforms: it makes  maintenance  and troubleshooting much easier if you don’t have to manage multiple programs, and locking down computers helps keep more… adventurous employees from accidentally installing malicious software.

(For the record, I’m one of those  adventurous  employees; I love trying out new software to find something better than what I’m  currently  using.)

All that having been said, I think there is tremendous benefit to allowing people to use the tools and techniques they are comfortable with in their work. For those of us who are “power users,” it lets us do our work more efficiently and with less headache. We can deploy the latest updates more quickly. And it also keeps us from using our knowledge to creatively get around the lockout! (In one of my previous jobs I got around the browser issue by installing the portable version of Firefox on a thumbdrive and running it from there.)

This goes back to my previous thoughts on methedological diversity in ministry. We don’t all need to go about the same things in the same way! We need to trust that parishes will choose the “right tool for the right job” for their particular local situation. Indeed, I think allowing for such local control offers the same benefits: efficiency, rapid adaptation, and a decrease in “creative workarounds.”

For instance, unlike some dioceses, ours does not make parishes choose from a short list of catechetical texts for schools and PSR programs. So long as the text is on the bishops’ conformity list, we trust them to choose what is best for their congregation. We do this because of the diversity of parishes in our diocese. Some are rural, some are suburban; most are very  homogeneous, but some have great cultural diversity; some have a lot of youth, some are  rapidly  aging. Creating a “short list” of catechetical texts simply wouldn’t be able to account for the diversity of a diocese that covers 28 counties. Forcing parishes to use a text that doesn’t match their local needs would be less efficient, since parishes would need to find additional supplemental material — or worse, risk not meeting the catechetical needs of their parishioners.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t have standards. But if I can create a Word-compatible document in either Microsoft Word or in OpenOffice, why should anyone care which I use? Similarly, if parishes can fulfill curriculum standards or other catechetical goals  through  a variety of texts, why  should  we restrict them? Allowing for this type of local decision making may mean more administrative work for some of us, since it will mean supporting multiple programs rather than just one or two. But I believe that is part of our service to parishes, and will mean a greater flourishing of catechesis in the long run.