Lay Church Workers – Trust and Responsibility

Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the role of the laity in the management of the Church:

“There should be a renewed becoming aware of our being Church and of the pastoral co-responsibility that, in the name of Christ, all of us are called to carry out,” the Holy Father said. This co-responsibility should advance “respect for vocations and for the functions of consecrated persons and laypeople,”

This guidance is particularly meaningful when looking at the perspective of working for the Church as a lay employee. Acclimating to working for the Church requires a very different set of expectations than those people have when working in the private sector. Managing the business of running a Church organization requires an understanding of the functional requirements of finance, fundraising, education etc., but also a fluency with the ethical, social justice and mission based aspects of our Catholic faith.

The interaction between laity and clergy in achieving desired business outcomes requires adjusting advice and decisions to accommodate concepts which would seem alien in the commercial world. Investments based on Catholic theology, living wages, declining revenue or support opportunities which conflict with beliefs of our Faith run counter to the foundational principals of the corporate world.

People who consider joining a Church organization to do good work and make a decent living need to ponder this cultural difference, as they contemplate a career in lay leadership for the Church.

Call in the Cavalry

Work can be stressful. Some days more than others. Deadlines, presentations, interviews…all potential ways to hike blood pressure. One way to start the day on a “high note” is prayer…and yes, there is one for work:

Morning prayer before work (from livingprayers.com)

(a daily prayer of surrender to God)

Lord,

I give you all that I am this day.
Please brush away my weariness,
So that I may be inspired in my work.
Help me to discover new ways to reveal your love to all I meet.
Keep my mind clear and focused on all I need to achieve,
And give me the wisdom to overcome difficulties and find solutions.
I look to you and trust you are with me this day.

Amen.

It’s opening night…Have you practiced your lines?

Thoughts for Interviews

Can you imagine paying $200 + dollars for a ticket to a Broadway play where the actors were “winging it”? That’s like an interview without preparation. Here are some tips for preparing for your interview.

Plan to arrive early. Get a feel for the location, culture, etc. and confirm with the recruiter the person you are to see is in this location.

Attire should be suit, dress versus informal unless otherwise informed. Conservative and sincere are always better than not.

This is an opportunity to do the Lord’s work. It is important to convey what role Faith plays in your decision to apply. Most who work in our Church organization are not here for the money. This shows in their respect, demeanor and adaption to a non-secular culture.

Research the organization, the job, the culture, the problems and this group’s history and opportunities. Be prepared, after listening to the interviewer to articulate how you can add value to what this organization is trying to achieve. After you have decided that this is a position, which you want, sell the conclusion: based on their needs these are the reasons you are uniquely qualified to fill the role. “Based on what we have discussed…I think I faced a similar challenge at this organization and here is how I resolved it…Is that the kind of solution which might work here?”

Be able to articulate and expand on the skills and experiences you have acquired to date, with specific focus on how this applies to this group’s mission and this particular role. Bring samples of your work product (Strategic Plan; Annual report etc.), which you can offer to leave with them or review if they have time. Boasting never flies but a succinct and confident presentation of your unique knowledge, experience and skills makes the connection for the interviewer on why their needs are a match with the tools you bring. Listen, pause after a question and ask to clarify if the question is unclear. Try to stress examples of leadership which directly influenced the achievement of goals, revenue and “stretch” objectives. Talk about how you were able to build, retain and lead a strong team and why people wanted to be part of it. Some level of appropriate humility and humor takes the edge off what would otherwise be perceived as self-centeredness.

Don’t get into the “weeds.” Salary, benefits, vacation, compensation etc. are best handled by the recruiter after the company has decided they can’t live without you. If they bring it up feel free to be open and honest.

Ask questions, which convey knowledge, based on your research, of their strategic issues, but also seek to learn, from their perspective, a deeper level of knowledge of their approach.

Leave on a positive note, expressing the desire for things to work out and looking forward to working with the interviewer. Thank you email and/or letters are highly desirable.

Call the recruiter as soon as possible to give your input and impressions.

Disciple: “one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another.” Merriam-Webster dictionary

At Catholic Recruiter Associates our trademark includes the Gospel of Matthew (4:20) : “At once they left their nets and followed Him.”  As we sat around a table one afternoon crafting our logo, this Gospel passage seemed to all of us to fit the weighty decision we ask people to make in coming to work for the Church. Often, we recruit people who are extraordinarily talented in their professions working in a secular organization. Many times, the position we would like them to consider does not provide much financial incentive as compared to their current remuneration. Clearly, something else motivates people to take a job in what is a very different environment from their past and not look back as they “drop their nets at once.” We think it is the same unflinching attitude which compelled the Disciples that draws people of Faith to turn away from the world to do God’s work with abundant passion and talent. Truly, they are making a commitment to “assist in spreading” the Good News. For this we all should be extremely grateful.

What makes “The Right Ingredients” for our candidate searches?

Growing up, my aunt used to make a dessert that everyone in the neighborhood raved about. She called it her 1- 2- 3- 4- 5 Cake and as the name implies, it required 5 ingredients—in exactly the right sequence—to achieve the desired outcome. It occurred to me recently that my aunt’s cake in many ways resembles the method with which an effective search is conducted.

Many of you are aware that our firm has conducted a number of online polls of human resources and senior executives about the changing economy and business models we face today. Two major outcomes of these surveys are that:

A) executive talent for emerging business models in the Church will be found outside current client networks, and

B) most HR executives feel that their current recruiting strategies need to be enhanced in order to find and attract this talent.

With this in mind, what are the best ingredients and in what sequence should they be combined to create the best recruiting outcomes? Just like my aunt, nearly 30 years in this business has convinced me that if you want the best you need to follow the right steps. In recruiting this means:

  • A specification for the position that clearly outlines the skill sets and functional experiences required
  • At least 2 or 3 compelling reasons why your organization—with its mission—is a great place to work
  • Determine how to include passive candidates not on job boards and social networks.
  • Target markets and/or organizations from which to recruit (from where someone could better acclimate to your organization’s culture)
  • A reasonable and realistic compensation package
  • A recruiting strategy (run ads, hire professional, use in-house staff, etc.) 

When my aunt’s neighbors celebrated a really important occasion, they would ask her to bake one of her cakes rather than risk the outcome of their event to chance. Somehow, she always found time to oblige. At Catholic Recruiter Associates we understand just how important having the right executive talent is to your strategies. Let us help you create the best outcome by conducting your search “by the numbers.”

Pre-employment Screening

Why do lay applicants for positions working for the Catholic Church go through criminal background checks? In response to the abuse scandal and as a proactive step to avoid future incidents the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops has mandated that: “Churches, schools, and youth organizations must ensure that children and youth who worship, study, or participate in activities sponsored by a parish can do so in the safest and most secure setting possible.” This has resulted in all Catholic Diocese instituting Safe Environment policies which in most cases require an extensive criminal background check, including finger print submission to law enforcement databases. Candidates for positions working for the Church should expect to be asked and required to comply with this policy prior to their employment with Catholic organizations.

Chemistry, Culture and Church

Often, people ask “what is different about your process in picking executives for the Church?” The answer is: Everything! What we mean is that anyone, given a set of experiences required, academic qualifications, certifications etc. can find people who fit or closely fit those criteria. We believe the “art” in what we do is putting those qualifications together with a person who has the “secret sauce” of fitting into a Church environment in a specific geographic area.

There is no one word to describe this but there are many: appropriate, collegial, respectful, passionate, insightful, reverent, tactful, dedicated, religious etc. Our judgement, based on years of assessment of this fit allows us to make an executives transition into a particular culture a seamless and successful experience.

Transparency

We hear much today about being transparent as a parish, Diocese and Church. Most people focus on finances when they think about this concept. But the duty of representing the Church began more than 2000 years ago by our Savior, Jesus Christ, calls for transparency in all aspects of our life.

Things which have become acceptable in many corners of business, including disparaging people, manipulating information and success at all cost run contrary to our Gospel teaching and the lives we are called to lead. We have a responsibility to be clear, honest and compassionate in our roles in the Catholic community and transparency is a demonstration of our commitment to this standard.

Pope Francis

In a recent Tweet, the Pope says “Work is proper to the human person and expresses the dignity of being created in the image of God” This is a shortened version of a statement made in his general audience last year. In that statement he says: “Work — I repeat, in its many forms — is proper to the human person. It expresses the dignity of being created in the image of God. Thus, it is said that work is sacred. And thus, managing one’s occupation is a great human and social responsibility, which cannot be left in the hands of the few or unladen onto some divinized “market”.

When we think of the “work” we do as sacred it brings a new and meaningful aspect to our daily responsibilities. We look at the great work of organizations like Catholic Charities who restores people’s lives and enables them to return to society providing income to themselves and their families. When we look at work this way, we see it as another form of prayer.