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Vol 41 No 3

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Gerard Hall SM

Dennis J. Murphy MSC
A DATED VIEW OF MISSION? Jules Chevalier (1824-1907)

Bishop Christopher Prowse
GLOBAL FRIENDSHIP: The Christian Perspective

Joseph Grayland
THE TRIDENTINE MASS AGAIN: Can the Church Celebrate in Two Rites?

Sharon Messina

Desmond O’Donnell OMI



Human Resources Management for Church ministry


…so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. (Romans 1:5, NRSV) 

What is Church Ministry today? Are the business practices of Church Ministry different to those in Commercial Organisations? If the business practices in these two different types of organisations are different, why and how are they different? What drives the Human Resources Managemnt (HRM) practices in each of these types of organisations— Church Ministry and Commercial Organisations? What are some of the challenges of HRM in Church Ministry? These are some of the questions that will be addressed in this paper as it seems that HRM is not properly understood in Church Ministry (Bacik, Fall 2005; Brown, May/June 2005, 257; Power, 2003, 112).

The Catholic Church did not have any authoritatively defined concept of the non-ordained (or laity) before the last half of the twentieth century. It wasn’t until the work of Yves Congar in 1953 entitled, Lay People in the Church, in which a theology of the lay ecclesial ministry appeared. His was a concern for the mission of the Church in the world, in which he stated:

Many people do not realize sufficiently that a big space is left empty between, on the one hand, a rigid canonical attitude in sacred things, wherein all the emphasis is on the receptive position of the faithful and their subordination to the clergy, and, on the other hand, the field of social and international secular activity. Nowadays lay people are becoming conscious that it is their business too to fill that empty space, through a properly spiritual activity, an active role in the church. They are everywhere asking for a proper theology of laity to instruct them in their uncontentious approach to this task (Congar, 1957, xxvii).

Congar’s book, as Zeni Fox comments, ‘at times unfolds like a meditation on two texts, that of the tradition of the Church and that of the lived experience of the contemporary community.’ (Fox, 2003, 127) Congar’s starting point was that the non-ordained, the laity, are baptized Christians and by this very membership of the People of God can exercise sacred activities, but that their exercising of these sacred activities is different from and complementary to those of the clergy. This seminal work of Yves Congar certainly had some impact on the deliberations of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) during its discussions and decisions throughout the years 1962-4. And while commentary on the laity and ministry is rather limited in the documents of Vatican II (Fox, 2003, 135), it was nevertheless present quietly and at times implicitly, particularly in Sacrosanctum Concilium(SC29), Ad Gentes(AG23), Lumen Gentium(LG4,31,33), and Apostolicam Actuositatem(AA2 and 22). There was a consensus throughout the world, by Catholics and non-Catholics alike, that Vatican II was seeing with fresh eyes and breathing in fresh air with its emphasis on a ‘theological and liturgical renewal’ that affirmed ‘the Church as communion rather than as institution’ (Wood, 2003, vii) and called the laity into active participation in the ministry of the Church in response to their baptismal call and the example of Jesus the Christ. In other words, Vatican II saw a return to an understanding of communion from the biblical and patristic concept of koinonia or communio, prominently reflected in the letters of St. Paul (Gaillardetz, 2003, 31). However, while Vatican II has certainly positively effected change in opening up church ministry beyond the ordained to the non-ordained, from the vantage point of 40+ years on, it still seems that the conciliar concepts of communion, response and mission, all very Pauline in nature, have not yet permeated into all areas of Church Ministry, most notably, Human Resources Management (HRM).

Sadly, we frequently hear stories of the lowly paid and over-worked pastoral associate, the burnt out priest and/or deacon, the parish priest who refuses to delegate, the Curia filled with religious on stipends because of inability or non-desire to support real (fair) salaries, the recruitment behind closed doors, the quiet letting go of staff without due process, the changeover (redundancy) of staff and re-appointment of handpicked staff upon new appointment of priest, the bullying antics of parish or agency leaders usually a result of inadequate managerial and/or leadership skills and insufficient training and support provided, the inability to port service and other benefits as lay ministers move between parishes, and all of this still happening in the 21st century. As an HRM professional with twenty years of experience at both the grassroots and corporate level in the commercial world, and having, more recently, worked within and experienced Church practices at both the parish and diocesan levels for 6½ years, it is time that this anomaly is addressed.

This paper will be looking at the ‘priesthood of all believers’ (Brown, May/June 2005, 256) in Church Ministry today and for tomorrow, how the Human Resources Management (HRM) function of the Church should be engaging with its staff, and how it should be supporting and challenging its staff (both managerial and non-managerial, as well as clergy, religious and lay). It will also be identifying some key tenets on which the HRM function within Church Ministry should be founded if it is to reflect the ‘mind of Christ’ (1 Cor 2:16), particularly in light of the outcomes of Vatican II. So let’s begin.

What is Church Ministry in Today’s and Tomorrow’s Catholic Church?

The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium (LG) of the Second Vatican Council, offered a new framework by which to situate church ministry. In LG2 we learn of the ‘place of charisms [gifts] in the context of the whole people of God’s participation in the life of the Church’ (Gaillardetz, 2003, 13). The assertion is made that charisms are given to all the faithful ‘for the renewal and building up of the church’ (LG12) and that this is done through the tripartite office of priest, prophet and king (Wood, 2000, 13-14). So effectively, and as confirmed in Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes (GS), the Church believes that through each of its members and its community as a whole it can ‘help to make the human family and its history still more human.’ (GS40) As Elissa Rinere confirms: ‘The conciliar principle that the mission of the Church belongs to all the baptized has found clear articulation in the 1983 Code of Canon Law’ (2003, 74). Furthermore, ‘Canon 781, based on the Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity, Ad Gentes, indicates that the primary mission of the church is the preaching of the Gospel’ (Rinere, 2003, 74). Moreover, in LG4, we see Vatican II’s effort to provide the Church with a firm foundation in the triune life of God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As Richard Gaillardetz explains: ‘The Church is not an autonomous entity; rather, its very existence depends on its relationship to God through Christ in the Spirit’ (2003, 31). So what does this mean for Church Ministry?

Through baptism we are initiated into a life in Christ. We are Christian! Whatever we say and whatever we do is in service to this baptismal call which is a call ‘to participate in the mission of the Word and the Spirit and, by so doing, to share in the very life of God’ (Downey, 2003, 11). Michael Downey beautifully conveys our baptismal initiation as life rooted in the covenant:

This covenant is itself rooted in the love of God given in Christ and the ongoing gift of the Spirit, the life of God pouring itself forth in gift here and now. Our lives are shaped by an awareness of responsibility more than obligation, a responsibility springing from our membership in God’s Holy People. We commit ourselves to being and building the Body of Christ in the Church and in the world, so that both will be transformed by love (Downey, 2003, 12).

Our baptismal call is affirmed in our Confirmation where we pledge to live according to the Spirit as one body in Christ, and is nourished through the Eucharist, a meal of ‘communion and justice’ together as members of one Body (Downey, 2003, 18). But while Church Ministry for Michael Downey and many Catholic theologians today, means participation of all members within the Church, not just the ordained, in strengthening the ‘People of God, to be and build the Body of Christ as a sacrament of the magnitude of God’s love in and for the world’ (Downey, 2003, 19), this isn’t so for many at the coalface (particularly, religious) who, because of their pre-Vatican II formation and training, still hold to the pre-Vatican II belief in a single priesthood of the ordained (Rinere, 2003, 69). Nevertheless, for Thomas Rausch, ‘ordination recognizes a charism for a particular service; it gives the priest a special role, not a higher status’ (2003, 64). For Downey, reflection and contemplation through prayer, is the key to understanding that our baptism into the Church means our baptism into the Church’s mission (Gaillardetz, 2003, 15). Downey says:

A baptismal spirituality is a whole way of life wherein we learn to lean into the Word of God, to find a lamp unto our feet, so that we can behold the gift that is always and everywhere being offered. It is a whole way of life by which we become a living doxology, so that all we say and do becomes an act of praise to the Father, through Christ, by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit given in baptism. This is consecrated living. Prayerful living. A way of being held in the knowledge that all that I am and all that I have is first and finally gift. Prayer is a way of living with, in, and from that gift. All the time. Ministry that springs from any motive other than this is misguided (2003, 15).

And the church’s mission is derived from its Trinitarian origins, as Richard Gaillardetz explains:

Salvation history reveals to us a God who sends forth the Word and Spirit in mission as the very expression and fulfilment of God’s love for the world. God’s Word, spoken into human history from the beginning of creation and made effective by the power of the Spirit, in the fullness of time became incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth. The origins of the Church, in turn are inextricably linked to Jesus’ gathering a community of followers who, after his death and resurrection, were empowered by his Spirit to continue his mission to serve, proclaim, and realize the coming reign of God (2003, 29).

And it is in the triune God that we learn about and experience love, relationship, reconciliation and salvation.

If we look at the etymology of the English word, ministry, we find it has its roots in the Latin word, ministerium, which is based on the Greek word, diakonia, which has most often been translated as ‘service’. It first surfaced in the New Testament in the letters of St. Paul who used it in a number of different ways:

…in the more general sense of service, as in reference to his efforts to support financially the Jerusalem church (Rom 15:25, 31; 2 Cor 8:4, 19; 9:1) and for personal service (Phlm 13). But most often he [Paul] uses diakonia and its substantive, diakonos, of those whose particular form of service places them in leadership roles in the community. He uses diakonia or diakonos in connection with his own apostolic ministry (Rom 1:1; 15:16; 1 Cor 4:1, 2 Cor 3:6; 6:4; 11:8; 11:23) or in reference to others claiming to be apostles (2 Cor 11:12, 15) or with recognized roles in local communities (Rom 16:1; Phil 1:1). (Rausch, 2003, 53)

John Collins also provides an extensive discussion on ministry as it was perceived in the New Testament, giving 2 Cor:14-6:13 (Paul’s defense of his ministry) as the most comprehensive outline of the word, diakonia or service.

Thus we read of his [Paul’s] ‘competence from God’ to be a minister (diakon-) of a new covenant (2 Cor 3:6); of a ministry (diakon-) that dispenses the Spirit of God, justification and glory (3:3-9); of the divine mercy that engaged him in this ministry (diakon-) (4:1), which is ‘the ministry (diakon-) of reconciliation’ (5:18). His role in delivering this heavenly message constitutes him an ‘ambassador’ for Christ (5:20). (Collins, May 2005, 210)

Clearly, Church Ministry has for its inspiration the ‘example of Jesus himself who saw his own life and death as a service on behalf of others (Mark 10:45).’ (Rausch, 2003, 53) In developing a theology of ministry for today, we, as John Collins says, must return to the Pauline understanding of ministry as ‘both gift to the church and commissioned responsibility for the Word of God’ (May 2005, 167). Moreover, should the church of the new millennium again re-engage this Pauline understanding of ministry, Collins asks, ‘might it not be drawn to conjure up the enriching and versatile ministries for women and men which it needs and for which many yearn?’ (May 2005, 167)

Does Church Ministry Differ from Commercial Enterprises?

There is an extensive discussion on Church organisations as not-for-profit organisations in ACCER’s article entitled, The Catholic Church, Employment Relations and the Not for Profit Sector (ACCER, December 2001), which states:

The notion of the not for profit sector appears to be increasingly irrelevant and is not useful in identifying the mission of Church organisations. Indeed, it may be simplistic to conceptualise this issue in terms of commercial and not for profit motivation. There are many differing types of not for profit organisations with which the Church would share very little common ground (ACCER, December 2001, 6).

With this in mind, let’s explore that which makes Church organisations and Church Ministry different to Commercial Organisations.

Church Ministry is predicated on communion (fellowship), love for and of God and each other, service to and for God and each other, proclamation and evangelisation of the Word of God, reconciliation, equity and justice and is open and inclusive. Commercial Organisations, on the other hand, are predicated on customer service, quality, organisation centeredness, profit and greed and is closed and exclusive. Church Ministry is considered to be a success the more it reaches out in service to others, the more it engages those within the church, the more it converts and/or renews the lives of those within and outside the Church. Commercial Organisations are considered to be successful, if their ‘bottom line’ is in the black (profit) and not in the red (loss). Where the Church is accountable to God through its representatives, the ordained (bishops and priests) (Rausch, 2003, 64), Commercial Organisations are accountable to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and its shareholders. Clearly there is a marked difference between the Church and Commercial Organisations, based primarily on its motivation: for the Church, its motivation is God’s salvation of humankind; for a Commercial Organisation, its motivation is primarily money, prestige and/or power or some combination of these. Moreover, the motivation driving these two entities will certainly impact differently on their vision, mission, core values, policies and procedures, including HRM. In summary, one could say that Church Ministry seeks not so much to provide a quantitative product, but rather a service that is based on the dignity of each person, the common good, and the needs of the poor and disadvantaged. One could say that Church Ministry is based on and reflects three elements: communion, conversion/renewal and mission (ACCER, December, 2001; Messina, 2003, 10).

What is Human Resources Management (HRM)?

Raymond Stone explains that the focus of HRM in the 21st century is on ‘managing people within the employer-employee relationship. Specifically, it involves the productive use of people in achieving the organisation’s strategic business objectives and the satisfaction of individual employee needs’ (Stone, 2005, 4). As is intimated in Stone’s definition of HRM, there are basically two aspects to HRM in today’s organisations—the strategic and the operational.

On the strategic side, HRM is concerned with aligning human resources (people) objectives with the business objectives of the organisation; that is, it is seen as contributing to the ‘bottom line’ (Stone, 2005, 9). Strategic HRM is proactive and looks towards the organisation’s vision or dream to help it design, deliver and evaluate policies, practices and activities that concern the employer-employee relationship and explores how this relationship affects the organisation’s business objectives. It has been said that strategic HRM is concerned about giving the organisation its ‘competitive edge’ (Dessler et al, 1999, 25). Some examples of strategic HRM could include the following:

• Ensuring that the employees know what the organisation is about, that they are committed to this understanding and to the organisation’s vision and can share this vision with those around them.

• Ensuring consistency of policy and procedures to enshrine fairness and justice in the workplace.

• Attracting and retaining the ‘right’ employees who not only do well in their job but whose values are synchronised with those of the organisation.

• Sustaining and enabling a work community by empowering staff through learning and development opportunities.

• Managing change in the organisation in such a way that the organisation achieves the benefits from the change without excessive loss of staff or service/product or depletion in morale.

• Recognising the gifts, talents and motivation drivers of their employees that act to encourage and sustain their employees within their employment in the organisation and to flourish within the organisation.

With strategic HRM, there is HR representation at Board level and a partnership formed between the Business and HR Managers (Stone, 2005, 9).

Operational HRM, on the other hand, is that which concerns itself with the design, delivery and evaluation of processes, tasks, activities that support strategic HRM. It provides the ‘nuts and bolts’ (the ‘what’ and ‘how’) of achieving strategic HRM initiatives in an organisation and tends to be of a transactional nature. Operational HRM encompasses processes and procedures (many of which are underpinned by legislative requirements) and generally oversees the following areas:

• Recruitment and Selection processes and procedures.

• Commencement of Employment, including Employment Contracts, Induction and Orientation processes and procedures.

• Legislative Requirements including: Privacy; Ethics, Occupational Health, Safety and Rehabilitation; Workers’ Compensation; Grievance Handling; EEO, Anti-Discrimination, Leave, Affirmative Action.

• Processes and Procedures surrounding the Conditions of Employment.

• Remuneration (salary and wages) and Benefits processing and procedures.

• Learning and Development, including training needs analyses, gap impact analyses, training program co-ordination and associated processes and procedures around registering for training and development programs.

• Performance Management Systems including processes and procedures around reviewing past performance, setting objectives (outcomes) for future performance including determining a development pathway.

• Industrial/Employee Relations (IR/ER) which includes Conflict Resolution processes and procedures.

• Processes and Procedures surrounding Employee Separation (exits from the organisation) such as Exit Interviews.

• Database Management and Reporting.

The HRM Unit or Function is generally not conceived of as a profit centre because it is not considered to have products or services that can be purchased by the organisation’s external clients. The HRM Unit is, instead, conceived more as a service centre for internal clients (other functions or departments within the organisation) and is, therefore, considered a ‘cost’ to the organisation. Although in some businesses, for example, banks and other financial institutions, HRM is provided as a shared service offering advice and providing training, and is operated along the lines of a ‘profit centre’, adding value through the provision of organisational strategies and HR initiatives.

What should HRM be in Church Ministry?

The above definition of HRM could be used effectively as a basis for HRM in Church Ministry, but it needs to be adapted to reflect the communion, conversion/renewal and mission orientation that differentiates Church Ministry from Commercial Organisations.

A look at St Paul the Apostle, the Church’s first pastoral theologian, is appropriate at this time. Paul’s theology is based on the concept of wholeness: ‘For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.’ (1 Cor 12:12, NRSV) Each part equally important as the other! Each part working in harmony with each other! Each part taking responsibility for working in concert with the rest of the body! Each part within the Body of Christ! As Richard Gaillardetz explains:

For Paul, life in Christ meant life in the body of Christ, the Church (cf. 1 Cor 12: Rom 12). There was no such thing as an individual believer understood apart from the life of the Church, for the Church was no mere aggregate of individuals. Rather, by baptism into the Christian community one participated in a new reality, one was a new creation. Individual believers did not make a church; initiation into the Church through faith and baptism made the believer. Faith and baptism introduced the individual into a new mode of existence (2003, 31-32).

Effectively, this is strategic HRM in Church Ministry and perhaps not unlike strategic HRM in commercial organisations which strive to achieve the objectives determined by the organisation’s vision.

However, not only are Christians one body in Christ, their existence is based on love, for without love they are nothing (1 Cor 13:2). And it is because of this love that there is a shift from a focus on ‘I’ or ‘me’ outwards to a focus on ‘you’ or ‘we’. There is a mission orientation as we cannot help but to serve others (1 Cor 14:12) (Murphy-O’Connor, 1996, 288).

So it is this idea of ‘love’ that we must take into HRM for Church Ministry. If we view the Church and Church ministry as a whole, that is, as the ‘one Body of Christ’, anything that we do to one part of the body will affect the other parts of the whole Body of Christ. The questions that must be asked, therefore, to help guide the Church towards a more organic view of HRM, particularly for Church ministry, are: Is the Church being and building the Body of Christ in its HRM practices? Do the HRM policies and procedures reflect the love, respect, patience, consideration, generosity, fellowship and service that is the way of Christ? Does what we do in HRM reflect what we say and do in liturgy? Does what we do in HRM reflect the primary aim (or objective) of the Church which is proclamation of the Gospel? Do the HRM practices recognise that it is always the human being who is ‘the purpose of the work’ and that work is for human beings and not human beings for work? (Laborem Exercens, 1981) Do the HRM practices recognise and foster ‘balance’ in a person’s life? Do the HRM practices adopt a pastoral approach, like that of St. Paul? In other words, do the HRM practices reflect the ‘mind’ and ‘attitude’ of Christ, as St. Paul would ask?

It has been mentioned earlier in this paper that the church’s mission is derived from the triune God from whom we learn of and achieve salvation through the relationality out of which emerges love and reconciliation in the persons of the Father, Son and Spirit. It is this concept of relationality that is of crucial importance for HRM in Church Ministry. All human beings are ‘essentially relational beings: who a person is, is fundamentally shaped by who a person is related to, and in what ways…’ (Gleeson, 2004, 19). This relational ecclesiology is the basis for the work of the famous orthodox theologian, John Zizioulas. The Church has been gifted with the Spirit from the Father through the Son to bring the Church into the communion of the paschal mystery—death, resurrection, new life in a ‘new humanity’ (1 Cor 15:22, 45) (Gonzalez and Zaida, 2002, 89), in a reconciliatory movement. So the Church as seen in the light of the Trinity, is an eschatological being: ‘it exists and acts in virtue of its expectation of fullness’ (Power, 2003, 111). The Eucharistic table is the place where the Trinitarian Mystery is manifested and realized, ‘where as a corporate personality, all receive the gift of the body and blood of Christ and with it the gift of the Spirit for ‘forgiveness of sins and for immortality’ (Power, 2003, 111). In this respect, as David Power, explains:

Institutions and roles are necessary, and by no means a contradiction of this basic corporate oneness of the royal priesthood. They are better understood as relations and responsibilities within the one body than in terms of power and office, and need to be placed within the context of the Eucharistic and eschatological community. They are secondary to the union expressed and realized at the Eucharistic table, where all receive the gift of the body and blood of Christ, and through it participation in his mission of love and his presence to humanity, or what in the patristic era was called sacrifice and his royal priesthood (2003, 111).

This suggests that every ‘service, ministry, and office must find its place within this eucharistic and eschatological communion’ (Power, 2003, 42). A question needs to be asked, that has been asked by David Power:

  In what sense does a ministry contribute to that communion which is oneness with Christ in the reception of the spirit and the witness to the call to be children of God the Father, receiving with the Son the gift of love? (2003, 112)

An exploration of the Trinitarian Mystery will certainly impact on recruitment and selection, ordering (organisation hierarchy) and remuneration within Church Ministry. With this in mind let us look more closely at HRM for Church Ministry.

Underlying Principles in HRM for Church Ministry

Elissa Rinere highlighted three major things that we have gleaned from the experience of ministry in the years since Vatican II:

First, experience has shown us that the need for effective ministry is real. That is, people are not indifferent to the sort of ministry they encounter, and many will deliberately seek out what they need in order to grow in faith. This is evidenced in the changing patterns of parish membership. Second, experience has shown us that collaboration between clergy and laity in ministry enriches the whole Church. Parishes are able to offer more varied outreach, pastoral care, and educational opportunities because of the presence and gifts of parish lay ministers. Third, experience is showing us that although the work of lay ministers can be very advantageous, to bring laity into significant pastoral leadership positions without providing suitable structures, stability, or even sufficient formation is harmful to minister and community alike. Some dioceses have carefully worked out job descriptions, pay scales, and diocesan-wide hiring and firing practices for lay employees. Other dioceses have not made the same progress, leaving lay ministers little job security with the coming of a new pastor or bishop (2003, 78).

With this in mind, Church Ministry must keep before it the concepts of communion, conversion and mission, for only then will HRM be seen in the following light as:

The conscience of the Church, the litmus test, so to speak, ensuring that people are treated equally and justly at all times to meet the Christian’s obligation for social justice and stewardship of resources (Gleeson, 2004, 43-44).

Developing and sustaining relationships of love, trust and respect within Church Ministry and outside Church.

Affirming staff in their roles and in themselves, through supporting, recognising and challenging staff.

As a catalyst for transformation of both staff and ministry through the rejuvenation of faith, combined with the affirmation of belief in the obtainment of knowledge which progresses the learning spiral towards transcendence of self and ministry to transformation and a radical new way of perceiving humanity and the world.

Ensuring consistency of policy and procedures to ensure that there is no possibility of inequity and achieving this through an understanding of the key concepts of love, relationship, reconciliation and service.

Responding to legislative requirements particularly in the areas of privacy/confidentiality, prohibited employment, leave, occupational health and safety, equal employment opportunity, discrimination in the workplace, workplace harassment, grievance handling procedures as well as requirements identified in canon law.

On the topic of legislative requirements, Canon 225 in Book II on ‘The People of God’, in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, focuses on the role of laity in the mission of the church. As Aurelie Hagstrom explains of Canon 225:

No longer are the laity seen as merely participating in the apostolate of the hierarchy. Rather, as canon 225 affirms, the laity have the general right to participate in the mission of the church. This is not only a right, but also a duty or obligation which, by virtue of their sacramental identity, the laity share with every other member of the church (Hagstrom, 2003, 161).

Elissa Rinere has suggested that the Church law (canon law) needs to be reviewed in three areas of church ministry—flexibility, charism and consistent employment practices—with a view to adopting some changes, such as: ‘flexible universal structures that will allow nations and regions to develop stable ministerial structures of their own’ (2003, 80); ‘some work on the inculturation of lay ministry’ (2003, 80); ‘the need for recognition of charisms [for lay ministers] that might not be life-long and that need to be regional or national rather than universal’ (2003, 81); the need for ‘structures that provide a consistent and stable means of discerning and utilizing charisms of service for specific communities’ (2003, 81); the need ‘to present a consistent commitment on the part of the institutional Church to those laity who undertake ministry’ as in not just recognising the right of a just wage for lay ministers, but the ‘need for consistent and mandated employment practices’ (2003, 81).

It is beyond the mandate of this paper to delve into the practical side of HRM for Church Ministry, however, what must stated is that in order for HRM to act as the conscience within any of the Church’s agencies, be it parish communities or organisations, they must ensure: the development of relationality within and outside the Church and Church Ministry; the affirmation and recognition of staff; creation of fertile ground for transformation of both staff and Church Ministry; consistency of policy and practice; and appropriate responses to legislative requirements (federal, state and canon law). With regards to employment practices of the Church, it must also be emphasised: that they must not only comply with legislative requirements (which are the minimum acceptable requirements), but must also adhere to the social teaching of the Church; that all employment policies and procedures must be made available at all times to each employee; and that the employer needs to review each employment issue with regards to the employee on its own merits when applying policies and procedures (ACCER, February 2002, 4).

 Challenges in HRM for Church Ministry

This paper contends that there four challenges for HRM in Church Ministry today, namely: in Recruitment and Selection; in Remuneration and Benefits Management; in Performance Management; and in developing a Spirituality of Work.

In Recruitment and Selection we must be ever vigilant in four areas: the cultural and position fit of applicants for the position; a deliberate, planned and unhurried process; an openness and transparency in the process; and finally, recognition that job security is a legitimate expectation of employees. First, as strategic HRM practitioners, we must not fall into the trap of believing that the best person is the one who should be appointed. We should be searching for the ‘right’ person, that is, the one who is both a cultural fit and a position fit for the Church Ministry. Cultural fit refers to whether a person’s values and standards are in ‘synch’, so to speak, with the parish’s values and standards. Position fit refers to whether a person’s knowledge and skills are a ‘match’ with the job’s requirements. To focus solely on the position fit of the candidate, may get the Church the ‘best’ candidate but not the right candidate. And it’s important to get the cultural and position fit right for this simple reason: The ‘right’ candidate may not have the highest levels of skills that the ‘best’ candidate has, but because their values and standards are the same or similar to those of the parish, they will have a better overall FIT with the parish and as a result may stay longer in the job. Furthermore, with respect to the right fit for a job and concerning those who are physically or mentally disabled,

It would be radically unworthy of man and a denial of our common humanity to admit to the life of the community, and thus admit to work, only those who are fully functional. To do so would be to practice a serious form of discrimination, that of the strong and healthy against the weak and sick. Work in the objective sense should be subordinated in this circumstance, too, to the dignity of man, to the subject of work and not to economic advantage’ (Laborem Exercens 1981).

HRM in Church Ministry, therefore, must support the ‘new humanity of Christ’ (1 Cor 15:22) by consciously embracing a range of workers in proactive inclusiveness.

Second, from an operational HRM perspective, we should not hurry the recruitment and selection process; it must be a time for discernment to enable a re-evaluation of the team dynamics in the light of the new skill sets that would be required and to draft a position description that is clear and concise. Third, again from an operational HRM perspective, our recruitment and selection process must always be open and transparent, that is, advertisements should be placed both internally and externally, a proper time period given for the submission of applications, fair and well planned interviews conducted using behavioural questioning, enabling an objective assessment to be made and reference checks conducted before a job offer is made. Fourth, in recognition that job security is a legitimate expectation of employees, the church employer should be open and honest with the employee with respect to the duration of employment. In addition, the Church:

[Should] not seek to improperly utilise fixed term, part-time, casual and contract forms of employment so as to avoid their responsibilities to employees. While these approaches can be legitimate and might be the only means of meeting the needs of the organisation in particular circumstances, Church employers need to question the motivation for introducing such forms of employment (ACCER, February 2002,5).

With regards to the strategic HRM concerns around Remuneration and Benefits Management, it is important to remember that while many of the clergy and religious may have taken a vow of poverty, the laity have not. The laity not only have need of the basics (food, water and shelter), if they are married they usually have family members who are dependent upon them to meet these needs in addition to huge repayments on mortgages on their homes as well as high education costs for their children. Also, many—clergy, religious and lay—have obtained specialist training through tertiary studies and practical experience (usually at a huge cost to their religious orders or diocese in the case of religious and parish priests, or to themselves personally, in the case of laity) that they are either repaying or to which they are heavily indebted. So Remuneration and Benefits Management is a key area in which review and change is necessary. A just ‘living’ remuneration and associated benefits (Laborem Exercens, 1981) recognising the accommodation of these needs must therefore be offered; and this remuneration and benefits system should be documented and reviewed on a regular basis.

It should also be remembered that our clergy and religious are ageing, and the ‘stipend’ system that has provided exceptional human resources for the Church for literally next to nothing, needs to be reconsidered in the light of remuneration as opposed to stipend, not only from a social justice perspective, but also from a sociological perspective. Ours is an ageing population, and many of our clergy and religious will have to support more and more their ageing community, and this certainly cannot be done on a ‘stipend’. Perhaps one needs to look at why the ‘stipend’ was brought into effect for the religious in the first place. Its vision was threefold: to assist the Catholic Church within Australia to develop using ‘religious’ who were ‘formed’; to improve the pay conditions of the religious who, in the early history of the Australian church, were paid ‘a pittance’ on which they couldn’t survive; and to create an equality amongst the religious (the cook, cleaner, teacher, pastoral associate) who would all be equally recognised for their contribution in the form of equal pay. However, it seems that the stipend has adopted a utilitarian flavour and has become synonymous with cheap labour for parishes and dioceses. It should be noted that religious who work in Catholic Schools Offices and at universities, for example, work on contract, not stipend. Furthermore, the ageing population of ordained has already been reflected in the dwindling number of parish priests which has necessitated the twinning of parishes within many Dioceses in Australia as well as overseas (Philibert, 2005, 6), and in some cases, the quadrupling and quintupling of parishes in regional Australia as well as overseas; and appointing foreign born priests to become parish priests in local parish communities, usually bringing with it a whole host of problems, particularly concerned with inculturation. What this does mean for our parishes is a need to rely on local, informed, educated pastoral laity who cannot survive on the equivalent of the priest’s or a religious’ stipend as they now stand. It must also be noted that there has been a steady move for religious out of community into independent living arrangements which means that a stipend may not be adequate to meet the daily basic needs (Seasoltz, 2003, 250).

If Church Ministry wants to attract and retain well-educated and committed people, a fair and equitable salary is mandatory; no longer can Church Ministry afford to pay its staff with a ‘pittance and prayer’. Currently there are anomalies in remuneration which exist in some places between different parts of the Church (ACCER, December 2001); for example, teachers in Catholic Schools/Education Office (CSO/CEO) are paid award or above award salaries while pastoral associates who are sacramental co-ordinators working within the Parish Community or within the other parts of the Curia (many of whom are former teachers and who have responsibility not only in co-ordinating those teaching the scripture classes but also in the material that is being taught) are being paid wages far below their counterparts in the CSO/CEO. These anomalies must be carefully investigated and addressed. If both positions (teacher and pastoral associate) require tertiary qualifications at a particular level and both have similar responsibilities levels, then this should be reflected in a similar remuneration and benefits scale. Just because the teacher is protected by state industrial legislation and the pastoral associate is not, and is considered to be ‘award free’, it doesn’t mean that unfair advantage should be taken of the ‘award free’ situation (ACCER, February 2002, 5). Similarly, if religious and clergy working in Catholic Schools Offices (or Catholic Education Offices as they are also known) and/or universities have access to benefits such as sabbaticals for further ‘upskilling’ (learning and development) or education, then this should be made available to those in Church Ministry, who are working in the same or similar capacity.

Finally, Remuneration and Benefits should reflect the expectations of the position. For example, if it is expected that a lay minister needs to keep clergy hours (that is, access 24 hours 7 days a week), then this must somehow be reflected in either remuneration and/or benefits, as there is an imposition on the family life of the lay minister and certainly a request to work longer than the legislated 38 hours per week. It is appropriate at this time to remember that ‘Catholic social teaching places significance on the interaction between the family, society and work. Importantly, the principles of the right to rest and the right to a just wage interact to support the formation of strong family and social relations’ (ACCER, February 2002, 8). It is certainly not the contention of this paper that the remuneration paid and the benefits proffered to staff in Church Ministry need to be linked to the private sector, but recognition must be made of things like job responsibility level, skill level and education level. Perhaps remuneration and benefits (such as, salary packaging) should be linked to equivalent responsibility and remuneration levels within the public sector.

As for Performance Management, this is an area that, sadly, is not well understood or practiced by the Church. At a strategic level, it includes: Induction, Performance and Development Reviews, Learning and Development, Mentoring and Succession Planning for sustainable leadership (Hargreaves & Fink, 2006), right through to the exit of the employee from their position within Church Ministry. What Performance Management really means is stewardship of the Church’s wonderful human resources. But let’s look at these more closely.

With respect to Induction, this is simply how the Church welcomes the newly appointed staff member: to the culture of the Church organisation, to the people within and outside the Church organisation, to the position, to the place and location of the job. Induction should be carefully planned prior to the appointment of a person: the physical setup of the office needs to be prepared (desk, telephone and computer) to ensure that there is ‘home’ for the newly appointed person; introductions need to be made within the functional unit and outside the functional unit of the church organisation; facilities need to be noted and directions provided (kitchen, toilet, photocopier);a mentor or buddy appointed to look after the newly appointed person; regular conversations need to be made between manager/leader and newly appointed staff member; clear communication of upcoming events (meetings, social activities, parish or diocesan events calendar) must be made available on a timely and regular basis; training and direction on how to access the databases on the computer, use email and MS-Office software as well as training in other areas must be arranged; even simple directions as to where to find the photocopier and how to send documents to print is crucial; and finally, an invitation to an orientation session (perhaps held on a quarterly basis) that would provide an opportunity to the many ‘gathered’ newly appointed/commissioned people of the Church to be introduced to the vision of the parish or diocese/agency, its mission, and the other members of the Body of Christ is imperative. In other words, Induction is all about welcome, celebration and pastoral care of newly appointed staff. But it doesn’t stop here!

The Induction Program (usually of 3-6 months duration) is really the front end of a Performance Management System. A Performance Management System, at its simplest, is a process that allows the church employer and the employee to ‘openly discuss the expectations of the organisation and the achievements of the employee, with an emphasis on the future development of the employee within the objectives of the organisation’ (ACCER, February 2002, 7). It entails regular sessions between the Leader and team members in unit meetings, general staff meetings, regular and scheduled conversations between Team Leader and individual employee, a coming together in some cross functional activities (across units), listening, affirming, supporting, mentoring and, in this way, resolving potential problems before they become too big and too bad to manage or escalate to become harmful conflicts. This leads to an awareness of further skill development and education needed or wanted that will help the member to develop and grow and ultimately the body of Christ to develop, grow and improve (Canon Law 231-1, 1983). Performance Management also leads to the recognition and celebration of an employee’s gifts or charisms through discussion, feedback and constructive criticism and can lead to the discovery of home grown talent for future leadership roles within the parish, diocese or agency. Finally, Performance Management is all about identifying actions and priorities for the unit to which the staff member can contribute, done in a collaborative way between Team/Unit Leader and staff member.

With respect to the aspect of ‘relationality’ in respect of Performance Management, it is of crucial importance that a solid understanding of the ‘priesthood of all believers’ needs to happen if Church Ministry is going to be fruitful in the future. Raymond Brown discusses this at length in his article entitled, ‘The Challenge of the New Testament Priesthood’ when he asks: ‘Do we not have to struggle hard to remind ourselves that the priesthood which makes us saints is the priesthood that we all share?’ (May/June 2005, 257) The ordained and non-ordained need to think organically of each other, each one complementing the other, each one having charisms that are recognised by the other. As Raymond Brown explains:

I think it will be a challenge for ordained priests, many of whom have not been accustomed to think existentially of laity, women and men, as equals, to work side by side with them and occasionally to take instructions from the laity as they function as priests in the church of Jesus Christ (May/June 2005, 257).

And it is this challenge that must be addressed in pastoral leadership development through an emphasis of training in the following areas: community leadership; ‘bite-size’ leadership or smaller leadership roles that are shared amongst several members of the community (Messina, 2003); team building; delegation; conflict resolution; and appreciative planning (Cooperridder & Whitney, n.d.).

With respect to the Spirituality of Work, HRM practitioners in Church Ministry must be proactive in forming a spirituality of work ‘which will help all people to come closer, through work, to God, the creator and redeemer, to participate in his salvific plan for man and the world and to deepen their friendship with Christ in their lives by accepting, through faith, a living participation in his threefold mission as priest, prophet and king, as the Second Vatican Council so eloquently teaches’ (Laborem Exercens, 1981). Developing a spirituality of work recognises the values of human work:

Just as human activity proceeds from man, so it is ordered toward man. For when a man works he not only alters things and society, he develops himself as well. He learns much, he cultivates his resources, he goes outside of himself and beyond himself. Rightly understood, this kind of growth is of greater value than any external riches which can be garnered…Hence, the norm of human activity is this: that in accord with the divine plan and will, it should harmonize with the genuine good of the human race and allow people as individuals and as members of society to pursue their total vocation and fulfil it (Gaudium et Spes, no. 35).

As John Paul II stated in his apostolic exhortation, Laborem Exercens (On Human Work):

Let the Christian who listens to the Word of the living God, unite work with prayer, know the place that his work has not only in earthly progress, but also in the development of the kingdom of God, to which we are all called through the power of the Holy Spirit and through the word of the Gospel.

A Spirituality of Work would certainly impact office policies and procedures, for instance, in meetings commencing and closing with a prayer and in the encouragement and support of staff to participate in regular ecumenical prayer gatherings and Masses, just to name a few.


When managing the Human Resources within Church Ministry one must remember that the call to ministry is a different type of response made by a person than merely a response to a job advertisement in the newspaper. The call to ministry can happen: over a long period of time (a spiritual journey); as a result of a renewal or re-awakening, perhaps an outcome of a special experience in a person’s life (eg. accident, death of loved one, illness of a loved one, etc.); or the call to ministry could always have been present within a person, but not given an opportunity to flourish, through invitation; and finally, the call to ministry usually always occurs through prayerful discernment.

As an HR Manager in Church Ministry, one must remember what ministers and those drawn to working within Church Ministry, are actually ‘called’ to. They are called to the ‘service of the Kingdom of God that flows from the call and empowerment of the Holy Spirit through a community of believers’ (McGonigle & Quigley, 1996). Those parts of the statement that are italicised are the key concepts for HRM in Church Ministry as has been highlighted throughout this paper.

Service in the Kingdom of God means: all baptised are equal members of the church and share the responsibility for making the church a credible sign and an effective instrument of the Kingdom of God (Bacik, Fall 2005). We no longer belong to the Church, we are the Church. As Christians we are called upon to have ‘the mind of Christ’ (1 Cor 2:16), that is, to identify ourselves with Christ in our life and conduct and to live in Christ with Christ in us.

With respect to the call to ministry, HR Managers within Church Ministry need to be aware of several important things. The call to ministry is found in the ‘stirrings of the soul, the voice of God in the deepest part of us…It is found in the voices of the people around us who mirror back to us our gifts’ (Brown, 2004, 27). Hearing the call requires discernment and response, although at first the call may make us feel uncertain, unsettled…we might even be reluctant because God often calls us out of our comfort zone—recall St. Paul’s experience. Moreover, we discern by listening for ‘God’s voice in the voices of the people we serve. God calls us to ministry from that community and through that community…’ (Brown, 2004, 27).

As to being empowered by the Holy Spirit, we recall Jesus’ promise of the Paraclete to strengthen and instruct us: ‘The Helper will come—the Spirit, who reveals the truth about God and who comes from the Father (John15:26)…the Spirit will take what I give him and tell it to you.’ (John16:15) For John, the evangelist, the Spirit ‘becomes the bond that unites the community with Jesus (both with the teachings of the ‘earthly’ Jesus and with the presence of the risen Lord) and the bond that unites community members with one another as they obey the commandment to love one another (John 14:15-17,26; 16:13-15)’ (Bartlett, 1993, 95). It is the task of HR Managers within Church Ministry to assist the staff within Church Ministry, to co-operate with the Spirit and discern the best ways of serving the Kingdom of God and to recognise that the gifts of the Spirit are given not for personal gain but for the common good. In other words, it is the primary task of the HR Manager within Church Ministry to be the conscience of the Church organisation, gently keeping the organisation true to its call and its mission—to proclaim through living the gospel values. Finally, the HR Manager within Church Ministry must always remind the baptised that the spiritual quest is common to all, seeking union with the Father, through the incarnate Son in the power of the Holy Spirit (Bacik, Fall 2005).

It is important to remember that the call to ministry needs to recognise the community of believers; HR Managers in Church Ministry must understand and learn how to facilitate this communion and relationality. Involvement in ministry can never exist in isolation but only in relationship to a community…as ‘part of the heartbeat, the very life of the community’ (Brown, 2004, 3). Theresa Pirola states: ‘Ultimately, the Gospel is communicated through the evangelising lifestyle of a community: mums and dads, street cleaners and doctors, priests and religious, students and children going about their everyday lives in a spirit of Gospel communio.’ (1995, 79) This is confirmed by John Paul II’s statement in his Apostolic Exhortation called Christifideles Laici:

Communion and mission are profoundly connected…to the point that communion represents both the source and fruit of mission: communion gives rise to mission and mission is accomplished in communion… (CL, no. 32).

You may recall the earlier discussion on the distinction between Church Ministry and Commercial Organisations. Clearly, ministry is more than a job or a function; it involves the whole person. The call to ministry is a call to a relationship with the people of God—to be one of them and to serve them. It is a minister’s own spiritual life that grounds the work of their ministry. Therefore, the ministering person (including the HR Manager) should: grow in the understanding that any ministry is rooted in Christ’s ministry as its source; be aware of their relatedness to those whose needs are being addressed and to Christ who is at work through their gifts; listen contemplatively to hear God’s word of mercy and learn to adopt this listening and mercy approach, with others, and pray surrounded by the experience of the needs of God’s people and Christ’s gracious response to those needs. In other words, Church Ministry employers ‘must seek to be model employers who exemplify the values of the Gospels and the mission of the Church’ (ACCER, February 2002, 12). Church Ministry employers must be ever vigilant of the ‘danger of treating workers as a special kind of merchandise or as an impersonal force needed for production’ which is always present ‘when the whole way of looking at the question of economics is marked by the forces of materialistic economism’ (Laborem Exercens, 1981).

Finally, three points need to be emphasised. First, just because we are Church (parish or diocese) as distinct from an organisation, this does not mean that our processes and procedures that define our relationships with staff (both paid and volunteers) should not be professional, fair and equitable. Second, though we need consistency of policies and procedures, a quality orientation and commitment to customer service (all the hallmarks of professionalism), we should not let our professionalism develop into an elite-ism within our parishes, our dioceses or our Church (Pirola, 1995, 79). Third, and as James Bacik so accurately stated: ‘Pastors today have the task of recruiting talented people, providing them with proper training, and coordinating their efforts to create a viable flourishing parish. All of these ministers are living out their baptismal vocation and are not simply helping out the pastor’ (Bacik, Fall 2005).

It all comes down to HRM in Church Ministry being based on three fundamental Pauline concepts of communion, conversion/renewal, and mission. And these three concepts can and are affirmed through: responding to our baptismal call; confirming and celebrating the Spirit within and around us; and being Eucharist to each other. If we reflect our baptism, our confirmation and our Eucharist, and hold these in our thoughts, actions and prayers, Human Resource Management (HRM) cannot but move forward into Church Ministry as a sentinel for and a protector of the oneness of the Body of Christ!


Sharon Messina is an Organisational Development specialist in the Higher Education sector. She has extensive experience in HRM and has worked in adult faith formation, particularly in the Diocese of Broken Bay (2000-2007).



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Sharon Messina produced a Seniors Ministry Handbook and CD (Nov 2003) and delivered workshops and presentations in seniors ministry, ministry planning, pastoral care and pastoral leadership. She holds a Master of Arts Theological Studies degree.