Sofield speaks on collaborative ministry
By Kiply Lukan Yaworski
SASKATOON — Poised at the start of a new ministry season, a diverse group of laity, clergy and religious gathered in Saskatoon at the end of August for a workshop about collaboration and calling forth gifts.
Brother Loughlan Sofiled, ST, a consultant and speaker from the United States specializing in collaborative ministry, personal development and leadership, facilitated the workshop at Queen’s House Retreat and Renewal Centre Aug. 29.
“Collaborative ministry is always based on mission,” he said, describing it as a “discernment question” that involves examining what God is calling us to do, and then engaging the gifts that God has placed within the community.
Christian community always exist to be in mission, but too often, our vision of church limits what we consider to be ministry, and who can provide it, Sofield said, stressing ministry is not the role of only the ordained, or a few designated parish leaders.
“My belief is that every single person created by God has been gifted and called for ministry,” he said, describing some of the serious difficulties a congregation or the church at large will face if only a small percentage of those gifts are called forth, empowered and used.
He cited the words of John Paul II to the bishops of New Jersey and Pensylvania during an ad limina visit to Rome in 2004, in which he urged them to make changes in their vision and structures in order to encourage greater mission and evangelization. “He then gave them a couple of pieces of advice. He said you must become more collaborative, and you must recapture the vision of the Second Vatican Council, and you must get more serious about the laity.”
This requires leaders to “stop playing games” in which the laity are told they have responsibility, but are not given authority, Sofield added. “Ministry is not a choice for the Christian. Ministry is the obligation, the privilege and the responsibility of every baptized person.”
In what he described as the four Cs of collaborative ministry, Sofield said collaboration is a model that requires clarification, conviction, commitment and capacity on the part of all those involved.
”Why collaborate? Ultimately it’s the only way to accomplish the ministry of Christ,” he said, stressing the vital need to have all “working together as the Body of Christ” and the impossibility of one or two leaders doing everything on their own.
He also listed some of the obstacles to collaborative ministry, including low self-esteem, arrogance, burnout, hostility and a lack of forgiveness, failure to deal with loss, a failure to deal with conflict, a failure to share faith, a lack of knowledge of gifts, and a lack of integrated sexuality.
When it comes to burnout among pastoral leaders, it is often the result of unrealistic expectations that keep on growing — especially the expectations that pastoral leaders have for themselves.
He called on a caring community to confront and challenge those suffering different stages of burnout. “They are dying: emotionally, spiritually, physically dying,” he said. He also challenged those present to think about who they have in their own life who has permission to challenge and confront them when they are headed for burnout. “Who do you allow to minister to you? To see your suffering, your pain, your vulnerability?”
Sofield asked participants to reflect on a time when they themselves were ministered to — and in the course of discussion, it became clear that in most cases the moments of ministry that individuals experienced happened outside a church setting, and involved presence, listening and acceptance during times of pain, darkness or joy.
Sofield also observed that gifts are not just about what we can do, but are also about who we are, and what we bring to others through our life experiences.
It can be a gift to someone else that you are a cancer survivor, or that you have lost a child, Sofield told the gathering. “In every experience of our life there is a gift, but most of us run away from the painful stuff and do not say ‘gift’ when we speak of it,” he said.
During the workshop, Sofield also engaged the group in a process of gift discernment and identification which might be used by a parish or ministry to identify and call forth the gifts in the community.