Evenings and Weekends

FrMichael had a comment on the Mercy in Ministry post.

As a pastor, it’s a tough balancing act trying to set working hours for staff that lets them have a family life, yet serve working parishioners.

If so, the act is more burdened by outdated expectations.

In my last parish, the daily Mass was at noon, and meetings dominated the evening hours. Evenings were far busier than mornings, yet our knowledgeable and competent receptionist kept 9-to-5 hours like we were a business in a non-university community. And not having a pro in the office before and after weekend Mass times: that’s been a head-scratcher as long as I’ve been in ministry.

Church ministers certainly work evenings and weekends. That’s an expectation of connecting with parishioners and groups–not to mention at liturgy. Maybe the vision for secretaries, receptionists, and custodians needs to widen into ministry, not just keeping up appearances in an office while the rest of the professional world might be in their cubicles.

If I were a pastor coming into a parish, in my second year, I’d assess availability for existing staff. I’d rather be paying an office pro for 35 or even 32 hours on a full week’s salary if that work time included some evenings plus weekend Mass times.

The Church is often slow to adapt and serve, but too often the people we serve have equally low expectations. Both ways, not good.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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11 Responses to Evenings and Weekends

  1. My work is as Pastoral Associate for Administration – short cut: Parish Secretary. We don’t utilize a machine during the day. If you call my work parish during the day, you get a human. Usually me.

    Now I’ve never worked at any other parish, so I have nothing to compare it to. That said, I’m there now. I’m paid, salaried, not hourly, for 35 hours a week. Typically – and I’m no martyr – I work 40 or more. We are open Monday through Friday from 9-4. Typically, because I get a lot done then, and because I’m a morning person, I’m there by 8. I’m often there until 4:30-5, my coworker who comes in later than me, is often there later. We are not making tons of money; you have to want to do this work.

    We are a super busy office – busier now, I suspect , because we are very responsive. Make no mistake,everything we do is absolutely ministry, from the most mundane to the most complex and sensitive. If people need things nights and weekends, we figure out how to make that happen.

    I’m not sure how either of us could be there any less during the week in order to be there on the weekend or during evenings. I see the need, but I can’t figure out the means. I routinely get calls from funeral directors on weekends, which is fine. I can often track down my boss.

    I’m lucky, I work for a great pastor who trusts my pastoral and ministerial gifts – that’s a bigger part of this if you ask me.

    The other side of the coin is that the 2 other nearby parishes have reduced their office hours to Monday through Thursday, maybe only until 3. I don’t get that, but I don’t judge.

    The church has a lot of things to figure out in how to be there for people. I’m grateful for where I spend my days. What a privilege.

  2. Liam says:

    Consider that, back in the day, parish staff was: nuns and priests and a janitor/facilities person or two. And much of the congregation had an adult member who could stop by the parish office during the workday, because (in urban churches, at least) it was nearby and fit along with daily errands.

    That world is gone with the wind.

  3. FrMichael says:

    “The other side of the coin is that the 2 other nearby parishes have reduced their office hours to Monday through Thursday, maybe only until 3. I don’t get that, but I don’t judge.”

    A good guess is that the reduction in office hours is driven by the budget. I almost closed the parish office on Tuesdays for the same reason until I was able to stabilize parish finances.

    • FrMichael – I am glad that you were able to keep the office open. The other two parishes have their reasons, I’m not sure what. I do know that based on a conversation I had with someone who is from one of those parishes, they cannot understand why we are so busy.

      In not wanting to judge, I think that it is about perspective, but of course I could be wrong. Who know.

    • Jim McCrea says:

      Do you not have a Finance Council that would be the most appropriate function to stabilize parish finances? If they exist and are not pulling their load, they need to be replaced with folks who will. If you don’t have one, why not?

      • FrMichael says:

        I have an outstanding Finance Council that provided me good advice once I arrived at the parish. Unfortunately, a traumatic event had occurred at the parish, leading to my predecessor’s firing and a quarter of the parish walking away in the couple months before I arrived here. When you are down 25% in Mass attendance and about 40% of your weekly income, a new pastor can be forgiven for considering closing the office one day a week. The Finance and Parish Council members gave me good advice about the situation and about half those who left returned, so in the end the parish recovered sufficiently to maintain full service.

  4. Todd says:

    If there’s one 35 to 40+ hr-a-week administrative assistant on staff, I think the question is how to utilize that person’s hours for the “mercy” of the parish. The Rebuilt people have volunteers/ministers staffing an info table on weekends. One question I would have: is it more important to have a pro who makes few mistakes on duty then, or “9 to 5” when errors can be corrected? It may be that competent parishioners can take charge of certain administrative things, if they are formed, trusted, and expectations are reasonable.

    Another question: if there is more than one secretary/receptionist, perhaps their hours need not overlap. If a parish has a 35-hr and a 20-hr person, that seems like up to 55 office hours to me. I’ve been in a good handful of parishes, and for the most part, the least busy time is mid- to late afternoons. The most busy is around Mass times on any day.

    That said, in my last parish, I advocated for Sunday morning hours at the parish desk, and very few parishioners took advantage of it. It lasted 2 months. Maybe parishioners had become accustomed to scrambling to register and looking for extra bathroom supplies on weekdays.

    • Todd, because we are known for our creative ways of meeting needs, I don’t think that weekend hours would draw people. Our office is in the rectory, across from the church (across the parking lot, not the street) – I don’t think folks would come over.

      We also have a very good web/social media platform going, so people can get a lot of information that way as well. Registration is often discussed at mass with the pastor, and people then follow up, or he gets their info and we call them.

      We also have many great lay ministers and catechetical folks who pick up much weekend slack. It is not perfect, but I think that we are in better shape than most. I do not say that with pride, it just is true. Always room for growth and improvement in terms of pastoral and practical ministry.

      • Todd says:

        That makes sense to me. Last parish it was all one building. And the new parish is all in one complex. We also have parishioners handle new registrations on weekends. And yes, your web presence is excellent. Better than most any parish I’ve seen.

  5. FrMichael says:

    We have started the Rebuilt program of having key documents and trained volunteers in the vestibule. So far, so good.

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