A priest for nearly 40 years, Father Steve Sallot has about as much experience as any pastor in Orange County, as well as five years serving as vicar general for the Diocese of Orange.
And yet, Fr. Sallot knows all too well he’s no know-it-all.
“At 65, I think there’s still an opportunity to teach an old dog a few new tricks,” he says.
Sallot made the comment in reference to a conference he attended in May in Cincinnati, along with Father Eugene Lee of the Korean Martyrs Catholic Center in Westminster.
And now, The Amazing Parish Conference in coming to Orange County – and Frs. Sallot and Lee are singing its praises and urging O.C. pastors and members of their leadership teams to attend the workshop-style event and experience it for themselves.
“I found it to be a fun and exciting experience,” Fr. Lee says. “It gave us the opportunity to revisit some of the essential qualities of what makes an efficient and effective parish leadership team.
“Most parishes function with the philosophy, ‘That’s just the way it is,’ but sometimes there need to be adjustments made here and there with how a parish is run,” he adds.
“Perhaps it can be run a little more efficiently. It’s always helpful to reassess areas within the parishes that need adjustments. It’s not about doing more, as much as it is about being more effective and efficient in our pastoral leadership.”
The Amazing Parish Conference, to be held Oct. 28-30 at the Hilton Anaheim, aims to equip pastors and their leadership teams to lead their parishes effectively and prayerfully.
Speakers include New York Times best-selling author Patrick Lencioni, leading Catholic speakers Matt Maher, Chris Stefanick, Sr. Regina Marie Gorman, O.C.D., Kevin Cotter, and musician Sarah Kroger. Registration and more information is at amazingconference.com
Lencioni and business leader John Martin founded The Amazing Parish in 2013 to provide pastors with the tools they need to create support within their parish. In addition to bi-annual conferences like the one coming to Anaheim, Amazing Parish personnel also provide pre-conference support and ongoing support and follow-up after the confab, as well as other free resources.
Katie Dawson, director of Parish Evangelization and Faith Formation for the Diocese of Orange, says Lencioni is applying what he’s learned in the business world about organizational health to parishes.
“Priests are trained to be deep thinkers, spiritual advisers and scholars,” Dawson says. “But sometimes leading a parish is like herding cats, and some pastors are good at that, but others can find it challenging. In the past, they were not really trained in leadership skills. There are two different things going on there.
“So how do you actually cast a vision and get everyone heading in the same direction to support the same effort? That’s what The Amazing Parish Conference is all about.”
Fr. Lee says the conference created in his leadership team “new goals and resolve in our mission.”
He says of the three-day conference in Cincinnati:
“It was fun and very inspirational to meet (church) leaders across the country. The conference organizers do a good job of pumping us up, but it’s also very practical and effective; they present usable strategies we can implement in our parish.
“It also was very unifying for our leadership team. We spent two full days together and got to know each other and reevaluate our parish’s mission.”
One aspect of the Korean Martyrs Catholic Center’s mission is to “invite and welcome,” Fr. Lee says.
“What does invite mean and how does it practically play out?” he asks. “Each of our ministries studied the words and came up with their own way of implementing the concepts into their ministries.
“Our parish is wonderful and vibrant,” Fr. Lee adds. “We have lots of ministries and groups. What I found was that this conference helped us more intentionally and intensely rally around a common theme. We now are much more connected to our vision.”
Dawson says the Diocese of Orange can financially assist some parishes that don’t have the money to send a leadership team to the conference.
“It’s moving beyond the idea that one person can do the heavy lifting, that’s it all up to the pastor,” Fr. Sallot says of the conference. “There are some of us, including myself, that like to think that we can do it all and manage it all and that we have the skill set…but that’s really not how the Lord desires us.
“It’s not about the pastor being the answer person or having all the skills, but to collectively develop a competent, wise, effective and strategic group that helps run the parish.
“The economics and dynamics of running a parish are not what they were 30 years ago…We can’t just keep doing the same thing and expecting different results.
“We need to be creative. We need to be able to create leaders, and that’s the role of the pastor: to create a leadership team that helps to motivate and to drive and create the opportunities for a parish to be a viable community of faith now and moving forward.”