On January 23, from 10 a.m. to noon, leaders from different parishes, movements, and organizations from Christian churches in Montreal and as far afield as France, gathered together over Zoom to hear Mr. Brett Powell. A leader with 28 years’ experience, he spoke on a subject he is passionate about – leadership: specifically, leadership in the Church, and the type of leadership required for the most important mission in the world at this time in history.

“The surest way to be someone worth following is by following Jesus, the greatest leader of all time.”
Brett Powell, “Is Christ the King of Your Leadership?”

The Catholic Archdiocese of Montreal has been promoting the missionary transformation of our Church for the past few years.  Since 2014, the Office for English Pastoral Services has organized a series of Parish Vitality conferences to support our efforts on this road, and to equip us to meet the challenges that arise as we work for Church renewal. Key to this renewal is healthy leadership. So, on Saturday, January 23, 2021, the diocese launched a series of workshops dedicated to inspire and empower leaders and members of parish communities as they “go forth” as missionary disciples.

Due to the restrictions of the pandemic, Zoom was the chosen platform to gather together to kick-start this series of Parish Vitality workshops on leadership. Of the 280 registrants, there were 200 registered for English and 80 for the simultaneous French translation. There were 212 connections on the day, with several people on some of those connections. Leaders represented different ministries, various dioceses (Gatineau, St. Jérôme, Saint-Jean-Longueuil), several Christian denominations, and came from far and wide (Montreal, Laval, Ontario and France).

Mr. Powell, the Archbishop’s Delegate for Development and Ministries in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, began his talk by outlining five fundamental “Laws of Leadership”: 

  1. Leadership is influence – authentic leadership, where people follow because they want to and the leader influences and has power with and not over others; 
  2. Change is the permanent landscape of leadership – leaders own the change agenda and so parishes can embrace the transformational change necessary for renewal. Leaders “lie in bed at night dreaming about the way things could be and should be and must be.”
  3. There is no such thing as servant leadership. “Great leaders establish influence through service.” So, you are either a servant or no leader at all.
  4. Leadership matters because our mission matters: “The Church has the most important mission in the world. If any organization should be committed to leadership development, the Catholic Church should be the most committed.”
  5. “The Diamond Life”, which many people considered a “beautiful analogy” for the challenging times we are experiencing. The Diamond Life is “God’s curriculum for strengthening the leader within you” through adversity, difficulty and suffering. He added that it is a noble ideal for leadership – “to be beautifully formed by God, to be strong and resilient and to give yourself away as a gift to others.”

Then, Mr. Powell went on to explore three important questions for parishes: 

  1. Why is a healthy leadership team important in a parish? The bottom line is “the shift in the way we do Church is necessary because the world in which we are Church is so different from decades ago…” The quote from Fr. Mallon resonated with the participants: “We are trying to do ministry like we live in Jerusalem, but we actually live in Babylon.” Mr. Powell advised “to stop leading for participation and start leading for engagement.” He is convinced that when leadership teams in parishes connect with people in four ways (heart, mind, soul and strength), and multiply leaders who can do the same, engagement goes up and parishes are renewed.
  2. What does a healthy leadership team look like? Mr. Powell listed the 7 qualities of a healthy leadership team: mutual trust; team identity; shared values; staying on mission; clearly defined roles and responsibilities; mix of personalities, strengths and spiritual gifts; and ability and the willingness to adapt and change – to innovate.
  3. How can Pastoral leaders build a healthy leadership team? At this juncture, Mr. Powell stated that it was important to articulate your “Holy Discontent” with hope; recruit “F-A-C-T” (faithful to the Lord and His Church, available to the mission, contagious influencers, teachable (open to the Spirit) people, and set a time framework. Why is this important? “Because a what without a when is a never.” He also advised working out the vision, mission and strategy together, as a team, to ensure commitment to them.

The comments in the chat captured the key messages that inspired the participants during Mr. Powell’s talk. After the small group discussions (primarily organized according to parish, group or movement), the chat was also used to note questions that arose during these discussions, some of which were answered during the Q&A forum.

In his grateful acknowledgement to Mr. Powell “for this breathtaking conference”, his time, talent and the treasure delivered, Vicar General Bishop Alain Faubert reflected that “he really needed this.” 

“I acknowledge that we need it at the diocesan level,” he continued. “It's been so helpful, challenging, lots of questions, we’ll have to reflect on this. It's not a one-shot deal, it’s not the flavour of the month, … it's about transformation, and we’re deeply committed to missionary transformation in the Church.”

The diocesan focus on leadership continues with the next leadership session taking place on February 3, 2021, from 7:30-9:00 p.m., via the Zoom platform. We are delighted to once again welcome Mgr. Paul-André Durocher, Archbishop of Gatineau and author of “Called by My Name, Sent in His Name”, who kick-started our Parish Vitality Conference on November 21, 2020. On February 3, 2021, he will speak in French with simultaneous translation in English, from his experience of parish renewal in Gatineau, and present his vision of transformational leadership within the Church and how it can be applied in parishes. You can register here: include English and French possibilities.

In conclusion, if you missed “Leadership Where It Matters Most” on January 23, 2021, or would like to view Mr. Powell’s presentation again with your parish leadership team, a video of the talk is available here. We encourage you to also visit Mr. Powell’s blog, intended “as an encouraging resource for leaders that are building organizations, ministries and parishes in pursuit of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20).”