Seminar gives employees tips on managing business of parish

By | March 3, 2010

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Nick Griffie, webmaster for the Diocese of Green Bay, leads a workshop for parish leaders on social networking Web sites at the “Managing the Business of the Parish” seminar held Feb. 26 at Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Ashwaubenon. The workshop, sponsored by the Department of Stewardship and Pastoral Services, is funded by the Bishop’s Appeal.(Sam Lucero | The Compass)

In addition to business sessions, two diocesan priests gave keynote addresses that offered informative and lighthearted views of parish ministry. Fr. Dan Felton, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Manitowoc, presented a reflection on managing a parish from a pastor’s view. Fr. Dave Pleier, pastor of St. Bernard Parish in Green Bay, gave a talk titled “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Becoming a Pastor.”

The seminar is an opportunity for parish employees to learn the business side of parish ministry, according to Mark Mogilka, director of the Stewardship and Pastoral Services Department, which sponsors the event. The seminars have been held biannually for about 15 years.

“As we’ve had fewer priests, we’ve invited larger numbers of lay persons to take care of the business side of the parishes, working closely with pastors,” said Mogilka. “It’s looking at how we can help the lay leadership … to do a better job of being good stewards of the material gifts — the buildings, the grounds, the finances, the cemeteries.”

Among those attending were parish business managers, bookkeepers and secretaries, finance council members and buildings and grounds committee members.

“This is like their continuing education day,” added Mogilka. “All the workshops deal with things like insurance and liability, technology to help the parish mission, updates on the latest software for accounting, liability insurance and how to minimize risks. It’s all the business stuff.”

Sessions are led by business professionals in the community and by diocesan staff.

“But more importantly they learn from one another, during the breaks, during lunch hours and question-and-answer sessions,” said Mogilka.

The diocese charges a fee for the day, he said, but it only covers the lunch and minimal expenses.

“We wouldn’t be able to do these kinds of workshops if we didn’t have the Bishop’s Appeal to cover the other expenses,” explained Mogilka. “There are diocesan staff people here. They’re not paid anything extra to be here. It’s part of their jobs and that’s all funded through the Bishop’s Appeal.”

Kurt Robertson, president of St. Francis and St. Mary Parish Pastoral Council in Brussels, was attending his third seminar. “They are all very worthwhile,” he said. “It was worth the trip just to hear Fr. Dan Felton’s opening talk about the parish merger model.”

Robertson said sessions on how to get parishioners to volunteer and starting a parish presence on Facebook, a social networking Web site, were helpful.

Joyce Kreuser, a bookkeeper at the Quad Parishes in Green Bay, said learning new ideas for improving her work makes the sessions invaluable. “It’s good to learn all sorts of new things.”

Linda Tupa, a member of Immaculate Conception Parish in Luxemberg, was attending her first session. She said networking with other parish staff members was the greatest benefit. “Overall, I enjoyed the community of it all. Everyone was very sociable and it was interesting hearing what their perspectives were.”

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