Living in Community || Ministering in Groups

by | Dec 27, 2015 | Collaboration, Formation

herdingcatsIn all the Vincentian Family, we either minister in groups, in communities, or families. On this Feast of the Holy Family, I though I would share some ideas on how this can function more fruitfully. St. Vincent de Paul had something to say, and contemporary thinkers have insights as well.


In determining that the most effective manner to serve was to live in community for the mission, Vincent pointed out,

Anyone wishing to live in Community must be determined to live like a pilgrim on earth, to become foolish for the sake of Jesus Christ, to change his standards of behavior, to mortify all his passions, to seek God alone, to subject himself to others as the least of all, to be convinced that he has come to serve and not to rule others, to suffer and work and not to live in luxury and idleness. He must know that a person is tried in it as gold in the furnace, that he cannot persevere in it if he is unwilling to humble himself for God, and be convinced that in so doing he will have true happiness in this world and eternal life in the next.(CCD, XIIIa, 161)

Here are four of his key points:

  • Live as a pilgrim: know that you are just passing through, that you build on those who came before you, and others will succeed you.
  • Mortify your passions: don’t be preoccupied with success or the opinions of others. Stick to the task and work hard at it. The results will come, and that will be its own reward.
  • Be a servant leader: think of yourself as a worker and a facilitator of the work of others. Say “we” and not “I” as much as you can.
  • Humble yourself: Attribute success gracefully: to God, to others and to your own efforts. — and in that order!

And know that this will not be easy. Others have their lights, and if you’re called to be a leader, it may not be easy.

Herding cats

You’ve heard this phrase before. Being a servant leader has its style, but also must confront the reality of working with sometimes independent-minded collaborators! When ministering in communities, groups and families, a leader must leave room for creativity while maintaining focus. Zac Halbert ( @ZacHalbert), in a quick but insightful article titled “Cat herding 101: A guide to leading creative teams for unofficial project leads,” shares his experience. Here are four more points.

  • Understand your team: Take time to get to know people. We usually do that in families, but sometimes forget it in communities and groups. And remember: people change and grow. The person you knew when you started is different today.
  • Over communicate: the more information shared about the task the better the team will be and the more ownership for the project they will have.
  • Collaborate better: Although you may have had a good idea for the project when you started, good ideas can come from anywhere. Evaluate together, and listen to one another.
  • Party harder: Don’t forget that human beings need rewards. Take time to celebrate success with the group.

Zac’s whole article is here. Last month, we shared a great article on Saint Vincent and Saint Louise as servant leaders. Vincentian Father J. Patrick Murphy shared some great Vincentian insights here that are still valuable.

And enjoy this video for fun. #IamVincent, and so are you.

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