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Your Parish’s Special Forces

By Diego J. Peña State Advocate

Vol. 4, 2016-2017

Thirteen hundred years ago, Jiang Ziya , a Chinese nobleman, wrote a famous treatise known as the Six Secret Teachings in which he advised the emperor to recruit talented and motivated men to perform specialized missions. This ancient treatise is the first known reference to the term “special forces.”

More than 130 years ago, Father Michael McGivney established the Knights of Columbus for a reason: to assist each other and their parishes through charitable works. While he likely never read Jiang Ziya’s ancient treatise on special forces, Father McGivney clearly understood the meaning of special forces. Father McGivney intended Knights of Columbus councils to be a pastor’s “go-to guys” for getting things done in the parish. In other words, a pastor’s special forces.

In November 2014, when our Supreme Knight, Carl Anderson, unveiled the Building the Parish & Strengthening Families initiative, he was actually steering us back on a course that Father McGivney charted in 1883:

"share your pastor’s goals with your council leadership and the council"

What is necessary now is our greater involvement in the renewal of parish and family life.

To meet this need we will have to do some things differently. Our councils will have to become even more active in our parish communities.…

For many councils, doing these things will require making choices between what is good and what is better. Often they may have to choose between what our [parish] may have needed in the past and what it needs today and in the future.

We now need to execute the plan. All of us—District Deputies, Grand Knights and Council members—need to do our part to transform out councils into special forces our pastors can count on.

  1. Re-Connecting With Our Pastors
  2. Sharing Pastor’s Goals with the Council
  3. Obtain Council Approval to Implement Pastor’s Goals
  4. Success

At our State Convention in Dallas, I challenged all our Grand Knights to reconnect with their pastors. But, when contacting your pastor, instead of setting up a meeting, invite him over for dinner. Pastors attend a lot of meetings, but sharing dinner at a parishioner’s home is different. Do not take your pastor to a restaurant or council hall for dinner—invite him to a council member’s home. Sharing a meal together in someone’s home makes for a more intimate and relaxed setting. Tell your pastor that you are also inviting just 2-3 of the new incoming council leaders along with their wives to talk.

On the evening of the dinner, make sure that your 2-3 leaders arrive prior to your pastor. This way, there is no need to wait for anyone. Upon your pastor’s arrival, make him feel welcome. I would recommend that for the first hour be purely social. Take advantage of this opportunity to get to know your pastor better. Ask him about his background, his hobbies, how he likes to relax. Share with him what you do, your background, your hobbies. Talk about your families. You will likely learn more about your pastor in this hour than you ever knew.

After dinner—or at an appropriate time—the Grand Knight or host should turn the discussion towards business. Here’s what the Grand Knight needs to say:

  • The men sitting around this table are the in-coming Council officers. (Ask him if he can set aside the date for the Officer installation so that he can attend).
  • Going forward, please consider the Council to be your go-to guys for the jobs or tasks that no one else or no other ministry wants to tackle. Make it clear that the Council will tackle the hard challenges.
  • Tell your pastor: “We are your Special Forces.”

At this point, ask your pastor for 1-2 short term goals that he would like implemented in the parish. Discuss these 1-2 items and ask him how he wants them implemented and by when. Do not say “no” to any of his suggestions or give any hint that the goal cannot be implemented. Tell him that the council will figure out how to implement the short term goals. Make sure to ask him if there are other men or ministries that he thinks could be of assistance. Likely, some of the men he suggests are already knights. If he provides you with names of men who are not Knights, your council now has a recruiting opportunity.

Before your pastor leaves, ask him to think about a long term goal he would like to see implemented in the parish. Talk about how the Council can assist him in implementing this goal. Remind him as he leaves that going forward, he is to consider the Council his special forces.

Within 24 hours, send your pastor a follow email or text. This is important. There is an expression in business that if a meeting is not documented, it didn’t happen. Document the meeting. This follow up message needs to thank him coming to dinner and also needs to:

  • Remind him that he is to consider the Council has his Special Forces
  • Re-state the 1-2 short term goals that he asked to be implemented
  • State that you and the Council are going to work to implement the goals by the time he set.

The next step is to share your pastor’s goals with your council leadership and the council. As with any idea or suggestion, someone will come up with many reasons why the goals cannot be implemented—and frankly, the easy way out would be do not implement the goal. But, special forces don’t operate that way. Special forces always find a way. Great leaders and successful councils always find a way. The purpose of special forces is to accomplish assignments or tasks that no one else wants or no one else can do. Your challenge as the Grand Knight or Council leader is to find a way to turn your pastor’s short term goals into reality.

Placing an idea on paper is the first step towards transforming that thought into reality. Share the follow up message you sent to the pastor with your council leaders. Host a special meeting with your council leaders to discuss how to implement the goals. If he identified potential new members, recruit them ASAP. Just as with the pastor, invite a few Knights to someone’s home to lay out how to implement the pastor’s goals. Since it may likely require funds, figure out how much it’s going to cost. Summarize all the steps onto a single page—along with a rough estimate of how much implementation will cost. You now have a simple plan to take to the Council. Before leaving, make sure that someone agrees to take charge of the project.

The project leader needs to send out the plan in an email within 24 hours, and have everyone that attended the meeting to acknowledge that they will help implement the plan and help persuade the Council to approve the plan. Going to the Council with a project leader and several council members on board will go a long way in persuading the Council to approve it.

Make sure that prior to the Council meeting, the Grand Knight and the project leader discuss how to finance the plan with the Council Trustees. Work out any budgetary concerns with the Trustees prior to the meeting so that you have the Trustees’ approval going into the meeting.

Persuading the Council to implement your pastor’s short term goal will not be easy, particularly if you are an incoming Grand Knight. When introducing the plan, the Grand Knight should tell the Council that going forward, the Council is going to be the pastor’s “go-to” guys and his special forces. In the future, the Council is going to work with the pastor to build up the parish. The District Deputy needs to underscore and reiterate the Grand Knight’s “special forces” point. When discussing implementation of the plan, make sure the project leaders has copies of the plan summary to distribute. With a project leader and several council members committed to the plan, convincing the council is easier—particularly if all the supporters show up. It is very important for the project leader to speak for the project and make the necessary motions and presentations at the Council meeting.

When presenting the plan, the project leaders needs to explain how the project will be funded. If Council funds are to be used, then make sure you share the plan with the Trustees and the Council’s budget committee ahead of the meeting. If possible, try to include the implementation funding in the annual budget. If, for any reason, the plan cannot be included in the budget, then comply with the usual procedures under Section 122 for getting the funds approved by the Council.

Once the Council approves the plan and its funding, move quickly to implement the plan. Please make sure that you notify your pastor within 24 hours of the Council’s approval of the plan. Coordinate the plan’s implementation with your pastor. If he sees that you are taking concrete steps in implementing his goals, you will go a long way in winning over his confidence. Hand off the implementation of the project to the project leader so that the Grand Knight can focus on other council priorities, like membership and charities.

The project leader should keep the Grand Knight apprised of the project’s progress. During the early stages of implementing the project, if more volunteers are needed, have the Council’s membership director ask the pastor if there are any men in the parish or ministries that he thinks could help with implementation. If any of these men are not Knights, encourage them to assist with the project and to join the Order.

When encouraging these non-members, DO NOT call them and ask them to help. Rather, encourage them using the BBB method: BBQ and beer in the backyard. Make sure to invite your pastor as well. Also, invite their wives and families. You now have the perfect setting to invite these men to join the Order. If possible, notify your General Agent or Field Agent to also be present. At the BBB, discuss the project and make sure you tell the non-members that they were invited because the pastor considers them special men. For that reason, you are asking for their assistance in implementing the project, and possibly joining the Order.

You and your council may end up inviting all the members of a particular ministry to this BBB event. ACTS and CHRP communities are perfect recruiting targets—especially if the men see the Council working on a project the pastor wants implemented.

Additionally, you may want to ask your pastor if the Council can make a pulpit talk about implementing the project. In my opinion, a pulpit talk by a Council leader focused on implementing a project the pastor wants done is a powerfully persuasive recruiting opportunity. Make sure to have tables set up or host a post-Mass donut and coffee reception to discuss the project and the Order.

Do everything possible to complete the project within 3-4 months and no later than 10-12 months. When completed, publicize the project in the parish bulletin and diocesan newspaper. Publicity is important. If no one knows about the project, then it never happened. Submit the project’s implementation for consideration for an award at next year’s State Convention.

Upon completion of the project, the Council should sponsor a celebratory reception with your pastor or invite him to dinner again. Make sure that you ask for other projects that he wants implemented and follow this same pattern again. Once your pastor feels that he can trust his special forces to get things done, your council is going to prosper in ways you never imagined.

Good luck.

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