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Lifelong Learning and Parish Vision

June 24, 2016

When the previous Director of Religious Education at Church of the Presentation in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, departed the parish, Catzel Bumpus immediately saw an opportunity. Approached by her pastor to take on the role of DRE, she suggested a total re-envisioning of the position. “We didn’t have someone who was creating a vision for the whole parish,” she noted. This, she thought, was a problem on several levels. Often, the many ministries and communities active at Church of the Presentation operated without an awareness of what the others were doing – or even, sometimes, that they existed at all – or how their specific activities related to the community as a whole. The parish structure also lacked a single point person who could not only take a wider view of the parish’s many ministries, but serve as a resource for and bridge between them and ensure that all remained focused on the parish’s overall goal of discipleship and the continued formation of disciples. Thus, Ms. Bumpus’ new position of “Director of Lifelong Learning” was created.

As Director of Lifelong Learning, Ms. Bumpus serves a number of important roles in the parish. She not only manages religious education for youth and adults and assists in setting the goal and vision for the entire parish community, but also meets regularly with all ministry leaders in the parish. This simple development has had a significant impact in the health and effectiveness of parish life. Ensuring that ministry leaders and the Director of Lifelong Learning meet consistently not only helps all members of the parish to be aware of other activities and opportunities and cuts down on redundancy and over-scheduling, but also helps each leader in the community to feel valued, heard, and integrated into the overall parish mission. Smaller, quieter, or less vocal ministries are affirmed as just as crucial to the health and mission of the parish community as larger and splashier ones.

Communication is also better among parish leadership regarding vision and goals, and as a result, ministries and programs are more focused and better-coordinated. “It’s exciting; it’s a whole different way of looking at things,” Ms. Bumpus said. “Our ministry leaders had never had someone on staff who was just focused on them, and some of them didn’t even know each other. Just to stress that all these ministries are important, and to have someone in that role as a point person whom they can come in and talk to, is really helpful.” Having a single, designated point of contact on the parish staff who not only disseminates consistent information, but also provides resources and guidance during times of conflict or struggle, has proven to be a valuable contribution to the success of the parish’s ability to foster discipleship and mission.

Nine months into the new role, Ms. Bumpus is pleased about the success of the new position and optimistic for the future. “It’s definitely been a growth experience and I think it’s going to continue to evolve,” she said. “And that’s a good thing!”

By: Katherine Brown, Los Angeles, CA

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