Building a Culture of Empowerment

Working for a church can be a very hierarchical environment. We have pastors, associate pastors, pastoral associates, faith formation directors, youth ministry coordinators, business managers, administrative assistance, volunteers, and so on. Everyone at the church knows who has the power and who has less power.

To have a successful ministry in church, we need that structure. We need hierarchy. Yet, sometimes, when we get caught up in the hierarchy, we forget that we need to find ways to help people feel empowered. Meaning, we need to give away power when they are ready for it. Just because you are not the pastor does not mean you do not have the power to do something. When people are empowered, they take true ownership of the ministry and can help take it to a whole new level.

It takes intentionality to build a culture of empowerment. Even simple things like how we use language and words make a difference. Here is what I mean: a hierarchical culture uses certain words and an empowerment culture uses other words.

Hierarchical Culture vs. Empowerment Culture

Planning vs. Visioning

Command-and-control vs. Partnering for performance

Monitoring vs. Self-monitoring

Individual responsiveness vs. Team responsibility

Pyramid structures vs. Cross-functional structures

Workflow processes vs. Projects

Managers vs. Coaches/team leaders

Employees vs. Team members

Participative management vs. Self-directed teams

Do as you are told vs. Own your job

Compliance vs. Good judgment

(From Ken Blanchard’s book, Leading at a Higher Level, pg. 72-73)

Subtle changes in our language and thinking make a huge difference. I have to work hard to think differently about the culture I am creating within my ministry.

Question: Have you ever experienced being in a ministry that had an empowerment culture? What was that experience like for you?

John Rinaldo

As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.


John Rinaldo


As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.



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