Denise UtterBlog, NCCL Board of Directors

~ Dennis Johnson, NCCL Board of Directors

The primary function of the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership (NCCL) is to support its members who are catechetical professionals in parishes, dioceses, publishing houses, academia, and ministry partnerships throughout the nation. To be effective, the organization must leverage present needs and emerging trends against its ability to provide relevant solutions, services, and support while maximizing its resources. This is a challenging task for a small religious non-profit corporation, but NCCL is positioning itself for success.

Over the past few years, the Board of Directors has been self-facilitating a strategic envisioning process that has refined its understanding of ends-governance, the roles of the Board and the Executive Director, the structure of the organization, and the changing face of catechetical ministry within the Church. From time-to-time the Board sought advice from non-profit management experts; it has consulted regularly with its advisory Representative Council.

Recently, the Board has enacted a few changes aimed at helping NCCL better engage members for effective ministry. The primary purpose of this article is to explain these modifications and their rationale as well as their expected impact on the organization. As you read, consider the broader contexts and implications at play. Think about the macro-environment within in which NCCL must operate. The national ministry landscape is increasingly diverse and complex. To sustain viability, the organization must be proficient in responding to varied customized needs that translate, and transfer, to local realities.

A major shift in recent years has been the decline of participation. Members have less time and resources available to offer to the organization. Initiatives to address this through invitation, fundraising campaigns and so-forth have not yielded sustainable results. Let’s face it, the Catholic church in the United States, like all organized religion, is experiencing a similar decline. Regardless, doing business as we have been is unlikely to produce the results we desire. Change is necessary.

Most of us resist change. It takes work. It means adjusting culture. It means re-thinking some of “what” we do in terms of “how” we do it. And, it requires us to get involved. The Board has weighed these implications and believes it is in NCCL and its members’ best interest to proceed with a more adaptive and responsive structure.

Management theory popularizes two fundamental approaches to organizational change: 1) implement bold and immediate transformation that helps the organization to dramatically pivot; 2) implement small intuitive improvements that have major impact over time. It is the Board’s desire to employ both tactics in complimentary ways that will help us achieve the overarching goal of continuous improvement, enhanced viability, and increased sustainability by engaging ministry effectiveness with, and through, our members.

Many of you are familiar with NCCL’s updated global ends. They outline the organization’s purpose and priorities. It was the Board’s desire, with two-years of input from the Representative Council, to refine their focus on fewer areas, but with greater intensity, and thereby exercise better stewardship of our resources. Not surprisingly, this heightened intentionality has brought about some structural shifts within the organization.

The Board of Directors has reconstituted NCCL’s committees to more appropriately align with the organization’s ends. In addition to the ExecutiveFinanceMembership, and Leadership Discernment Committees, we will now have four new committees, each with its own subcommittees and/or project groups, aimed at harmonizing the organization’s work under our ends. The new structure does not affect the Representative Council, Forums, or Federation and is outlined as follows:

END 1.0 – 

NCCL members will utilize tools and methods of engagement[priority effort on the catechetical professional as leader.]


  • Annual Convocation [envisions, plans, and executes the annual membership meeting]
  • Digital-learning [organizes web-based learning on a variety of pertinent topics]
  • Standards and Certification [coordinates NCCL’s involvement in the Alliance for LEM Certification]


  • Web-Portal Enhancement [integrates member experience and use of the web-portal]
  • Local Support Accompaniment [assists province and forum leaders in establishing constituent meetings]

END 2.0 – 

NCCL members will be aware of changing dynamics and landscapes in ministry[priority effort on understanding the ministry environment and context]

Currently, the Board of Directors has not established a Committee or Subcommittees for this end.

The end is expected to be met by existing ongoing efforts and bridge-building initiatives with key collaborators and partners.

The Board of Director shall continue discerning additional needs in this arena with ongoing consultative feedback and input.

END 3.0 – 

NCCL members will use effective resources [priority effort on practical application to local ministry needs].


  • Product Development [creates programming resources with partners and stakeholders]
  • Resource Assessment [curates, reviews, and provides best practice usage support for members and others]
  • Catechetical Leader [coordinates the publication of the Catechetical Leader communication]

END 4.0 –

NCCL members will advance organizational effectiveness [priority effort on operational integrity and performance].


  • Member Services [surveys, reviews, and measures member needs and organizational effectiveness]
  • Development [coordinates donor cultivation and enhanced resourcing efforts]
  • Marketing [propagates the organization’s mission and priorities to potential members, partners, and stakeholders]

In addition to these Board-enacted changes, which continue to be a work in progress, Executive Director Margaret Matijasevic has begun to repurpose and expand NCCL personnel so that staff responsibilities are better aligned and proportioned to the organization’s purpose and priorities. Serving members is our first aim and the Board believes these changes will help NCCL effectively meet your needs today and tomorrow. It is an exciting time for the organization.

It is important to keep in mind, as these changes continue to unfold, that we are implementing an adaptive-management model. NCCL’s work has a consistent degree of fluidity as the organization morphs and adjusts to changing needs in the field of catechetics. For example, directing committee work through subcommittees and/or project groups helps us to better flex and accommodate collaboration across our entire infrastructure and/or even outside of the organization. The point is, today’s modifications are first-steps in a dynamic change management process that involves all of us.

Sometimes we forget, or misunderstand, the role NCCL plays for us as professional ministers. Most of us, in some way or fashion, are tasked with supporting, facilitating, or making disciples – i.e. fulfilling the exacting task of evangelization. This, however, is not NCCL’s primary concern. The organization does not exist to minister. It exists to support ministry professionals in those things that improve ministry professionalism, overall competence, and quality. This is an important distinction that we must be cognizant of in every initiative we undertake. With this in mind, as the Board recrafted NCCL’s committee structure, the following driving questions motivated the creation of these new committees:

Professional development

How are we (NCCL) growing members so they’re effective in their mission?


How are we (NCCL) getting members involved so the organization is sustainable and vibrant?

Resource development

How are we (NCCL) developing resources that are useful and relevant to the field?

Mission Effectiveness

How are we (NCCL) ensuring our operations and outcomes are current and cutting-edge, and that we are communicating and serving our membership, so that we are growing ministry leaders who can effectively advance the Church’s mission to make disciples?

NCCL wants to grow and equip leaders. As your Board of Directors, we want you to be a part of it. We hope that you recognize that every NCCL member has a vital role to play in our shared success. If you and I, as members, value the benefits the organization provides, we must find ways to support it and to get involved. Contact our executive director, staff, a board member, or our president if you have time, talent, or treasure to be shared. We would be happy to get you more deeply connected.

Let’s build from within, together, engaging one another in effective ministry.