At a recent conference a woman shared her disappointment in her time on her parish council. "I came wanting to talk about the things our parish was not doing that, it seemed to me, it should be doing," she said. "But all they ever talked about was fixing the steps."
An effective parish council (PC) is critically important for any parish desiring to face forward toward a brighter future. Yet too many PCs operate more like brakes than engines. Holding the parish back rather than driving the parish forward. The place where ideas go to die.
A Vision of Strengthened Parish Councils
It would be exhilarating if we could begin to establish PCs with some of the following qualities:
- There is a clear, positive understanding of a Christ Centered purpose of the PC -- from council members and parishioners.
- The PC has a positive influence on the parish. The parish actually starts being transformed, in part through the impetus of the Council. There is a clear link between the PC and parish ministries.
"Instead of being a 'fire department' which responds to parish needs, [our parish council] must learn how to become the leadership team which both envisions the parish and helps incarnate that vision; to move from an "ad hoc" approach to a more strategic approach to administration of the parish"
Comment from a parish priest, OCA Parish Practices Profile Survey
- Priest and PC establish a spirit of collaboration and cooperation. Conflict and contentiousness is minimized.
- Clergy and parish lay leaders learn new useful skills. All contribute in areas of personal giftedness.
- PC meetings develop new vitality and focus.
- PC members remain active in parish ministry after they leave the Council -instead of 'needing a break'-- which often turns into extended seclusion and marginalization from productive parish effort.
- Recruiting to PC becomes easier. Qualified people with a true desire to strengthen the implementation of the parish's mission will see the PC as a place where this can happen.
- Participating on PC can become a faith deepening & developing experience -instead of the opposite.
How can we do this? We plan to tackle these and other questions in our 2014 Leaders Day session. (October 18, 2014 St John the Baptist Canonsburg PA.
Also this article offers a few important ideas that may help.