Introduction to Parish Pastoral Councils
with Mark F. Fischer

7. Meetings of the Pastoral Council

An online course cannot really teach anyone how to conduct a pastoral council meeting.  That is because every meeting is different, with its own pastor, its own agenda, and its own councillors.  But it helps to state the main ingredients in a good council meeting, such as a well-planned agenda, a prudent chairperson, and a skillful secretary.

Successful meetings follow agendas, but how?  In this unit, you will see that the agenda is a plan for the meeting.  It expresses the expectations of pastor and councillors.  Once they have developed the agenda, the officers of the council dedicate themselves to following it.

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A. Quiz on Meeting Practices

Answer the questions true or false.

  1. Pastors should not have a say in planning the council agenda.

  2. The committee's task is to plan the meetings of the council.

  3. It is correct to call the lay chairperson the "presider."

  4. Chairpersons are committed to following the agenda.

  5. Agendas indicate what the council will do and when, and how to prepare for meetings.

  6. Secretaries keep minutes but do not say whether the meeting accomplished the agenda.

  7. Accomplishing the agenda is less important than creating a forum for opinions.

B. Official Documents

They don't say anything about agendas.  But they do suggest that meetings can achieve a purpose by acknowledging and using the charisms of councillors.  Rules for participation enable a structured dialogue.  There can be no effective use of pastoral councils without suitable preparation.  That is, without a well-planned agenda.

C. Reading from Pastoral Councils in Today's Catholic Parish:

Chapter 6: Leadership 

This chapter examines pastoral council guidelines throughout the USA to distinguish between the leadership by the pastor and the leadership by the lay councillors.  The pastor is doing the consulting.  He presides over the meeting.  But lay councillors can be said to lead by helping the council to conduct its meetings, to facilitate the dialogue, to follow the agenda, and to reach agreement.

D. Reflection

Council agendas can be enriched or impoverished.  The enriched agenda states what the council hopes to do, assigns a specific time to do it, and shows how members can prepare for it.  Not so the impoverished agenda.  Examine a recent agenda from your own council.  Write a letter to your pastor or chairperson, showing how it can be enriched. 

© 2008.  For more information about parish pastoral councils, email Mark Fischer.