Pastoral Council Guidelines

Guidelines for the St. Elizabeth Pastoral Council

revised 12/09


1.     The St. Elizabeth Pastoral Council is the visionary leadership group that works in close collaboration with the Pastor and Pastoral Team. The Council and Team have the special responsibility of developing and implementing the parish vision and mission statement. The Council members, like the Team, need to constantly keep the big picture of overall parish life in view. The Council is a planning council, acting as a forum of consultation for the Pastor and Pastoral Team. Working closely with Pastor and Team, the Council assists in identifying and designing the long-range and short-term goals and objectives of the parish. Once those goals are defined, the Council hands over their implementation to the responsibility of other parish ministries.

2.     The Council provides a means of communication among the people of the parish to make their ideas, needs and hopes (both spiritual and temporal) known to the parish leadership.

3.     The Council develops ways of regularly surveying the people of the parish to discover how they feel about different aspects of parish life and seek out their thoughts and ideas on improvement.

4.     The Council strives for open, honest and respectful communication in their deliberations. It is the formation of this trusting relationship that is critical to their cohesion and the Council’s success as an advisory visionary leadership group.

The Role of the Pastoral Council Member

1.     The role of a Pastoral Council Member is to serve as a consultant to the Pastor and to assist him in maintaining the integrity of the parish vision and mission.

2.     A Pastoral Council Member is a parish leader through discernment, expression and fulfillment of building up the Kingdom of God, proclaiming and witnessing to the Good News of the Gospel.

3.      He/she is a visionary advisor in developing long-range pastoral planning and determining short-term and long-range goals and objectives.  At this time, the Pastoral Council advises on the implementation of the Pastoral Study and the 5-year goals.

4.     Through prayer, study and listening, the Pastor and Council Members identify and prioritize the ways in which the parish is being called to live out its specific mission.

5.      Each member engages the people of the parish in an ongoing dialog about their needs, feelings, hopes and reactions and thus makes his/her own contribution to the decision-making process.

6.     The Council does not deal with the day-to-day activities (the Team) or      the finances of the parish (Finance Committee), but does address the over-all approach of the parish in light of the needs of the parishioners.


Every Council member should understand:

The following are criteria for becoming a member of the Pastoral Council:

a)     Is an active, believing parishioner, faithful to weekly Sunday Eucharist, who embraces stewardship as a way of life through his/her time, talent and treasure, participant in the ongoing life of the parish.

b)     Sees his/her work on the council as the major contribution to the life of the parish during the term of office. He/she is not so overly involved in the day-to-day parish work and is willing to curtail other volunteer work to be available for council meetings.

c)     Is a person of vision, a good listener outweighing the need to speak and has the courage and patience to work toward consensus.

d)     Understands the parish as a diverse community of believers and demonstrates enthusiasm for the future of the parish in terms of evangelization, worship, justice and stewardship.

e)     Accepts the responsibility to attend diocesan and parish training programs to enable members to serve the parish and offer advice to the pastor.

f)       Is available for the ten meetings per year, usually on Monday     evenings.

The following are helpful for the Council member to consider:

g)   Hopeful and positive, not because things are going well, but because God is with us

h)  Self-loving because she/he knows God loves her/him, and is not, therefore, in need of honors or recognition for ministry

i)   Shows prudence in decision-making, consulting with other wisdom people, praying, weighing, and taking action

j)    Respectful of the opinions and perspectives of others, acting justly toward them, presuming the best of others

k) Capable of self-denial and sacrifice; living temperately and moderately with this world’s goods

l)   Able to push through fear to pursue the good.

m)   Sees all ministry as in the service of the church and furthering   the mission of Christ; recognizing that while the church is a sacrament, the church is also a human community with an uneven historical record

n) Communicates thoughts and feelings, and listens without defensiveness to feedback

o) Correct sense of Christ and of the church ‚Äď therefore not an extremist, either ultra-liberal or ultra-orthodox

p)  Possesses a profound respect for the dignity of every person, with special love for the poor and oppressed

There are ten Council members including the Pastor. Two Council  members are appointed by the Pastor and Pastoral Team (they are the parish trustees, with a three year term of office.)

The seven other members are selected from the Parish at-large.  The term is for 3 years staggered.

To facilitate continuity on the Council proceedings, the Pastor has the right to ask a Council member to stay an additional year.

Selection Process:

Parishioners are invited to submit the name of a parishioner who meets the criteria (above); the pastoral team also surfaces names.  The pastor contacts those persons whose names have surfaced, and invite them into consider entering the selection process.

First step:       Prayerful reflection over the parish vision and mission statements, asking the Spirit how their gifts and talents might be used in leadership within the Council at this moment in time within the parish.

Second step:  A written response to the pastor agreeing to be part of the prayer and selection process as a nominee.

Third step:     Join the current council members and nominees for        prayer and a process of self-selection to fill the vacancy(ies).  The assembled group reaches consensus through a mutually agreeable process (e.g., series of ballots, verbal agreement, etc.)

3.   Each member accepts the responsibility of attending available diocesan and parish training programs prior to participating on the Council.  This enables new members to come to the Council with some orientation and background.

4.   Members are encouraged to see their work on the Council as their major contribution to the life of the parish during their term of office. Participation at Council meetings is their primary concern for their term of ministry.

5.   A Council member may be asked by the Pastor to resign if they act in a manner contrary to the requirements (listed in #1 a-f above.)

6.   Team and Council meet together at least once a year.  The Council will share the minutes of their meetings with the team.

7.   The Council is representative of the entire parish and is to receive public recognition as parish leadership at an annual blessing of the Council and Team at all the parish weekend masses in January of each year.

8.   Each Council member must have a sense of responsibility for all of his or her fellow parishioners, not just for a particular ministry group.  The Council’s nominating and selection procedures provide a practical way of ensuring widespread representation.

9.  Each Council member is encouraged to speak with other parishioners between Meetings.  Being available and visible to the parishioners, especially before and after weekend mass, is very important. Participation at significant parish events during the year is necessary. Council members will receive an identification badge to be worn to church at weekend liturgies and parish events.

10. Council members are free to speak with Team members and the chairpersons of ministries outside of Council meetings. In this way they can learn more from them about the resources and difficulties, hopes and needs of those ministering to the people.

The Pastor

1.     The Pastor receives the advice and assistance of the Council in monitoring the vision and mission of the parish.  Pastoral planning is an essential component of this.

2.     The Pastor provides opportunities for the Council to grow spiritually.  He is encouraged to provide leadership in prayer and avenues for development of the faith of the Council.

3.     The Pastor may provide outside help for the continued training of members or for the better facilitation of Council meetings.  In this way the Council members can grow more proficient in their ministry.

The Pastoral Team

1.     Team members may be invited by the Pastor to participate in a Pastoral Council meeting.

2.     The Team meets with the Pastoral Council at least once a year to discuss pastoral planning as well as concerns of mutual importance.

3.     Team members may ask to be invited to a Pastoral Council meeting whenever they need the Council’s input or have something to discuss personally that is of importance to the Council.