Pastoral Planning
Pastoral planning, the discipline of intentionally working towards a desired future that represents a more authentic witness to the reign of God in the local community is one of the objectives, if not the primary objective of the Parish Pastoral Council.

Pastoral Planning is a primary role of the parish pastoral council. It is the action of the council leading the parish in planning for the future and organizing itself for the mission of the Church. It is a process of reflection and discernment, but it is not theoretical – it’s about this specific community dealing with its reality in these times; it leads to concrete outcomes of who’s going to do what, how and by when.

Pastoral Planning: An Overview

  • Select The Planning Team
    • Steer The Proccess
    • Involve The People
    • Communicate
    • Share Experiences - Principles
    • System & Models
  • Gather The Data -
    Listen to the wisdom of Gods people
    • Communication
    • Parish Profile
    • Choose Processes
    • Collection Methods
    • Memories & Stories
    • Dreams & Hopes
    • Needs & Gifts
    • Summarise The Data
    • Analysis Method
  • Analyse The Data -
    What are our people telling us
    • Analysis Criteria
    • Models
    • Discernment Proccess
    • Involve Wider Group
    • Shared Wisdom
  • Set Vision, Values, And Key Objectives
    • Define The Mission
    • Descern Vision
    • Declare Values
    • Set Core Objectives
    • Written & Published
  • Move To Action Planning
    • Define Outcomes
    • Set Goals
    • Frame Strategies
    • Responsibilities
    • Resources
    • Timelines
    • Reviews
    • Evaluation

The values, principles and goals of pastoral planning are the values, principles and goals of the gospel – compassion, inclusivity, justice, option for the poor, love of neighbour, trust in God and so on. The spirituality of pastoral planning is the spirituality of communio - the understanding that all of us in the Church make up the body of Christ, and whatever touches one of us touches all of us; we all have different gifts, roles and functions within the body, and this is part of our strength; through communion with Christ we are all bound together in communion with one another; we all live and act as the much loved children of God. Pastoral Planning is always therefore a communal, participative process.

How to do Pastoral Planning:

Pastoral Planning is always a community exercise, rather than a lone planner piecing a plan together. Those who are going to be affected by the plans need to be invited into the planning process, given all the relevant information and led into processes of discussion and discernment. “If it’s about me, then not without me” is the catchcry for parishioners in pastoral planning. Pastoral planning is an activity best done together.

There are many ways of doing pastoral planning, many methodologies have been developed and books written about them. At its most basic level parish pastoral planning covers the five steps of the pastoral planning cycle outlined below. They can be used to develop a whole of parish plan or to plan for just one area of parish life.

  1. Name the reality - this first step is one of naming what is already happening in the parish and in the wider community. It means spelling out what the current reality is rather than assuming everybody knows. This ‘naming the reality’ doesn’t have to cover every single detail, but it does mean consulting with a variety of people to gain a clear overarching picture.
  2. Discern the vision - often unspoken within a parish community is a sense of what the parish is being called to be in these days, not in detail but in an overarching sense of where the parish wants to be heading. Tapping in to this sense, reflecting upon it, discussing what it’s saying and praying about it is the process of ‘discerning the vision’. It takes time and is informed by the negatives (what people reject) as well as the positives (what people yearn for). From this process emerges a succinct simple statement to which the parish aligns itself and begins to understand what needs to happen to realise it.
  3. Analysis - this is an important step, but it’s one that people are often tempted to ignore, wanting to ‘get on with it’ without delay. Analysis helps us understand what’s going on so that we’re better able to respond. It revolves around a few simple questions like: Why are things as they are and not as we hope they would be? Where are the signs of life in our community? What resources and strengths do we have to help us achieve our vision?
  4. Goals & Strategies - the parish looks at the reality, looks at the vision, and in the light of the analysis outlines steps to move the parish from the current reality to the envisioned reality. These steps are the goals. They are like markers along the journey towards the vision, or steps up a ladder - they are achievable. Once a goal has been named the detail of how to achieve the goal is worked out - these details are the strategies and they deal with questions of who is going to do what? How? When?
  5. Evaluation - are we there yet? Evaluation is important all along the way. Is the plan still on track, or have we been sidetracked? What has been happening that we didn’t expect? How are people coping with it all? How have we moved closer to achieving our vision? Once we have achieved our goals we will have changed our “current reality” - maybe a little, maybe a lot - and may need to reassess what our next steps will be.

Finally, in pastoral planning all decisions taken, every step planned and evaluation made are all done in the light of the Gospel.

Building Blocks of Pastoral Planning:

  1. Developing a Vision Statement
  2. Consultation
  3. Collaboration & Empowerment
  4. Trust

1. Vision Statement

A parish vision statement is essential to effective parish planning - it gives the parish’s direction as it lives out the gospel. In its vision statement the parish looks beyond its goals and its fears to name the sort of community it is striving to be.

Such a statement, if it is to truly represent the yearning of the parish, may take a while to develop; it will not be somebody’s ‘bright idea’ it will come from within the heart of the community, and the PPC leads the process of putting words to it.

The vision statement becomes a benchmark to measure all plans and goals against - is this bringing us closer to achieving our vision or is it getting in the way? It helps keep the parish planning on track when the council or the parish itself is in danger of being inundated with many issues that people believe to be important.

If it is to be a ‘living’ statement then it needs to be very brief so that it’s easy to remember – just a short sentence or phrase – and it needs to capture the essence of what the parish hopes it could be.
Examples of such a vision statement are:

  • ‘X Parish, being a sign of the Kingdom of God in the community’
  • ‘Y Parish, becoming a community reaching out to all in Jesus’ name’
  • ‘Z Parish, making the mystery of God’s love present in our town’.

From this vision statement can flow statements outlining how the different areas of parish life (liturgy, education, outreach, youth, etc.) hope to help the parish achieve its vision.




2. Consultation


Ultimately, consultation is about discerning the movement of the Holy Spirit. The council attempts to discern the movement of the Holy Spirit in two major ways, through prayer and (because the Spirit moves clearly in the lives of all God’s people) through consultation.

The council consults with the parish as widely as it can whenever appropriate, firmly believing the consultation will lead to a better decision being made.
Consultation needs a transparent process with all information on the table.

Consultation is the action of seeking advice and is not the same as taking a vote - the council still has the responsibility for making the final decision - but it encourages parishioners to own that decision.

3. Collaboration & Empowerment

The council leads the whole parish towards being involved in the mission of the Church, empowering parishioners to collaborate in different ways in the work of the parish. ‘Collaborate’ means to work together, side by side, without one lording it over the other.

It does this by empowering people; this means encouraging people to use their gifts in the work of the parish, trusting them and ensuring they have the necessary resources, authority and opportunity to do what they are being commissioned to do.

It also means trusting that God might use the efforts of the faithful in ways the council had not planned for.

4. Trust

One of the aims of planning is control. We plan in an effort to have some measure of control over our resources, our environment, even our future, and pastoral planning also seeks some measure of control in areas such as these.

However, one of the key elements of pastoral planning is trust. The council oversees many parish groups and committees, yet it doesn’t seek to control them or micromanage their activities, rather it trusts them to carry out their role for the good of the parish, supporting and encouraging them so that their efforts may be in harmony with the parish vision and the thrust of the council’s plans that flow from it.

Pastoral Planning is...

  • Reflective Of The Nature Of Church As Communion
  • Essentially Collaborative, Collegial
  • Essentially Communal In Both Aims And Proccess
  • Pneumatalogical - Draws On The Wisdom Of The Spirit
  • Essentially Pastoral
  • Always About Outward Social Action