Communication from the Pastoral Council

Since the Pastoral Council is accountable to the community of which they are members, the way in which communication with parishioners is handled can determine how, and whether, the Council is fulfilling its role. There are numerous ways in which people receive and share information, so it is important that a variety of means of communication be used by the Pastoral Council.

If the Pastoral Council seems to have little to communicate about what they are doing, there may be a need to review the meetings in order to improve effectiveness and productivity. On the other hand, if the Pastoral Council is attaining various goals, and maintains ongoing communication about what is being achieved, parishioners are more likely to take ownership of the Pastoral Council and cooperate with efforts to build a more vital Christian community.

After each meeting the community needs to know what issues were discussed, what decisions were reached and what aspects are receiving further consideration. Of course, prudence must be exercised if any matter is confidential at a particular time. However, withholding information from the community unnecessarily suggests an unethical use of power.

Ways to Facilitate the Sharing of Information

  • Use a variety of means e.g.
    1. Report in parish newsletters, parish magazines, local school newsletter e.g. Use bullet points to share: Three issues considered at the last Pastoral Council meeting were...
    2. Speak to the congregation at the end of the weekend Eucharist.
    3. Prepare posters perhaps containing a brief outline of issues under consideration or seeking responses on a specific topic.
    4. Provide occasional information in the local free paper. The latter will often accept information if the topic is local, has a broad community focus and is accompanied by a photo.
  • Ensure that Pastoral Council Reports are interesting, succinct and inviting.
  • Provide a short series of brief key points rather than long written or spoken presentations.
  • Incorporate an interesting heading or opening question to provide a focus.

The publishing of actual minutes of meetings is not encouraged, because the minutes are specific to the meeting context of the particular group and can be open to misinterpretation. In addition, discussion at the meeting may be less open and the content of the minutes restricted if the understanding is that the document will be made public. In practical terms, experience has shown that very few people take the opportunity to read closely typed minutes which are often displayed on a notice-board.

Within the Pastoral Council it may be helpful to review the effectiveness of communication between members. The ability to listen attentively and respectfully is an essential skill for all members. Sometimes the sharing of information about communication skills can provide the grounds for increasing the effectiveness of discussion and decision making.

Communication from the Parish Community

The sharing of the issues and outcomes from a Pastoral Council Meeting is information-giving which is only one dimension of communication. Clear lines of communication need to be established between parishioners and members of the Pastoral Council. Strategies to facilitate interactions between parishioners and Pastoral Councillors include:

  • organising parish assemblies that involve parishioners in identifying goals for the Parish
  • using surveys and phone-networks
  • allocating Councillors to liaise with various parish groups on a regular basis
  • each councillor contacting five (or more) parishioners at random, seeking comment
    on issues being considered by the Pastoral Council.

To assist communication within the parish the following practical aspects are recommended:

  • dates and times of agenda meetings and Pastoral Council meetings are published regularly,
  • names and photos of the Pastoral Councillors are displayed on a church notice-board,
  • Councillors wear identifying badges and are available to speak with parishioners after some weekend Masses.

Finally, if one means of communication is found to be fruitless, its effectiveness will not necessarily increase by repeating the same process more often. One expression of foolishness is to continue to do the same old things in the same old way and expect a different result. Simply repeating an ineffective action more often has little or no prospect of providing a new and different outcome.

Creative variety in communication is necessary if the interest of the receivers is to be maintained and positive outcomes are to result. Pastoral Councils are encouraged to search out the people within their communities who have special communication skills, and invite them to contribute their expertise towards developing more effective communication strategies.