Parishes Bringing the Vision to Fruition through Pastoral Planning

By Fr Nino Vinciguerra

Over the last two months the Parish Renewal Team has held seminars across the diocese focusing on the role of the Parish Pastoral Council and pastoral planning and the value of each in bringing to life the mission of the Church.

When talking about the role of the Parish Pastoral Council, we have spoken about its responsibility for developing a vision for the type of parish it would like to become and the types of pursuits that will lead its parishioners to a deeper relationship with Jesus. Central to this we have introduced the concepts of strategic thinking as a means of thinking more broadly about the direction parishes wish to grow in and pastoral planning as means of bringing the vision to fruition.

Many parishioners are familiar with strategic planning in their work lives and there are very few organisations that do not have a ‘plan’. However, the idea of a strategic plan sometimes seems to jar with us Catholics and seems too bureaucratic and clinical and indifferent to our Catholic ways. Indeed, we tend to shy away from secular terms and methods. However, as humans we naturally plan and rely on such to provide us with direction and a path to follow; it creates a sense of purpose and security. We have superannuation plans, holiday plans, plans for our work week, plans for our families etc. To plan is natural and a necessary part of life but seems less so in our church and parish life: I wonder why this is?

Luke 14:28-33 ESV

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.

Indeed, to plan is a very pastoral and loving practice for parish communities. It invites and welcomes its people to come together, to share and to take responsibility for the type of parish they want to create.

Parish Pastoral Planning is more than just developing a plan or map for the parish to follow, though this is certainly an important part of the purpose. The real purpose is to listen to where God is calling the parish in response to the specific and unique needs of its parishioners and parish community (which includes all people within its parish boundaries). Planning requires a calling together of people and a sharing of views, desires and needs and sitting in the spiritual space of discernment to listen to and be guided by the gentle voice of God. But just like in the in the Parable of the Talents, God expects us to be active and purposeful in his name and to create active ministries in which people can participate and which bring,  in both word and action, the Good News to all.

God’s blessings to you all

Fr Nino

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