Category Archives: pastoral planning toolkits

(19) Correlating the Barna Community Survey to the Pastoral Priorities

How does our Parish’s Pastoral Plan for implementing
the Pastoral Priorities correlate to the Barna Study?

How does your parish’s pastoral plan relate to the recent Barna Community Study conducted in the 6 counties of South Jersey that comprise the Diocese of Camden?

The Barna Study is all about the Pastoral Priorities!

The complete study of the South Jersey Faith Survey conducted by Barna is available on the diocesan website,  Two dimensions of the Barna Report, – the Demographic Profile (page 97 ff.), and the attitudinal/behavioral data found throughout the survey, undergird who we are as the Church  of South Jersey and provide a descriptive backdrop that undergirds specific data that correlates directly to the six Pastoral Priorities.

The “Executive Summary” (pages 5-9) refers to these Pastoral Priorities:

  • Liturgy (4 times)
  • Lifelong Faith Formation (9 times)
  • Priestly Vocations (1 time)
  • Compassionate Outreach, particularly Evangelization  (17 times)
  • Youth and Young Adults (2 times)
  • There is no direct reference to Lay Ministry (although this group is highly integral
    to the accomplishment of pastoral plans for the other 5 Pastoral Priorities.

A large portion of the “Data Analysis” (pages 9 through 62) relate directly to one
or more of the Pastoral Priorities:

  • Liturgy (6 times)
  • Lifelong Faith Formation (8 times)
  • Priestly Vocations (1 time, specifically, to image due to the clergy abuse crisis)
  • Compassionate Outreach, particularly to Evangelization  (7 times)
  • Lay Ministry (2 times)
  • Youth and Young Adults ( times)

In the final sections of the “Data Analysis” (pages 63-96), there are six areas which relate
to all the 6 Pastoral Priorities.  These areas are:  (1) Benefits of Being Catholic; (2) challenge
of being Catholic; (3) Interest in the Catholic Church; (4) Perceptions of the Catholic Church;
and (5) Religious Beliefs.

In summary, altogether there are:

  • 12         sections that refer to Liturgy
  • 14        that refer to Lifelong Faith Formation
  • 7          relate to Priestly Vocations
  • 13         call for Compassionate Outreach
  • 8          related to Lay Ministry, and
  • 8          correlate to Youth and Young Adults

How can we correlate this valuable information to our parish’s Pastoral Plan?
If your pastoral plan has be developed with the methodology presented (see Harvesting Gifts)
– using “Plan – Do – Check,” – go to the sections in Barna which correlate to the pastoral
priority(ies) addressed in your pastoral plan.  Does it offer you a way to “check” your progress,
or does it provide you with data to help you update your plan which is always a cyclical tool for
parish growth?  After your discussion with the PPC, determine what, if any, future action needs
to be put into place in order to move your parish’s Pastoral Plan forward into future months.

You will need legal size paper to print the Correlation of the Barna Community Survey with the Pastoral Priorities

(15) Hallmarks of Parish Vitality

Hallmarks of Parish Vitality


The parish Self-Assessment is designed to provide parishes with feedback that is helpful to parish leadership (pastor, staff and parish pastoral council, etc.) for future planning.

• It sets the stage for engaging parishioners in the transforming work of parish growth and renewal through current and future parish ministries.
• It provides a forum for deanery dialogue and planning designed to support each other as parishes plan for growth in vitality. 

Ways to Use:

1. This toolkit is primarily designed for use of the Parish Leadership (see attached processes).

2. A second way is to invite a small diocesan team (coordinated by the Pastoral Planning Office) who could assist in the dialogue needed and validate the self-assessment.

3. Another way is to engage in a peer review, inviting some members from other parishes to assist in the dialogue needed to validate the self-assessment.

4. Once one of the above is conducted, a parish may want to involve parishioners in the process, either through random mailing or “in pew” copies with a collection process named.  Toolkit #15 may be downloaded from to the parish’s own website.  This may be printed off and distributed.  However, this way doesn’t tabulate responses or analyze them.  Responses may be tabulated and analyzed by a free or low cost Online Survey Tool that may be used on the parish’s website. Some websites already have the capacity for conducting a survey.

 Download the full toolkit: Hallmarks of Parish Vitality


(18) What Should I have on my Parish Website?

What Should I have on my Parish Website?

     When people view your website, you are essentially inviting them to meet your parish family, in your family home. So think of your website as an extension of that parish home. What is the image that you want visitors to have of your parish family?

     This toolkit is designed to help parish leadership decide what information should be on the parish website, and where on the website that information belongs.


  1. Four points to consider for ease of navigation
  2. Three points to consider in making your website attractive

Organization and Content

  1. 9 Must-haves for the home page
  2. Additional home page considerations

What Should I have on my Parish Website? PDF

(17) Ever Ancient, Ever New: the Art and Practice of Lectio Divina

Ever Ancient, Ever New: the Art and Practice of Lectio Divina

This page, and the accompanying article by Sr. Antoine Lawlor,  provide an introduction to and a simple means to engage in Lectio Divina.

One Simple Way to Engage in Lectio Divina: 

  • As parishioners gather at a pastoral council planning meeting, they might spend time praying with Lectio Divina.  The work hasn’t begun and the group perceives a reflective space and peaceful environment.  
  • The day’s gospel or other short scripture passage is read; after a few moments of quiet reflection, the same biblical text is read again.  After reading (and hearing) the text a second time, those gathered are invited to speak a word or phrase which each heard in the reading. Any word which touched them or which they heard anew is offered without any commentary or explanation about the phrase.
  • The reading is proclaimed to the group a third time and again a brief time of reflection follows.  Now parishioners are asked to share any part of the reading which, when heard, was meaningful, instructive or formative for them.  The words that were heard may lead one to remark about family life, or give some insight for ministry.  The direction may go wherever the Spirit leads.  As people begin to share what they heard in the reading, and listen to one another’s insights, a spiritual bond begins to form that deepens one’s relationship with God who is present within the community. 
  • Questions begin to form such as, what is God communicating to us through the Word?  What does this reading say to me personally?  What does it mean for the parish?  Does the Word really function as a “two edged sword?”  Does it cut to the heart?  How does the Word help us to change our hearts? How will we carry this message from God gently and gratefully into our lives this week? 
  • As one becomes familiar with Lectio Divina, one can adapt its simple methodology for use by any group, whether for the parish pastoral council, the youth group, or for ministry to seniors.  Lectio Divina may become the preferred prayer for each stage of lifelong faith formation.

Ever Ancient, Ever New: the Art and Practice of Lectio Divina

Excerpted from:  Ever Ancient, Ever New: the Art and Practice of Lectio Divina.  Antoine T. Lawlor, IHM, D. Min.     USCCB: Catechetical Sunday Booklet September 19, 2009.

(16) Parish Staff Ministry Report

Parish Staff Ministry Report

A Parish Leadership Tool

This tool is a one page tracking device that may be adapted locally. It provides for dialogue around the present, the future and components such as timelines, finances, and collaboration between ministries.

One of the major tasks that parish staff meetings address is the present growth of ministries of within the parish. Regular review, updating, and communication to staff members is a good way to insure maximum growth in all that is done to provide support to parishioners.

Staff may take the time to personalize this form for their own use. Then regular distribution of copies prior to staff meetings, or at the conclusion of one in preparation for the next staff meeting may provide for the ongoing promotion of ministries within the parish.

It is recommended that the reports reviewed be filed as they provide a rich tracking to provide an annual report of ministry growth to the parish.

Parish Staff Ministry Report

(14) How is Vibrant Parish Life Similar to a Successful Entrepreneurship?

How is Vibrant Parish Life Similar to a Successful Entrepreneurship?

Most of us know the tremendous success that is Starbucks. In his book It’s Not about the Coffee: Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks, Howard Behar, former president of Starbucks International, describes in detail the principles of leadership that he found to be of great value in both his professional and personal life.

This exercise is based on his book and asks the question “How is vibrant parish life similar to a successful entrepreneurship?” Eight of the values that have led to the success of Starbucks have been identified and correlated to a value of the Catholic Church.  Parish leadership will develop a list of parish values that correlate to the identified Church values.

Approach to Implementation
One person in the group may serve as facilitator and another as recorder. All members of the group should have a copy of the attached worksheets.

Look at each Starbucks value and the correlating Church value. Discuss and share ideas with one another. Try to identify a practical action or value particular to your parish that correlates with the Starbucks value in the first box.
Roles and Responsibilities
This exercise is designed for those in parish leadership roles, such as the Parish Staff and the Parish Pastoral Council.
No additional training is necessary.
Expected Resources
No additional resources are necessary. This exercise is based on the book It’s Not about the Coffee: Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks by Howard Behar. If you are interested in reading the whole book, it can be purchased through Barnes & Noble or

How is Vibrant Parish Life Similar to a Successful Entrepreneurship? worksheet

(13) Seven Rules for Pastoral Planning by Parish Pastoral Councils

Pastoral Planning Toolkit #13
Seven Rules for Pastoral Planning by Parish Pastoral Councils

One of the most important duties of the Parish Pastoral Council is to create, promulgate and monitor the three stages of the pastoral plan, “Plan-Do-Check.”   The work of the pastoral council is not complex; however, these seven rules – if considered carefully during the first stage – “Plan” – there is a greater success factor that may be realized during stages 2 and 3.

Approach to Implementation
The seven rules are named and explained in this toolkit inspired by Dr. Mark F. Fischer in his book, Making Pastoral Councils Pastoral (used with permission).   Dr. Fischer is an expert in the area of Parish Pastoral Councils, having written several previous books, many articles and hosts the website,

It is most helpful if Parish Pastoral Councils provided their own practical examples or even real local scenarios – “what ifs” – that focus on each of the seven rules.

Roles and Responsibilities
These rules act like a rudder of the ship, the pastoral plan.  The pastor with his executive committee are the most likely to take the leadership role in directing the pastoral plan.  The seven rules would be most helpful to them, and in turn, could be used with the Council as a way to check for thorough construction and to maximize the success of the plan during its first stage.

Anyone on the pastoral council could provide a short session for presentation using either the power point (8 slides) or distributing the handout and using it for discussion.

Expected Resources
Both the power point and handout are attached to this toolkit.  For further information, contact the Pastoral Planning Office:  856-583-2843.

7 Rules Handout

Seven Rules for Pastoral Planning by Councils PowerPoint


(12) Leadership Skills that Work

Pastoral Planning Toolkit #12
Leadership Skills that Work

Leadership Skills are important to the effectiveness of any human group.  This is equally true for those in parish leadership positions.  Good leadership is crucial to moving the vision forward and collaborating with others in bringing it to strategic action.

Approach to Implementation
This Toolkit is a power point presentation of 39 slides that can be viewed individually or reflected on by a group of leaders who engage in a mutually enlightening dialogue.  It contains a variety of proven tips for leaders contributed by proven leaders in the fields, both business and church related.

Roles and Responsibilities
Anyone who administers a parish, a staff, program, or ministry group is responsible to bring leadership skills to the table as they envision success in their plans and endeavors to deliver the message of the gospel in this time and locale.

This power point and dialogue can be facilitated by anyone for whom the leadership skills are imperative.  Participants may be asked to view the online resource as a preparation for their dialogue gathering, or they may view it together and stop periodically to assess the skills cited and their applicability to the groups they lead.

Expected Resources
If a projector is not available the slides may be printed 3 per page and given to participants for notes and comments.  An evening is sufficient for viewing and group discussion.  Follow-up may be designed according to the direction that the group takes with the material as it relates personally or to the group.

Leadership Skills that Work PowerPoint

(11) How can the Pastoral Council Assess the Effectiveness of Its Pastoral Plan for the Six Pastoral Priorities?

How can the Pastoral Council Assess the Effectiveness of Its Pastoral Plan
for the Six Pastoral Priorities?

The purpose of this toolkit is to assist the Parish Pastoral Council in its own assessment of its pastoral planning.

Approach to Implementation
The council members are asked to complete the attached checklists and use their assessments to dialogue about their successes and challenges.  This can provide input for to their future plans.

Roles and Responsibilities
Pastor, Pastoral Council, and parish staff, participate in this activity.

The Pastoral Council will use the “Plan-Do-Check” method for their assessment. This demonstrates that a cyclical approach to the pastoral goal becomes ongoing. Once an objective is agreed upon, the “do” is initiated with all the surrounding activities, involvement of the “doers” etc., which are designed to make it happen. The “Check” phase looks at the progress and determines if objective has been met, or needs are carefully evaluated for effective completion. A revision of the plan may be called for, or a choice to move to the next related objective.

Expected Resources
The chairperson of the Pastoral Council facilitates the completion of the six checklists and the conversation around present effectiveness and future planning.

Assessing Pastoral Priorities in the Parish

Assessing Lay Ministry

Assessing Lifelong Faith Formation

Assessing Compassionate Outreach

Assessing Youth and Young Adults

Assessing Priestly Formation

Assessing Liturgy


(10) What is the Vision for the Future of the Church of South Jersey?

What is the Vision for the Future of the Church of South Jersey?

The purpose of this toolkit is set the diocesan Vision Statement in the minds and hearts of people around the diocese in order to lead them in its expressions of gospel activity.

Approach to Implementation
This half-hour session is based on a power point presentation of the Vision Statement.
The Power point is a discussion starter based on a line by line illustration of the text.
It opens the concepts to personal interpretation so that the meaning becomes accessible to a variety of groups in parishes.

Roles and Responsibilities
All leaders and parishioners, the baptized, are responsible to put flesh on the words of our vision. This is a simple way to foster an understanding of all that the Vision Statement says about the people of God in South Jersey.

Any parish leader may use this as a meeting starter or reflection at a parish gathering. It may be used as a starting activity for meetings, or as a formational tool for a variety of groups that meet in parishes.  It may provide the beginning of a parish planning session.

Expected Resources
If participants are given a copy of the power point presentation with 3 slides on a page and lines for writing beside each slide, they engage in a “breaking open” of each slide it may assist them in group brainstorming to make the vision their own.

It may lead to discussion on questions such as:
o How do we manifest this in our parish?
o Can we find ways to bring this alive?
o How can we dream about and project our future growth into vibrant parish life?

Additionally, there is a page found here – “Facilitator’s Comments” that may be used as a sample discussion starter for the group that is reflecting on the Vision Statement.

Facilitator’s Comments

Vision for the Future of the Church of South Jersey