There are several possible methods of selection. Regardless of which method is used, it is best to do so in a way that is transparent, and inclusive. The pastor always has the right to appoint additional members to insure the broadest representation. And the congregation should always be informed when openings arise or when there is a significant transition of leadership on the pastoral council. Some popular methods of membership selection include: discernment, random selection, nominations, and general election.
In Approach A - Planning Council, the pastor needs parishioners who are competent in strategic planning, facilitating change and familiar with the people and needs of the parish. It is fitting that some nominations come from the congregation to insure broad representation. Sometimes a nominating committee is formed to conduct a search for the needed expertise and experience from within the parish.
In Approach B - Coordinating Council: In this approach representatives are typically selected or nominated by the organizations from which they come. The final appointment is made by the pastor. With regard to the simple “community meeting” variation to this approach, all parishioners are welcome and no selection process is necessary.
In Approach C – Managing (projects) Council the needed expertise may vary depending on the project. In announcing the project under consideration, the pastor can include an invitation to those with particular interest and experience to contact him. The pastor is free to appoint members or accept nominations from the congregation and interview all qualified candidates.
There are several selection methods. Regardless of which method is used it should be carried out in a way that is transparent, inclusive and empowering. The pastor always has the right to appoint additional members to insure representation. And the congregation should always be informed when openings arise or there is a significant transition of leadership on the pastoral council. Some popular methods of membership selection include:
1. Discernment – In this method nominations are welcome. Candidates are provided background materials to read on the purpose and function of a pastoral council and they are invited to attend informational session(s) sponsored by current council members. Candidates are asked to submit a letter of interest that expresses the reason for their interest and highlights their relevant talents and expertise by a given deadline. Nominations are considered by the current council after a discussion of most needed qualifications. A secret ballot can taken after a time of prayer for the Spirit's guidance.
2. Random Selection – nominations are submitted and reviewed by the pastor. Names are drawn by lots in a prayerful context at a regularly scheduled meeting, regular weekend liturgy or another suitable parish event.
3. Nominations Committee - a sitting pastoral council advertises openings and interviews candidates in an effort to match abilities with council needs. Preferences are presented to the pastor for approval.
4. Open Election – Nominations are accepted and nominees are contacted to confirm interest. Interested nominees should be provided an opportunity to have their questions answered about the responsibilities associated with being a councilor. Those that remain interested are presented to the parish along with a brief resume detailing their abilities and their reason for interest. Election is held at weekend liturgies either after the homily or after Mass. Balloting should be confidential. Once ballots are counted, the pastor contacts selectees to congratulate them and confirm their willingness to serve. The pastor should contact the other candidates to announce the result and thank them for their willingness to serve.
See the "Planning Calendar" (link under Additional Resources" below) for timing of selection.
- Choose a method of selection that is most consistent with the purpose of the pastoral council.
- Appoint representatives to the pastoral council for groups underrepresented in parish leadership (e.g. youth, young adult, ethnic minorities).
- Limit eligibility for service to baptized Catholics who are registered and supportive of the parish; active in the practice of their faith; supportive of Church teaching; open to prayer, study and dialogue; and committed to the success of the parish. Other qualifications can include: working knowledge of the parish, possession of time and energy, ability to listen to people with diverse views, desire to grow in spirit, openness to study, reliability, willingness to empower others for action, and desire to work collaboratively.
- Specify a term of office for each council member (including appointees). Use a three-year term of service with only two years as a committee chair. Stagger replacement (one third of council members) each year to insure for continuity.
- The pastor makes the announcement of selection results to the congregation.
- Once a term is complete, a council member steps down for a full term before being re-nominated again. This allows for broad participation and allows for the leadership of all the baptized.