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Parish Council Priorities “Boxes” Exercise

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

Guidelines for the “Boxes” Exercise


People assimilate new information more quickly if they can visualize it. They are also better at manipulating it in terms of analyzing, comparing, prioritizing and choosing when they easily can view it before them in bite- sized chunks.

When considering all the activities of a parish or of the parish council itself, how is a priest or parish council to prioritize them? This exercise, designed to be conducted with the priest and the parish council, offers a simple way to begin to do this. It will not be completely applicable to any one parish but does identify common parish or parish council activities or perhaps desirable activities.

The Exercise

Be sure to budget plenty of time for this. Important information will be gathered. Conversation often becomes quite animated as people defend their points of view in a good way or want to know why someone else has ranked one activity higher than another one.

In light of this, ensure that there is an excellent note taker present.

The priest, parish council chair and chairs of various committees should be listening very carefully.

The priest may wish to research the Stewardship Advocates Library to be sure they understand any unfamiliar terminology and so will be in a position to help others understand it.

Distribute the sheets with the boxes on them. Explain that this is open discussion. There are no correct or incorrect responses. It is not necessary to convince anyone else of your point of view though you may defend your own position valiantly.

Use pencils because people may change their first responses, have people prioritize the activities described in the boxes 1-15 and write in any other activity that comes to mind in the blank square and rate that one as well.

After discussion of the various priorities remind everyone to put their final numbers down on the items and turn the sheets in.

The Follow Up

The priest or a designated person should catalog the responses by adding up the numbers each item received. This information should be added to the minutes of the meeting. Remember, the lower the number the higher the priority (#1 is their highest priority, so 7 1’s, 3 2’s and 4 3’s = 25 for that item). If it was the lowest added amount then it is the highest priority for those gathered, though not necessarily everyone’s highest priority.

Following the event, as soon as possible after the meeting within a few days, the priest, parish council chairperson and any relevant committee chairs should meet and discuss the conversation using the notes and the collected responses.

The findings should be reported to everyone who was there and those who were not able to be there.

Though the conversation was valuable in and of itself, the real benefit will be acting on the findings. Without meaningful action the exercise largely evaporates into fantasy.

You may wish to establish a task force to oversee implementation of the top five, or parcel these out to relevant departments, committees or organization in the parish. Within one month, they should bring an implementation plan to the parish council for review.

After parish council approval, items should be attacked one by one with ongoing oversight and monitoring to ensure implementation.


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