Often called Pastoral Councils these days, the parish council is without question the single most important vehicle for lay empowerment in the church.
Bob attended a parish council workshop at Boston College on December 1 and was impressed with the presentation by Peg Bishop, OSF, and Thomas Sweetser, SJ. Their web site, www.pepparish.org, is a great resource for understanding the dynamics of creating an active, engaged council. A free newsletter aimed at sharing information about creating and maintaining parish councils is also available. Send an email to "email@example.com" in order to subscribe.
Another workbook worthy of note is that used by many parishes nationwide, including many in the Springfield diocese. Entitled "Revisioning the Parish Pastoral Council" and authored by Mary Ann Gubish and Susan Jenny, S.C., with Arlene McGannon, it is available from Amazon.com here.