Lessons From: A Pastor’s Toolbox

Holmes, Paul A. (ed.). A Pastor’s Toolbox: Management Skills for Parish Leadership. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2014.

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Several authors from the Catholic church contributed to this resource book for pastors. The purpose of the book was to provide Catholic priests the tools they need to manage their parish. Regardless of the denomination, there is much that can be gleaned from this helpful book as it relates to church administration, effective leadership, and efficient ministry. No part of this book sets it apart as a strictly-Catholic book. To me, it’s usable for any church in any denomination.

One author, Robert Stagg writes in chapter 2, “When it comes to being an effective pastoral leader, I believe there are three overarching responsibilities we all have: One is to be keeper of the vision; two, selecting a staff; and three, assessing the needs of the parish.” (Toolbox, 22) An effective leader must be able to set and implement the vision of the organization, determine the staff needed to reach that vision, and regularly evaluate if the organization is on target for the fulfilling the vision.

From another perspective, Maria Mendoza writes, “Remember, administration is not about winning a prize for having the best practices and procedures in place. It’s about supporting the mission of the parish. That’s what your overriding goal should be.” (Toolbox, 42) While Mendoza’s insights were helpful, I did find it interesting that out of all that she could have addressed in her chapter, she chose to focus on financial accountability in great length. She could have said so much more as it relates to how effective administration supports the mission of the church.

This statement from the document “Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord,” in which the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is refreshing, “Best organizational practices are consistent with Gospel values.” (Toolbox, 50) When administration is done well, it does not stifle the ministry, but actually upholds the values of the Gospel.

In chapter 5, we find ample discussion about evaluation and feedback as it relates to personnel. (See also p. 171 of Toolbox) See my post about evaluation and its importance for effective leadership.

Zech writes in chapter 7, “Let’s start by agreeing to a basic premise: the church is not a business. We do, however, have a stewardship responsibility to use our resources as effectively as we possibly can to carry out God’s work on earth.” (Toolbox, 73) He is correct. The Church is not a business, however, we cannot discount that a part of the local church operates like a business. And, if that part of the local church that operates like a business is not done well, then chances are that they effectiveness of the ministry will decline.

While chapter 7 focuses on best practices for church finances, chapter 8 looks at the importance of fundraising. Robinson writes, “The activity of fundraising is not a distraction or a contradiction to ministry but should be seen as an effective and profound ministry in itself.” (Toolbox, 86-87) As Henri Nouwen stated in his book, A Spirituality of Fundraising, “From beginning to end, fundraising as ministry is grounded in prayer, and undertaken in gratitude.” (Toolbox, 92) The criticism I would make about this statement is that generosity is not only about fundraising, but also must be rooted in making disciples. When we are making disciples in the church, then generosity becomes more and more a way of life for us.

One last chapter in this book that is relevant to my project is chapter 9, “Pastoring and Administering a Mission-Driven Church.” This chapter reminds us that good administration supports, enhances, makes more effective the mission of the church. Without good administration, the mission is nearly impossible to accomplish.

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