Recommended Books for Pastoral Administration Courses

I know first-hand that many professors/instructors of Pastoral Administration (or similarly titled) courses in seminaries, lay formation programs, and graduate schools struggle to find quality, relevant texts for teaching this type of course.

On one hand, there’s plenty of literature on management, administration, and leadership in general–and a good amount that specifically applies to the nonprofit sector. But, parishes just seem different. So there can be a hesitancy to try to mold materials designed for a different setting into a Catholic pastoral administration course.


But, search no more. There are some books that work well on a syllabus and in various combinations could provide an outstanding base for a course. First up, The Parish Management Handbook, ed. Charles Zech (Twenty-Third Publications, 2003).

Chapter 1 provides an excellent integration of human resource management, information, consultation, conflict management, stewardship, leadership, decision-making, and liability. This chapter shows students (who might think of administration as an “extra” bonus, instead a fundamental skill of a minister) how important good management is and how it impacts theology made present in a parish or other ministry setting.

The entire book is of high quality and relevant updated material. I’d especially recommend Chapter 7 “Developing Stewards in a Parish Setting” and Chapter 9 “Parish Information Systems — Resources for Ministry” as top chapters to be included on any course syllabus.

My next recommendation moves from concepts and theory to action-oriented techniques. Though Tools for Rebuilding by Fr. Michael White and Tom Corcoran (Ave Maria Press, 2013) is a follow-up to Rebuilt (2012), the book can stand-alone as a primer on some basic managerial concerns. I’d recommend using:

  • all of the Strategic Tools (p. 11-34)
  • Building Tools #8-11 (p. 41-54)
  • all of the Office Tools (p. 63-72)
  • all of the Communication Tools (p. 73-88)
  • all of the Money Tools (p. 189-212)
  • all of the Staff Tools (p. 213-230)
  • all of the Critical Tools (p. 231-254)
  • and, all of the Fun Tools (255-268)

Then, depending on the duration and scope of your course, if more material was needed, I’d add in A Concise Guide to Catholic Church Management from the Vincentian Center for Church and Society (Ave Maria Press, 2010).

Now, despite being more recent that Zech’s work, this book feels a bit more dated and more maintenance-focused (rather than evangelization oriented).

Chapters 1-4 and 7-8 are too basic and bland to provide that much value to a course, but Chapters 6 (The Parish and Service Quality), 9 (Evaluating Parish Performance), 10 (Human Resources), 11 (Legal Principles), and 12 (Stewardship) are all value-added.

The Vincentian Center also offers a similar Concise Guide to Pastoral Planning. This book is not very tied into the need for parishes to be centers of evangelization, but it does provide good templates for pastoral planning (especially in Part 3). I wouldn’t really recommend this book, unless your course specifically needed an in-depth discussion of pastoral planning models.

In conclusion, Tools for Rebuilding and the Parish Management Handbook are the two texts I’d most want to see in a pastoral administration course.

Do you have any recommendations for pastoral administration courses or training? Please share in the comments!

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