Essential Elements of Church Management

Church managers should be guided by the example set by Christ. Our job description won’t include pastoral duties, but we are obliged to support the pastoral work of the church. Both the pastoral and administrative work of the church should be grounded in the following elements or characteristics of the original community coming from Christ:

  • hospitality, especially to the poor, the outcast, the sinners;
  • spiritual nourishment, i.e., eating/breaking of the bread together;
  • compassion, mercy and forgiveness;
  • inclusiveness; and
  • service unto others.

Essential Elements of Church Management

Why an Employee Handbook?

In today’s increasingly litigious society, not even the church is immune from the predatory practices of those looking to use or beat the system for personal gain.

If an act for which someone is fired [say, for example, using a church computer to surf porn sites] is not covered in the church Employee Handbook, the former employee may claim they didn’t know the particular act was grounds for termination and sue the church.

So, when it comes to Employee Handbooks, the more comprehensive, the better.

Feel free to use the Employee Handbook (linked to below) I produced for my church as a starting point. You may want to add other sections/topics specific to your parish and to your state employment laws.

You’ll also want to substitute your compensation, benefits, time off and leaves of absence  particulars.

Most important, have your first and final drafts reviewed by an employment lawyer.

Employee Handbook

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Parish Planning Playbook

Can you answer these questions?

If your Director of Religious Education suddenly took ill and was unable to perform his/her duties, would a successor immediately be able to pick up where his/her predecessor left off?

If your HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system shut down and was beyond repair, would you have the money in your budget to replace it?

Do you have a protocol in place for handling the media should they come knocking on your door?

Are you aware that your parish demographics are changing and, if so, have you figured out how you’re going to meet the spiritual and service needs of the new people? 

If you’re struggling with these questions, you and your parish will benefit greatly from a Pastoral Planning Playbook.

What is Pastoral Planning? 

Pastoral planning is the process of praying and thinking together about actions of the Church in a particular place and time.

Breaking it down …

  • process = a proven successful methodology, set of activities 
  • praying = discernment
  • thinking = strategic planning
  • together = a collaborative effort
  • particular place and time = here and now!

The result of pastoral planning is you and your colleagues will know where your church is now, where you want it to be, and how you are going to get it there.

You’re welcome to use or lift from the Parish Planning Playbook I wrote (link below). It’s written and designed to walk you, step-by-step, through the pastoral planning process. It also provides you with tools that will help you identify, evaluate and execute your goals.

Parish Planning Playbook

Signs that you need pastoral planning:

  • Declining Sunday attendance.
  • Uneven commitment to the church.
  • Uncertainty that RCIA and CCD are doing the job.
  • Young people disengaging from the church.
  • Donations/contributions going down.
  • Inability to keep up with changing community demographics.

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It Takes Two!

As I mentioned in an earlier post (“Identity Crises”), the Church or Parish Business Manager (PBM) is not the church bookkeeper, or the church administrative assistant, or the church office manager. Here is the job description of the Church or Parish Business Manager (aka, business manager) as developed by the ADNY:

Job Description

The Parish Business Manager is a professional administrator supporting the pastor in the stewardship of the temporal activities of the parish. The business manager oversees the following specific areas of parish operations:

  • Finance
  • Human Resources
  • Property Management
  • Office Management

The business manager should be flexible in his/her approach to job responsibilities to assist the pastor in the management of the parish.

By following the financial policies and procedures, the business manager function ensures that the parish operates in compliance archdiocesan practices.

The business manager maximizes his or her effectiveness by accessing and utilizing archdiocesan support resources (i.e. associate director of finance, parish training director, chancery staff, etc.).

Specific Areas of Emphasis


  • Implements, maintains and ensures compliance with the archdiocesan Policy and Procedures manual.
  • Establishes, maintains and monitors an internal control system.
  • Documents and tracks revenue in accordance with Archdiocesan policies.
  • Prepares annual financial report for parishioners and submits a copy to the archdiocese.

Human Resources

  • Developments, implements and maintains a Personnel Policy.
  • Develops job descriptions, salary scales etc. for all parish employees.
  • Reviews the job descriptions and corresponding compensation of all positions ensuring that the duties and responsibilities are necessary in the execution of the parish mission.
  • Reviews all compensation packages to ensure that remuneration is within archdiocesan guidelines.

Property Maintenance

  • Develops a Business Plan for the effective management of all parish property.
  • Develops a Cost/Benefit Analysis to ensure that rental income adequately compensates for the cost of the facilities.
  • Ensures a regular schedule for maintenance for all buildings and grounds.
  • Maintains lease agreements, schedule of building use and compliance with diocesan policies to include but not limited to insurance compliance.
  • Works with [ADNY approved GM and vendors] for major maintenance projects.
  • Reviews and establishes service contracts.

Office Management

  • Administers all third party relationships of the parish including vendors.
  • Interfaces with the associate director and departments with the Catholic Center to ensure that the parish receives the professional support it needs.
  • Manages technology used by the parish.

PASTORS: Imagine being relieved of all of the above day-to-day responsibilities! Better yet, with you focused on pastoral duties and the PBM focused on running the church, imagine how successful you’ll be.

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Identity Crises

June 8, 2018. I typed “church manager” in the Indeed job finding website “What” box and no such position, title or job listing came up. Refining the search, I entered my zip code; a listing for “church office manager” appeared,  hardly the position I trained for or was looking for.

I entered “church manager” into the Monster job hunting website search box. Below is a snapshot of the first page of listings:

At the top of the Monster page (exhibit above), you’ll notice it reads “church manager Jobs (96 Jobs Found).” In fact, there we no “church manager” job postings …  just postings that contained both words “manager” and “Church” (as in Church Drive-Westover, WV).

What about LinkedIn?  June 8th, 2018, I searched for “church manager” and these were the first few listings:

The first “Business Manager” listing (in the exhibit above) fits the duties/role of a “church manager” but the listing may not have popped up at all if the word “Church” wasn’t elsewhere in the name of the organization or in the job description. The same [find these two words] algorithm, however, generated over a thousand listings that have nothing to do with church management.

Just to make sure I was entering job titles correctly, I entered “product manager’ in the LinkedIn search field. The result (exhibit below) was as I expected:

So, either “church manager” is a brand new job within the church and there aren’t many positions open or the same job goes by another title, like “parish manager” for example.

I entered “parish manager” in the LinkedIn search box:

Of course, if churches that post a “church manager” job opening don’t use “church manager” as the job title, “church manager” won’t appear anywhere.

I am told by people who should know that many churches have “parish managers.” If so, I wonder why the related – and very excellent – Villanova Business course is a Master’s in Church Management and not a Master’s in Parish Management?

Within the Church, administrative assistants, bookkeepers, office managers and others are sometimes referred to as “parish managers,” but to call these workers parish or church managers is simply not accurate. Actual church or parish managers are: the number two people in the church under the ordained/pastoral leader of the church;  oversee all finance, HR, real estate and other business and operational activities; and, manage all lay staff members and volunteers (see “It Takes Two!” post).

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