Essential elements of church management should be based upon or spring forth from the essential elements or characteristics of the early Christian church community:
- 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.
The church is about community. Paul Bernier points out in his book Ministry in the Church: “Catholicism has always tended to see community as the central means whereby God’s grace and life is mediated … if ministry has any purpose at all, it is directed to nurturing the life and activity of the community — the church — as a whole.”
Two essential elements of church management are service and accountability.
In most profit and non-profit corporations, management is oriented to the mission or purpose of the business. In for-profit businesses, management is structured and oriented to make a profit for owners and other shareholders. In the case of the not-for-profit Catholic Church, management is (or should be) oriented to serving the community.
“The church is not motivated by earthly ambition but is interested in one thing only — to carry on the work of Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who came into the world to bear witness to the truth, to save and not to judge, to serve and not to be served.” (The Constitution On The Church In The Modern World, Gaudium et spes, Second Vatican Council)
Bernard P. Prusak in his book The Church Unfinisheddraws our attention to John 13:1-15: “The message is clear. For Jesus’ community and its leaders, service … is primary.”
The fact that the church is not motivated by profit does not mean that the church should not be managed to make a profit (or ‘surplus’ as it should be called in the case of a legal not-for-profit organization). Managing any business for profit or surplus helps ensure that the business will at least not be operating at a loss.
It’s essential that church management be accountable. And while service-oriented management practices may change from parish to parish, financial management and accountability should not. For this reason, the ADNY requires that all churches in its diocese use the cloud-based, financial accounting software ParishSOFT/Connect Now. This enables the Archdiocese to monitor the income, fund allocations, investments and expenses of each church online.
There are, of course, other kinds of accountability and measures of accountability, such as: how well the church is meeting the spiritual needs of the community; how many children are enrolled in religious education classes: and to how many homebound parishioners is the Eucharist served.
In the new organizational model of the Catholic Church, a professional church manager works along side the pastor. The church manager is responsible and accountable for overseeing the financial management of the church along with other administrative duties such as office management, staff management, and building operations and maintenance management.
The church manager cannot be entirely accountable for the growth and ultimate success of the church. The growth of the church is measured in terms of numbers of new parishioners, new programs and new weekly donations. The pastor, not the church manager, primarily influences these indicators. It’s the pastor that people come to be ministered to, not the church manager. This places the greatest accountability — for the survival and growth of the church — largely on the shoulders of the pastor.
Can there be a positive synergistic relationship between competent financial administration and the pastoral goals of a faith community. Yes, when the following occurs:
- there is agreement between pastors and managers about the goals of the church and the resources required and available to reach those goals; and
- there is transparency and regular communication between all parties.
In this manner, church financial managers are not pitted against those in the church charged with administering its pastoral goals and resources.
As the closing of so many Catholic churches in the recent past decade bears witness to, competent church financial administration is vital to achieving church goals. While the closures weren’t all the result of bad financial management, many can be attributed to fraud, lack of financial planning and oversight, and spending on large capital projects. As Cardinal Dolan said, “For too long, we have been in the business of maintaining buildings and structures that were established in the 19th and early 20th centuries to meet the needs of the people of that time, but which are not necessary to meet the needs of the church and its people as it exists today.”