Concise Guide

A Concise Guide to Catholic Church Management

Compiled by the Vincentian Center for Church and Society, in the Concise Guide Series, edited by Kevin E. McKenna (Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2010). 269 pages, $18.95

Reviewed by Mark F. Fischer

In the spring semester of 2011, Vincentian Father Jack Cawley and I team-taught a course called Parish Administration to students at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California. We adopted The Concise Guide to Catholic Church Management as a course textbook.

A Concise Guide to Catholic Church Management

This book from the Vincentian Center for Church and Society offers 12 chapters on parish management.

In previous semesters, I had used a different text, The Parish Management Handbook (Twenty-Third Publications/Bayard, 2003), a book to which I had contributed two chapters. After adopting the Concise Guide, I was able to compare the texts. It was interesting to discover that the two books, each of which treats the topic of Catholic Church “management,” have much in common — but also differ considerably.

The 2003 Handbook, for instance, has chapters of the theology of management, on pastoral councils, on group decision-making, on conflict resolution, and on parish information systements — none of which the Concise Guide treats.

The Concise Guide, on the other hand, has chapters on time management, on preparation for meetings, on the quality of parish service, on parishioners as the “market” for the parish’s spiritual “product,” on parishioner satisfaction, and on performance evaluation — none of which the Handbook covers. The fact that two books in the same field could approach it from such different viewpoints suggests that the field lacks consensus.

In general, one can say that the Concise Guide excels in applying management theory (especially marketing) to the parish. The Handbook, by contrast, pays more attention to theology, consultation, and the specific role of the parish priest as a leader.

Both books dedicate chapters to leadership, human resources, civil law, and stewardship. The differences within these key chapters reveal the character of the two books, as will be seen in the more detailed reviews linked below.

The chapters in the Concise Guide are by five different authors, each associated with the Vincentian Center for Church and Society at St John’s University in New York. The Vincentian Center is an initiative of the Congregation of the Mission, the name of the religious order founded by St. Vincent de Paul.

The following reviews of the twelve chapters are organized according to the Concise Guide’s five different authors. For more information about the chapters, click on the author’s name below.


  1. Leadership, by Margaret John Kelly, D.C., Ph.D.
  2. Fundamental of Management, by Brenda Massetti, Ph.D.
  3. Time Management, by Larry W. Boone, Ph.D.
  4. Communication: The Oxygen of an Organization, by Margaret John Kelly, D.C., Ph.D.
  5. Meetings, by Margaret John Kelly, D.C., Ph.D.
  6. The Parish and Service Quality, by Larry W. Boone, Ph.D.
  7. Knowing Whom the Parish Serves: Segmenting the Market, by Larry W. Boone, Ph.D.
  8. Assessing Parishioner Satisfaction, by Larry W. Boone, Ph.D.
  9. Evaluating Parish Performance, by Larry W. Boone, Ph.D.
  10. Human Resources: The Spine of an Organization, by Mary Ann Dantuono, J.D.
  11. Legal Principles and Pastoral Issues, by Mary Ann Dantuono, J.D.
  12. Stewardship: Financial Control and Accountability, by James W. Thompson, Ed.D., CPA

To read other online book reviews, click here.

One Response to Concise Guide

  1. Thanks for the Review

    As the editor of A Concise Guide to Catholic Church Management, I appreciate the attention you give the book. This book was conceived of as a partner to our earlier book in the Concise Guide series, A Concise Guide to Pastoral Planning by Dr. William L. Pickett. The planning book addresses long-range or strategic planning at parish, regional, and diocesan levels, whereas the management book that you review here tackles day-to-day management or operational planning. Some of the topics you rightly point out as missing from A Concise Guide to Catholic Church Management are treated in the Pickett book and so not duplicated in the former. For example, parish councils, parish communication/ information sharing systems, and group process/ decision making.

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