What they don’t teach in seminary—but should

Some wise insight from Dr. Lawrence DiPaolo, Jr. in the Homiletics and Pastoral Review: 

In my discussions with other seminary administrators, one area seems to be given perhaps less emphasis than it should, namely, the practical tools needed to administer a parish—running the gamut from the basics of small business accounting, to the less easily teachable skills of managing small teams.

In a very unscientific examination of my archdiocese’s directory of parishes, a recently ordained priest can expect to encounter a first parish assignment at a church with anywhere from 1500 to 10000 registered families.  Granted, the recently ordained will invariably not be put in charge of some of the largest parishes (and in Texas our large parishes are large indeed). However, they will be exposed to budgets, anywhere in the range of several hundred thousand up to several million dollars.  In many cases, a recently ordained priest may indeed be put in charge of a smaller parish, where he may find himself serving alone, without the benefit of an experienced priest, who can “show him the ropes” of parish accounting and administration.  For someone who has had little experience in the financial and personnel management necessary to run even a small parish, this can prove to be a daunting task.  The most spiritually, pastorally, and intellectually formed young man may find himself at sea when confronted with the demons of payroll accounting for a parish school, or when put in charge of a capital campaign to expand the physical plant of the church.  In the most extreme cases, a recently ordained priest might feel so uncomfortable with accounting procedures, and staff management, that he completely cedes that responsibility to others—essentially letting someone else be responsible for the financial stewardship and management of his parish, a dire outcome indeed.

In order to meet this lacuna in our curriculum, my seminary has begun the process of instituting a mandatory, two-hour, semester-long course, entitled: “Parish Administration and Management.”  As I believe that there is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” approach to seminary curricula, what I put forth below are a few guidelines that I believe may be helpful for other seminaries to consider as they plan their own programs—programs, which I believe, give our recently ordained young men at least a start at the background information they will need to thrive in their first parish assignment.

Read on for more.

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