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Why is a best-selling author sending 17,000 books to U.S. Catholic pastors?

Kzenon - Shutterstock

Caitlin Bootsma - published on 08/09/16

Catholic business expert puts parishes ahead of profit; hopes "The Better Pastor" improves organizational health of Catholic communities

A parish isn’t a business. And it’s not supposed to be. But ask most any pastor and you’ll see that successfully running a parish requires a bit of business acumen.

That’s what Patrick Lencioni, New York Times best-selling author of books such as Death By Meeting and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, realizes too, and he is hoping to help.

Lencioni, who is well known by business leaders around the country for his ability to help improve organizational health, is doing something unconventional. He is sending out 17,000 free copies of his new book — one for every pastor he can find an address for.

Why? As a faithful Catholic, he is hoping that he can put his expertise and guidance at the service of the Church.

The Better Pastor is not your average business book. In fact, it is structured like a fable … or a parable, if you like.

Like Lencioni’s other books, the fable is a fictional account that seeks to guide the reader into understanding organizational principles that are essential for running a healthy business or, in this case, a parish.

Lencioni wrote The Better Pastor because he realized that while priests receive formation in theology, philosophy and homiletics, few receive training in practical management. And while a parish is obviously much different than a business, it is still an organization with employees and goals.

Is there really a need for a book like The Better Pastor? Lencioni argues that there is, and that parishes that implement the principles he outlines will run more effectively. This will give pastors time and energy to devote to what really matters — celebrating Mass, hearing confessions, visiting families, and other pastoral duties.

He explains in the book’s Preface:

The story is presented within the context of a pastor’s most important role as a spiritual father and shepherd, but I don’t focus on a priests’ faith or spiritual depth here. That is above my pay grade, as they say. My goal is simply to help pastors thinks about their “jobs” a little differently. I’m not prescribing a step-by-step model for running a parish. That would be a much longer book, one that would be difficult to write given the vastly different kind of parishes out there. I’m simply trying to present a slightly new way of thinking.

The book is a short read—sit down with a cup of coffee or two and you’ll be done in an hour.

Perhaps not every aspect of the story will seem familiar, but no doubt one or two points will: the parish secretary who has been there forever but doesn’t seem to like her job or anyone she encounters; a volunteer choir that gives of their time generously, but struggles to lead the singing effectively; a pastor who is so busy trying to make decisions and run the parish that parishioners never have the opportunity to see him spend time in prayer.

Not every parish will struggle with all of these, but that’s not the point.

Lencioni’s point is that whatever organizational struggles the parish has—and every organization has them—a small investment in thinking through effective management can bring about great results.

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