T-school goes to B-school

The Wall Street Journal does an interview at Villanova about its masters in church management program. A snip:

Beyond the need for better financial controls, what other management issues should get more attention from church leaders?

Performance management is definitely an important but neglected area. That’s partly because it’s a very touchy issue. Who is going to appraise the performance of a priest or a church worker who is also a member of the parish? There’s great reluctance on the part of the clergy to be appraiser or appraisee. You have to view the parish as a family business and understand that it’s like evaluating members of your family.

How will Villanova’s church management degree be different from what other universities have started offering?

Some schools combine standard business classes with courses from theology and other departments. But if you’re taking a regular M.B.A. finance class, you’re learning about Wall Street and other things that aren’t really relevant. What we’re doing is creating courses specifically for this degree program, so there are both business and faith-based elements in every class. For example, the law course will deal with civil law relative to church law so students understand the possible conflicts. The accounting course will cover internal financial-control issues for churches. And the human-resource management class will include discussion of volunteers, a big part of the labor force for parishes.

Have you encountered any resistance from church officials?

Yes, some people say a church is not a business. But I point out that we still have to be good stewards of our resources — our financial and human capital — to carry out God’s work on Earth. When you use management terms with bishops, they often get turned off. But when you use the word stewardship, it has more impact because it’s in the Bible. Jesus talked about the importance of our being good stewards who take care of our talents and other gifts.

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