WASHINGTON (CNS) — Three U.S. Catholic universities are working to give church leaders the management and administration skills needed to complement their training in ministry.
Villanova University in Pennsylvania ran a five-day Church Management Institute in July for 33 church leaders from across the country.
Among participants were diocesan vicars general and chancellors, religious order superiors and a variety of directors of personnel, finances or development in dioceses, parishes and religious orders.
Boston College this summer announced that in September it will introduce a graduate program in church management.
The University of Notre Dame in Indiana, whose Mendoza College of Business has had a master’s program in administration for leaders of religious orders since 1954, retooled the program last year and renamed the degree master of nonprofit administration.
“Recent years have shown there is a need for training in church management, especially in Catholic parishes, schools and dioceses,” said Jesuit Father William P. Leahy, president of Boston College.
“What we’re really about is stewardship,” said Charles E. Zech, an economics professor at Villanova’s business school and director of its Center for the Study of Church Management, who organized the summer institute.
Thomas Harvey, director of the Notre Dame program, said that program is open to the broader nonprofit sector, but most of the students are in leadership positions in the church or in church-related institutions. The program has a $5 million endowment to allow it to keep tuition costs low so that church and other nonprofit employees can afford it, he said.
The Boston College program will offer two options: a master’s degree in pastoral ministry with a concentration in church management, or a double master’s degree, in business administration and in pastoral ministry.
Theology professor Thomas Groome, director of Boston College’s Institute for Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry, said he got the idea for a joint degree program with the university’s Carroll School of Management when he attended a conference in Philadelphia last year at which Catholic business and church leaders discussed ways to improve church practices in administration, finances and personnel matters.
“It was apparent that the business leaders did not fully understand the language of the church, and the church leaders, including the bishops present, did not fully understand the language of business,” he said. “If we are to move beyond crisis to renewal, then it is essential that we train managers who are competent in both the theology and mission of the church and in the best practices of management.”
The first option, getting a master of arts in pastoral ministry with a concentration in church management, will involve at least four courses in the management school and a field placement in a church management role. It will take two years to complete full time, longer on a part-time basis.
The dual-degree program will take three years full time or longer part time and is intended for laity, priests or religious working in significant roles in church management.
Harvey said Notre Dame’s original graduate program in management began in 1954 when Holy Cross Father Theodore M. Hesburgh, then Notre Dame president, started it as “a major commitment to help religious orders run their apostolates,” such as colleges, hospitals, schools and child welfare institutions. The original master of business administration program was open only to vowed religious.
When Notre Dame inaugurated a regular master’s degree program in business administration in 1967, the name of the specialized program for religious was changed to master of science in administration, he said. In the 1980s it was opened to laity and people of other faiths as well, since they were moving increasingly into executive positions in institutions sponsored by religious orders, but its focus remained on the management of the institutions of religious orders.
As a result of a study conducted in 2001, the university decided to revamp the program "to specialize in the unique business needs of all nonprofits, whether under Catholic, secular or other religious sponsorship, Harvey said.
The redesign of the program was completed in 2005 and Harvey, who was president of Catholic Charities USA from 1982 to 1992, was called in to direct it. He said the program requires only 10 weeks on campus over two to four summers; students can take up to three elective courses in reputable graduate programs in their own localities and can fulfill other course requirements through interactive technologies.
He said Mendoza’s dean, Carolyn Y. Woo, also “made a gift” to provide free training in nonprofit administration over the next several years to 100 Catholic Charities personnel through six-day summer institutes, broken into two three-day blocks. “We had 13 last year and 10 this year,” he said.
Zech, who specializes in the economics of religious organizations, said that often in church organizations “folks rise through the ranks” to leadership positions. Even though they may have a thorough knowledge of the parish or diocese or agency or institution they work for, “their expertise does not include management skills,” he said.
He said the summer institute he ran focused on organizational ethics, planning, program assessment, human resources and personnel evaluation, development and fundraising, financial reporting, dealing with advisory bodies, and how to bridge church law and civil law.
Students came from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, and in their interaction “they learned a lot from each other,” he said.
Zech said he has proposed initiating a graduate degree program in church management at Villanova, but it is still in the discussion stage.