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Continuing education: management skills for more effective ministry

How the ViCONT.-EDU-ICONllanova University Master of Science in Church Management Degree is building capacity for leadership

The popular myth says that leaders are born, not made. Not so, according to the Very Reverend John P. Bambrick, V.F., pastor of St. Aloysius Church in Jackson, NJ, and a graduate of Villanova School of Business’ Master of Science in Church Management (MSCM) program.

“The MSCM program quickly dispels this notion effectively making leaders for the Church of the 21st Century,” Bambrick says.

MSC573_20141101_0060For the past eight years, the Villanova School of Business has been offering a Master of Science in Church Management to church leaders, both clergy and laity. This unique program aims to build leadership capacity and practical management skills for the leaders of the church of the future. While classes might focus largely on practical subjects — such as pastoral planning, financial reporting and human resources — each course is imbued with the theology necessary for the proper stewardship of the church.

Charles Zech, PhD

Charles Zech, PhD

According to Charles Zech, PhD, professor of Economics — the program’s founder and faculty director — the MSCM program provides clergy with practical skills to lead the church, as well as engage the laity in a form of management that’s beneficial to church leaders. The goal, according to Zech, is to remove some of the temporal burden of the church from the clergy, while being mindful of their role as leaders in the church, and to empower the laity to take more of a leadership role within their congregations.

Zech also mentions that some people are surprised that a church management program would be housed in a business school; however, he asserts, it’s important that church leaders receive the practical management skills similar to an MBA program while grounding those skills in theology and ethics.

“In an MBA course, you learn about Wall Street,” Zech explains. “That’s not helpful to a church leader, but some of the practical lessons you would learn in a business program are important for church leaders to learn.”

Bartley-Hall-images_Bartley-Hall-Front-Pic_042915Of course, it can be difficult for busy church leaders to take time out of their schedules to attend classes. Villanova’s MSCM program helps accommodate this by offering its program almost completely online. With the exception of a one-week residency on the beautiful and scenic Villanova campus, the classes are taken online. Students are able to log in and communicate with their classmates during live, synchronous class sessions. However, they’re also able to access the class at their convenience to catch up on course materials, pre-recorded lectures and archived live sessions. The program is built — with flexibility in mind — for busy church leaders.

The first course focuses specifically on leadership for religious organizations, and is team-taught by professors in business, ethics and theology. It is designed to be clear from the very start that this unique program teaches practical business management skills with a strong foundation of theology and ethics.

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Other courses in the MSCM curriculum also aim to build capacity in church leaders. Throughout the program — which is typically completed in two years — students will study human resources, civil law, financial reporting, church technology, stewardship and development, and strategic planning.
“The MSCM program provides church workers with a ‘tool box’ filled with leadership techniques and tools to navigate the increasingly complex realities of emerging church work,” says Bambrick.

“The church is not a business,” Zech points out. “But it does have a responsibility to be a good steward of its resources.” The MSCM program hopes to develop church leaders of the future, grounded in theology and possessing the tools necessary to strengthen the church in a changing world.


This article is provided by the Center for Church Management & Business Ethics at the Villanova School of Business in Villanova, PA.

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