Leaders share insight about obtaining management education while serving at their churches.
By Raj Dayal
It’s important for today’s church leaders and administrators to have and develop strong business management acumen in addition to a solid theological foundation in order to manage more effectively. In recent years this necessity has become increasingly evident in light of sexual abuse scandals and countless financial misappropriations. To meet this need for additional training, several universities began offering continuing education programs, including the Master of Science in Church Management (MSCM) program at Villanova University, Villanova, PA and Biola University’s Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership (MOL) in La Mirada, CA. (See Church Executive, March 2008.)
With an initial class of 27 students that began this May, Villanova’s MSCM program — which is almost completely online — developed by the Center for the Study of Church Management is a pioneering program in the field. Victoria Bailey, who does strategic planning for churches, including her own, First Baptist Church of Vienna, VA, is among the inaugural class. “I am currently facilitating a seven-year strategic planning project. It did not take me long to realize that church management is a lot different from managing a business for profit,” Bailey says.
Bailey searched for educational programs that would help her meet her objectives but only found one or two day seminar options, and she felt that her MBA would not be enough. “After searching for church management courses that would provide me with a broad scope of topics, I selected Villanova’s program because there curriculum was in line with my needs,” Bailey says.
Equipped to lead
The MOL program at Biola has been offering classes since 1988, in several modular options. Nicole Maiocco, director of local outreach, Mariners Church, Irvine, CA, enrolled in the MOL program because she felt it would equip her to be a better leader. Maiocco graduated in 2006. “I learned so much from the program; I learned so much about myself as a leader,” Maiocco says.
The MOL includes a Leadership Challenge as part of the program which is an intensive teamwork exercise. “The Leadership Challenge was eye-opening. It put me in a situation that I was uncomfortable with and made me push myself to get through it,” Maiocco says. “It reconfirmed the value and importance of teamwork. Throughout the program, I was forced to deal with my strengths and weaknesses and to come to terms with how they affect my role as a leader.”
Sheila Anderson, chief business officer for Reid Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church in Glenn Dale, MD, found out about the MSCM program after the application deadline had passed. However, she persisted to the director, Charles Zech, that the curriculum was exactly what she was looking for. Anderson is also currently enrolled in a graduate certificate program in management at The Carey School of Business at Johns Hopkins University. Before the MSCM she was constantly trying to tailor the program to fit what she does for her calling in church business administration.
“As a former civil litigator, I have a particular interest in risk management strategies for the church,” Anderson says. “I’m presently laying the foundation for future implementation of innovative strategies/alternative approaches to church business operations.”
Many backgrounds are represented
The aspect of the program that has been the most energizing for Anderson has to do with the people who are enrolled. “Currently, we represent several denominations, with diverse backgrounds and ethnic groups. I would never have imagined that 27 adult students could meet via distance learning and immediately become such a loving family,” Anderson says.
Jen Hurst, coordinator of small groups, Bel Air Presbyterian Church, Los Angeles, CA, graduated from the MOL program in 2005. “Understanding different styles of leadership has been immensely helpful to me as I oversee small group leaders, coaches and project-based teams which have planned and executed large-scale events,” says Hurst. Bel Air organized the 34 Degrees Small Group Conference in partnership with Mosaic Church in November 2007.
“I have also found that my understanding of organizational development has been key in the continuing effort to change the culture of BAPC from being a church with small groups, to being a church of small groups,” Hurst says.
While continuing education for church leaders is a valuable tool for leaders and administrators, this type of intensive training requires students to take time away from their families and the responsibilities they have at their respective churches.
When Bailey began the program at Villanova, there was an adjustment period. “At first it was difficult because it has been awhile since I was in school. But when I reorganized my time and recognized the value of what I am learning for the things I am currently involved in, this became an extension of my duties,” Bailey says. She suggests that if people commit to a program of continuing education as an extension of their work, it becomes easier to manage responsibilities over time.
Maiocco’s experience in the MOL program also proved demanding, but ultimately beneficial. “It was challenging at times, but having class one night a week didn’t feel overwhelming,” Maiocco says. She was able to take a few classes on Saturday, which provided added flexibility.
“I feel very fortunate that Mariner’s Church was very supportive of my attendance in the program,” Maiocco says. “Because the material we were studying was so relevant to and even entwined with my job, I was able to complete some of my coursework while at work.”
For those seeking to further their management skills, there are now programs that include focused curriculums. Because of the often overwhelming responsibilities required of church lead ers the new church management programs offer a variety of options. The potential impact on local churches and communities by leaders that receive intentional church business management training is immeasurable.
“At a minimum, the contribution to your local church will be immediately meaningful; at best, the reward of making lasting contributions to the business operations of your church is invaluable,” Anderson says. “Being equipped with the resources and networking strength of those with similar vocations and areas of expertise will enable us to keep the focus on ministry, outreach and leading souls to Christ.”