Business training FOR PASTORS IS GAINING GROUND
BY RAEANN SLAYBAUGH
“A church isn’t a business. But, running one does require some business management techniques.” So says Chuck Zech, director of the Center for Church Management and Business Ethics at Villanova University in Philadelphia. And he should know: The church management master’s degree program he heads up is part of an Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business-accredited (AACSB) business school. “We approach finance courses with a focus on the congregation, not Wall Street,” Zech explains. With pastors’ busy schedules in mind, all church management master’s degree courses are offered online. For non-master’s students, the university offers 12 different web seminars on 12 different business management functionalities, as well as two- and three-day targeted seminars. “Although these are primarily for pastors who don’t hold business management degrees, our participants often end up enrolling in the master’s program,” he says. Regardless of the training selected, all church management courses at the university have one thing in common — their application. “We ask all participants to apply the principles they gain to their own ministries by way of research papers,” says Zech. Another professional who knows firsthand how (and why) business management training for pastors has evolved is Julianne Cenac, associate vice president for professional and continuing education at Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA. Regent’s Pastoral Leadership Institute (PLI) is “a big hit, and highly requested,” according to Cenac. “Its core curriculum is
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focused on individual leadership. It also builds conflict resolutions skills and team-building aptitudes.” In this program, a personal leadership assessment is conducted for each participant. Three or four additional sessions are then customized for that pastor, based on the results. Better yet, all training can be done online, on campus, or both. “For example, the opening PLI session could be attended onsite, but other courses may be live-streamed,” Cenac explains.
The need is real Cenac and Zech agree that pastors have shown increased interest in business management training in recent years, and for good reason. “The pastors who make it a big part of their training — personally and for their teams — are seeing church growth as a result,” Cenac says. “Plus, they tend to be better organized and have better thought-out strategies.” As an added incentive, business management training gives pastors the freedom to be vulnerable, which is a rare (and often welcome) opportunity. “When they opt in for skills development, pastors are really submitting themselves,” Cenac explains. “It’s a relief for many of them. In their roles, they’re so often called upon to ‘know everything.’” For his part, Zech says the unstable economy has spotlighted a need for better business management practices among pastors. “When churches are flush with funds, they don’t think about it as much,” he says. “But, in the absence of those funds,