[By: Ed Thomas]
Villanova University's new graduate-level church management program, offered online beginning this summer, is designed to bring standard knowledge of financial controls and reporting, and personnel management, up to speed enough to help avoid any more moral scandals or embezzlement situations in religious institutional settings.
It is one of three new programs started within the last year at major Catholic universities, according to Charles Zech, director of Villanova's Center for the Study of Church Management -- which researches church management issues and looks for policy solutions. "With all the problems that [Catholic and Protestant] churches have had in recent years ... with managerial issues, we felt the time was right for the business school to get involved and do something to address those issues," says Zech.
"All churches face the same sort of problems [with such things as] financial control ... evaluating their personnel ... reconciling church law with civil law ...," he adds. "So all the issues we talk about in our program are germane to all churches in the United States today."
With the program specifically tailored for church management situations and legal issues, Zech feels it will be more help to clergy and lay volunteers in churches than just a standard business program with a broader range of issues -- and more useful in identifying red flags that might have headed off disasters like the priest sex abuse scandal and several high-profile embezzlement cases.
"The best thing that we can do for someone is give them the tools to be good managers," Zech shares, "and it really, then, protects them from being accused of something -- because if they know what they're doing, they're less likely to get themselves in trouble and less likely to have folks accusing them of making a mistake, either on purpose or not." So far enrollment has been 50-50 clergy and laity, as well as Catholic and Protestant. Zech hopes many more religious-affiliated universities will follow suit on similar church management programs in the future.
Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and Boston College began similar programs in September.