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Boston College Launches Graduate Program in Church Management

Boston College will start the nation’s first graduate program in church management, in response to the Catholic Church’s need to better manage its business operations, financial resources and personnel.

Starting this fall, BC’s Institute of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry, in collaboration with the university’s Carroll School of Management, will offer a master’s degree in pastoral ministry with a concentration in church management. It will also offer a dual degree program in pastoral ministry and business administration, akin to a church MBA program, that can be completed in three years.

The Catholic Church has been rocked by multiple scandals over recent years, says BC theology professor Thomas Groome. A sex abuse scandal that resulted in the resignation of Cardinal Bernard F. Law as Archbishop of Boston in Dec. 2002 is just one example.  

But one of the main reasons for the church’s trouble, says Groome, is “miserable management.

“I tell bishops who come to me saying, ‘the church is more than a corporation.’ They’re right. But a well-run corporation will only serve to enhance the church’s spiritual mission,” he says.

Groome notes that the affiliated Catholic Charities of Boston has 1,800 employees and a $135 million budget. It is vital to know how to manage such large resources, he says.

“There is a desperate need for proper management in the Catholic Church,” says Dr. Thomas A. Bausch, professor of management at Marquette University, a Jesuit school in Milwaukee. Although Marquette has no immediate plans to initiate its own church management program, Bausch applauded BC’s plan.

Observers like Bausch and Thomas Harvey, director of the master of nonprofit administration program at Notre Dame University, say the new program could be valuable to other larger communities of faith. 

“All religions have to wrestle with common things like accountability, so inclusivity is important,” Harvey says. And the demand for such a program is strong. Although Notre Dame’s MBA degree is designed for managing resources in the growing nonprofit sector, “over 50 percent of the students are from church or church-related sectors,” Harvey says.

A program like BC’s will also provide much needed personnel management training, Harvey says, noting that the pedophilia scandal in the Catholic Church was exasperated by poor oversight of clergy.

“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,” Groome says.

— By Shilpa Banerji


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