A degree in doing church business

The spires of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City.


Scott Jagow: Sometimes, members of the clergy have to be business people. They have to run their churches like businesses in a way. So some universities have started offering MBA-type programs specifically for the clergy. Jill Barshay reports.

Jill Barshay: Monsignor Louis Marucci is a pastor of a Catholic church in Haddon Township, New Jersey.

Louis Marucci: I know that the people in my pews want me to be an excellent steward of their resources

Marucci's enrolled in a new master's degree in church management at Villanova University.

Charles Zech runs the program, which launched this week. He says it's like an MBA, but tailored to nonprofit churches. There'll be classes in accounting, organizational behavior -- even marketing.

Charles Zech: We don't call it that, that's not a good word. It's evangelization.

Zech says many Catholic parishes have millions of dollars flowing though them.

Zech: It really is a small business, and so that's part of the problem. The priests who are in charge don't have the training nor necessarily the inclination to do the business side.

But conservatives in the Church say for priests, an MBA is a waste of time and money.

Father Jerry Pokorsky was a financial auditor before entering the priesthood. He helps dioceses around the country with their finances. He says focusing on the business end of the church can be a distraction.

Father Jerry Pokorsky: It's very easy to start neglecting your duties as a pastor, a pastor of souls. So it's far better to be able to understand the general picture, some of the critical issues involved, and to delegate those to the laity.

Pokorsky says churches should focus on basic controls, like reconciling bank statements each month. He says you don't even need a CPA for that -- never mind an MBA.

Even so, priests and church managers are flocking to Villanova from as far away as Ireland. The program costs $23,400. That's about what most priests make in a year. For Monsignor Marucci, Villanova is doing the brotherly thing and giving him a discount.

I'm Jill Barshay for Marketplace.

Log in to post3 Comments

The need for business skills in the church has perhaps never been greater than it is today. Emerging mega churches and even medium to small congregations are recognizing the benefits of staff proficient in current enterprise demands, practices and compliance requirements. The National Association of Church Business Administration (NACBA)has been on the front edge of training church staff with these skills through an educational collaborative with five academic institutions nationally for years. The training is of excellent quality and exceptional value, I highly recommend considering it.


I am a elected member of council of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, NJ and a small business owner. I agree with financial education for the clergy. A great example of parish with a finacial education is Trinty Church on Wall Street. It manages endowments of millions of dollars and donates millions, all with a keen eye on the money. Many churches have endowments and the rector considers them little more then another form of check book that is self filling. I know of a parish that didn't realize it was invested in mortage backed securities until they didn't get a dividend from the endowment's investment fund. This in turn caused them to not be able to stock the shelves of their food pantry. A pantry that helped people with sub prime problems.
How much financial and business education the clergy get at seminary is apparently lacking. A good trend is the number of people retiring from the business and finance community to heed the call to the priesthood. These people are bringing their knowledge and experience with them to betterment of their parishes.

Priest need a little more business knowledge, and business can always use divine knowledge.

With Generous Support From...