A degree in doing church business

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

TEXT OF STORY

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.

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