The Business of the Catholic Church
Why do some people express concern over applying business principles to Church operations? Is it a belief that business deals with matters the Catholic Church doesn’t, like generating wealth and building stock dividends? What business practice is of value to the Church?
With Pope Francis’ recent election, now is a good time to reflect on such matters. Consider seminary training: Most is focused on sacramental provisions and immersion in Church Tradition. That’s not a bad thing, but what about training seminarians to lead parishes as a change agent? A pastoral year—a priestly internship of sorts—grants a seminarian pastoral experience, but it doesn’t prepare him to run meetings, set goals and objectives, and articulate a vision. These are all necessary skills for anyone charged with getting things done through people. Care of a parish through schools, religious-education programs, and sacraments is one thing; moving God’s people into the more vibrant work of building the kingdom is something else.
Applying organizational (not business) principles to Church management means adopting best management practices like job descriptions. A church musician does more than play the piano, and a teacher does more than teach. Each works toward the fulfillment of a mission. When everyday tasks become disconnected from the mission, communication breaks down and departments are isolated.
The solution is rooted in a cross-pollination of skill sets and expertise. Businesses and schools operate within this context, and so should the Church. The bishop of the Diocese of Trenton did this in 2011 when he commissioned a survey asking 300 Catholics why they had stopped going to church and what could be done to get them back in the pew.
Now is a good time for those in authority to ask how good management and leadership serve the Church—beginning in Rome. Then, with some solid reflection and work on spirituality of administration, maybe we can make a closer connection between pulpit and pew.