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The-Temptation-of-Christ-SchefferClergy Sent to B-School for Management Education

Stop me if you’ve heard this joke. A bishop, an archdeacon, and a dean from the Church of England walk into a business school.

Wait…that’s not a joke?

Indeed, they may be the newest wave of business school clients. This week, the Church released a report, “Talent Management for Future Leaders and Leadership Development for Bishops and Deans: A New Approach.” Here, the church is establishing an MBA program that would train 150 church leaders from 2015-2016. According to The Economist, 36 bishops and deans would participate in a modified MBA program that would be conducted in partnership with INSEAD beginning in April.

Turning bishops into businessmen? That almost sounds like the inspiration for a Monty Python skit. Let’s face it: Jesus chose Saint Peter as his rock for his stubborn faith and charisma, not his ability to balance the ledgers. And St. Paul was better at inspiring his flock, not tending to the day-to-day operations of his churches.  Do the faithful really need their leaders to pore over case studies and benchmarks?

Well, yes.

For starters, the Church is looking for their leadership to set the correct ‘tone from the top’.” In other words, like many top-down organizations, they are pushing to establish a consistent, inspirational message that reinforces the Church’s values and mission. In a world where the Church is technically competing against every secular product, service, entertainment option, idea, or impulse for mindshare, they need more than just good shepherding. They need to absorb the best practices for managing a mature organization.

“We intend a conscious inter-weaving of the spiritual and strategic formation of senior ordained leaders,” writes the Lord Green Steering Group that produced the report. “We intend to form clergy who integrate and demonstrate strategic and spiritual gifts…They need realistic confidence in their ability to manage well, to handle complexity, and to nurture the maturity of the organisation.”

To do this, the church has partnered with INSEAD to design a modular curriculum, which will include courses like Building Healthy Organizations, Leading Growth, and Re-Inventing the Ministry. However, don’t expect this to be your typical MBA curriculum. The Church views the academic and spiritual as two inseparable processes. “Change in one process will impact the other. It is essential that both are reviewed together.” As a result, the courses will build in time for prayer and reflection.

The first module (Building Healthy Organisations) will train church leaders on how to benchmark their team’s effectiveness, which will include 360 degree reports and action plans. Leaders will also learn conflict resolution and coaching, along with reviewing case studies from organizations ranging from banks to the armed services. The second module (Leading Growth) will focus on how leaders can grow their churches, with students developing and executing plans to do just that. Finally, students will complete Re-inventing the Ministry, which will cover how to identify and mentor high potentials in their churches.

In addition, the church has also developed two programs for a wider swath of the church: the Mini MBA and Common Good. In the mini MBA, which targets deans, the curriculum will include “finance, budgets and working with numbers; building high performance teams with clear roles and accountabilities; safeguarding and legal issues and running a heritage site, including turning tourists into pilgrims and a field trip to explore how non-Church heritage sites are run (e.g. major museums and galleries or Blenheim Palace).”

The Common Good curriculum, which is being developed with bishops and deans in mind, focuses on “social change and the impact of modern communication tools and techniques.” Designed to help students “understand and experience how a complex, modern organisation works,” the program includes field trips and reflection, with the goal to help students “adapt preaching of the gospel to the public square to meet the changing times.” To do this, the curriculum will include advanced communications skills training, along with case studies on successful partnerships between secular and religious bodies.

According to The Economist, the Church has budgeted $3 million dollars so 150 church leaders can study on INSEAD’s French campus over the next two years (with an additional $785,000 budgeted thereafter). And increasing church leaders’ marketing and management savvy may just be antidote to the Church’s lagging participation rate. The Economist points out that despite the Church losing half of its members over the past 45 years, it still managed $6.1 billion dollars worth of investments in 2013.

The Church’s emphasis on sharpening leadership and financial skills should come as no shock. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury (the Church’s senior bishop) earned a law degree and began his career in business. Warby rose to the level of treasurer at an oil company before accepting his calling in 1989. Now, he is reversing the process, calling the faithful back to the boardroom. Will parishes be run like businesses? And will concepts like rank-and-yank seep into the church? More importantly, could business education enable the Church to regain followers and deepen their members’ fervor? Whatever the result, it should make for an amazing case study in the coming years.


Source: The Economist

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