Monday, 11 June 2012

Theological Business Studies

It is a cast-iron fact that 108% of all people who come forward for ordination are former youth-workers. A further 79% are teachers with the residue being called by God from the partners of existing ordained people. It's a fact I tell you. 

One or two, and not many more, once did the filthy and grubby thing of working in business of some sort or another, or worse still, dedicated years of life to turning a profit. 

Now the thing about being a Vicar in particular is, whether you like it or not, is that you become a business manager. You are responsible in larger part for the paying of bills, the raising of that wonga, the chasing of the mammon, the balancing of the books and the general legal and financial well-being of a small and wonderful conglomerate of lovely donors we call Christians. 

I sat in theological college with some of these lovely former Youth Lurkers and Teacher-types as we were gifted the insights of entire minutes of business-style education for when we are Vicars. The psychology of why you must never go near a human female of child-bearing age without a chaperone or eight - hours of that was crammed into us. Business focussed advice? Blink and thou shalt miss it, my friend. One of my esteemed class mates, shuddering at the prospect of going near this filthy lucre, and simply stated that he would 'leave that sort of things to others'. If you want a target for a simple fraud, I'll pass you his address. Maybe he needs a Treasurer from the Dark Side. 

The thing is, so few priests have had cause to handle money, consider financial strategy, how to counter problems or avoid them in the first place, would know how to induct a new Parish Treasurer themselves, let alone the pre-payment and accruals systems or the basics of fund management. Yet these things form part of our core duties after Level III God Bothering. 

In business, a poor business manager would become the cause of his/her business's failure and eventual collapse. If a priest is lucky, he/she may have a gifted Treasurer who can hide all this inconvenient administration work away so that Reverend Cloud-Nine doesn't have to regard it with naive eyes. Not all Vicars are that fortunate, and some Vicars are - this very day - being defrauded. Yes, dear readers, it happens and has happened to friends of mine. 

I say to Theological Colleges this: train priests not just in the art of pastoral self-protection, but of business self-preservation. A church that grows is a church that finds the resources to grow. A church that discovers the resources to grow has normally come about much of them by acute stewardship and a businesslike approach to raising those funds. Shrinking churches do often do so in the hazy reverie that God will provide. 

As my mother says: "God will provide, but expects you to do the hustling".

Here endeth the Lesson. 

PS, I am not for a second saying that teachers and YoofUrkers can't manage accounts - it is simply a matter of direct exposure in former lives and the experiences and insights they bring


  1. Mmm... much truth but I can also introduce you to a former owner of a small business (which I understand to be profitable) who similarly refuses to have anything to do with money - with a predictably sad outcome. We should be able to teach and lead in this area whatever our background. I guess curacy / post-ordination training is where this 'business' part of the JD needs to be passed on.

  2. I know that some Clergy regard fund raising, stewardship as the 'dark arts' that are necessary, but are really the business of the PCC. Forgetting their role as Chair of the PCC.

    I hear loads about mission planning, but very little about the resources, human or fiscal to bring such plans to fruition. The human resources may in some places, be the difficulty, where the harvest is ready, but the labourers are few. But, the old expression "Money doesn't grow on trees" is quite true in this case.

    Money is needed for the very basics of running a parish, let alone mission - and getting people to talk about stewardship, let alone preach about it is a touchy subject - nobody likes doing it, believing themselves to sound grasping or duplicitous. In 5 years in the church, I have yet to hear a word spoken from the Pulpit about stewardship.

    We talk about it in council meetings, most of which is to moan about the ever increasing levels of parish share and our reducing income. Positive thinking seems to be on the margins when treasurers get together. Not in main council meetings.

    Somehow we need to overcome the reluctance to talk openly about money, so that people know and can share the issues that it raises, and to consider whether they are able to just give a little more to help carry forward the work of the parish in mission. I'm not holding my breath.

  3. As managing matters financial, and figures-related facts, are your forte, can you explain how a whole (ie 100%), can be broken down into 79% (teachers) and 108% (former youth workers)???

    Only asking.

  4. Very well said - so totally agree, much more needs to be done to train and educate clergy in this area if we are expecting them to go on and train/educate the masses.

  5. Matt 25 vs 30

  6. "In business, a poor business manager would become the cause of his/her business's failure and eventual collapse." I totally agree with you with this. Accounting is also needed in business for financial income or lost monitoring.

    Chartered Accountants Keighley



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