Experience level: 
Intermediate
Intended Audience: 
All
Speaker(s): 
Marc Cohen
Authors: 
Mark S. Markuly, Dean and Professor, School of Theology and Ministry Thanh-Thuong T. ChuChe, Program Manager, Economics and Pastoral Leadership Project Marc A. Cohen, Associate Professor, Dept. of Management and Dept. of Philosophy all at Seattle University

Business Education for Religious Leaders: The Missing Link in Faith-Based Organizations

Over the past few years the School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University has worked with faculty from the Albers School of Business and Economics to create coursework to teach business skills to those running faith-based organizations. A group of denominational CFOs also participated in the curriculum development. In addition to covering material on business operations and business processes, the curriculum is intended to help religious leaders develop more sophisticated ideas about money—to address the negative attitudes many of those leaders have toward business and capitalism more generally, and in that way to close the gap between religious and business worldviews. The present paper reports on preliminary outcomes after five courses have been offered. The courses have engaged students who are religious leaders and already have advanced theology degrees. The first of six courses, "Talking faith and money," surfaced deeply entrenched personal biases against issues of economics and business, biases grounded in selective aspects of scripture and certain popular theological writers. Course material raised questions about these attitudes and assumptions, and pressed the students to begin constructing a more sophisticated theology of economics—after which students could more fully engage in the more applied business courses (like marketing). The students who learned to think differently about money and business tended to learn financial and operational skills more effectively.