Megachurches and Management Education

15 December 2010 at 10:01 am 2 comments

| Peter Klein |

This month’s Fast Company profiles Willow Creek, perhaps the world’s most famous megachurch. The article opens by describing a conversation between Willow Creek pastor Bill Hybels and management guru Peter Drucker:

Hybels decided that one of his unique contributions [to ministry] could be to create a resource for pastors who didn’t have firsthand access to thinkers like Drucker. The need was clear. A 1993 survey of evangelical pastors by seven seminaries found that while they said their education had prepped them well in church history and theology, they felt undertrained in administration, management, and strategic planning. “In the 1950s, a pastor preached on Sundays, did weddings and funerals, and visited the sick,” says Dennis Baril, senior pastor of the Community Covenant Church in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, which hosts a satellite summit site every year. “I have almost 50 ministries that need to be put together, scheduled, organized, and led. It’s a different skill set.”

Church conferences did little to address that need. “Most of them are pastors learning from pastors,” says Jim Mellado, who wrote a 1991 Harvard Business School case study on Willow Creek. “If you only hear preaching from the choir, you’re never stretched. You never see things from another perspective.”

Sounds a bit like university administrators, most of whom learn administration from, well, other university administrators. (Who may have been English professors in a previous life.)

Here’s the HBS case on Willow Creek, and here are Mike Porter’s PowerPoint slides from his 2007 presentation at Willow Creek’s leadership summit. Interesting factoid from the Economist via Wikipedia: in 2007, five of the world’s ten largest Protestant churches were in South Korea.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Cultural Conservatism, Management Theory, Strategic Management.

In Defense of English Friedman, 1953

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Cliff Grammich  |  15 December 2010 at 6:25 pm

    I wonder what Protestant and Catholic differences there are here.

    A fairly large number of Catholic churches would, by Protestant standards, apparently be considred “megachurches.” The average number of Catholics per church is about 3,000. My own parish has about 2,500 households–5,000-plus individuals?–and isn’t that unusual for a suburban Catholic church. My previous (California) parish had more than 6,000 households.

    I doubt Catholic pastors take many (any?) courses in management and administration. I suspect many (most?) parishes have business managers and other bureaucratic (diocesan?) supports. Do these contribute to distinctly Catholic and Protestant styles of managing large congregations?

  • 2. Anthony DiMaio  |  20 December 2010 at 2:52 pm

    I love the new wineskin thinking… what is tremendous is that Peter Drucker left us such an intellectual legacy that finds its roots in authentic spirituality. So does this mean that for a church to be considered a mega church, it has to have mega answers? Probably. The answers people are looking for are bigger than themselves… and Drucker understood this better than most. I think the first language Drucker spoke was the language of survival… If what you believe doesn’t possess the capacity to feed you, clothe you and shelter you… you won’t survive long enough to pass it on. I like the fact that we end our year with Christmas, and begin it with Epiphany.

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