Fall 2014

Charles Zech

Welcome Remarks

Charles Zech
Director, Center for Church Management & Business Ethics

I am pleased to present to you this latest issue of the Parish Management Newsletter published by Villanova’s Center for Church Management & Business Ethics. In this issue we visit two critical parish management topics, hiring and policies for securing parish collections. 

Dr. Carol Fowler calls upon her long experience as Director of Personnel for the Archdiocese of Chicago to provide us with a step-by-step process for “getting the right person for the right job”. These include identifying applicants, constructing a job description, employing a search committee, interviewing, checking references, and making the job offer. In addition to experience in Chicago, Carol is a long-time presenter in our on-line Church Management Certificate Program.

Jim Reaves is also a presenter in our Church Management Certificate Program as well as an Adjunct Professor in our on-line M.S. in Church Management degree program, teaching a course that covers a variety of church security issues. In his “day job” Jim serves as Sr. Global Security & Business Continuity Manager at QVC. In his article on securing parish collections, Jim also provides us with recommended step-by-step procedures, progressing from collections to bank deposits. 

Finally, we present some data collected by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown on parish use of social media and its impact. While causality can’t be firmly established, this data suggests a relationship between the use of social media and successful parish outcomes.

I would like to remind you of the educational opportunities available through the Center for Church Management and Business Ethics. There is still time to apply for this year’s class in our very successful on-line master’s degree in church management awarded through the nationally-ranked and fully accredited Villanova School of Business. You might be interested to know that US News & World Reports has ranked our MS in Church Management as the 17th best online program in the country among ALL graduate business programs.

We also, in partnership with Our Sunday Visitor and AmericanChurch, offer a series of webinars on church management topics. This series presents the opportunity for an individual to earn a certificate in church management through the Villanova School of Business. The series will begin its fourth year in September, but it is not too early to apply. Individuals interested in particular topics may participate in one or more of the specific webinars without pursuing the certificate. For more details, please click here.

We hope that you find the information in this newsletter helpful. We appreciate your previous feedback and are happy to hear your feedback about the topics covered in this issue as well as topics that you would like to see covered in future issues.

Charles Zech
Center for Church Management & Business Ethics

Carol Fowler

YOU’RE HIRED! Getting the right person for the right job.

Carol Fowler

Key Responsibility for All in Management

As people are promoted into management positions or selected as pastors of parishes, they are rarely evaluated on their ability to get the right person for the right job, yet it is a key function of management to do just that..  Effective hiring practices increase the likelihood that the mission of the organization will be fulfilled, even thrive.  All of us who have been in supervisory and management positions for awhile, can point to those times when the hiring process was particularly successful. We take pride in the members of our staff whom we brought on board and those people have made major contributions to the success of the parish or organization.   We are also keenly aware of those times when we chose the wrong person and that person not only did not adequately contribute to the mission but may actually have made the work environment difficult.  The question before us is how can we implement hiring practices that provide a much greater probability of success?

Who are the applicants?

Recruiting and advertising are critical components to successful hiring.  The goal is to have a diverse pool of candidates from which to choose.  This isn't easy.  In a parish or other church organizations, there will be people from whom we can seek assistance, using the Internet as a recruitment tool.  In today’s world, this is essential if we are to attract a wide variety of candidates.  

We also need to look at the more traditional means of advertising such as newspapers, university placement offices, national organizations such as National Association of Lay Ministry, parish bulletins and placement services which exist in many dioceses.  The organization needs to decide if the search will be a national search or if the search will remain local. This determines the kind of advertising that will be done. 

In the case of parishes, it is usually too narrow to advertise only in the parish.  The pool of candidates may not be diverse and may not have the skills and experience that the pastor needs.  As just and fair employers we always want to work toward equal employment opportunities for those of various racial, language and ethnic backgrounds, and those who are disabled but can fulfill the job description requirements.  Without actively pursuing a diverse pool of candidates we are limiting our chances of having excellent candidates for positions.  For example, if we want a person who has excellent computer and Internet skills but we don’t use the Internet to advertise, we are missing a resource that is most likely to yield a person with those skills.

In key positions at a diocesan level or for some church related organizations, a search firm can also be very helpful.  A good search firm will insure a diverse pool of candidates and can find people with high-level skills and experience.  While this can be an expensive process, if the position is a key position, it could be worth the expense.  The National Association of Church Personnel Administrators (NACPA) does executive searches at a reasonable cost.

Is a job description important?

We will never successfully hire for a position if we haven ‘t taken the time to write a current and fairly detailed job description that provides a basic summary of the job and then lists the essential responsibilities of that position including any physical requirements of the job. We also need to have the requirements and preferences of skills, credentials and experience that is needed for the successful candidate.  Whatever is listed as requirements, must be a determining factor in the hiring process.  Preferences will be considered as factors but may be compromised  on if necessary.  In fair and legal employment practices, if the requirements change, the position should be readvertised. For example, if Spanish is a requirement for the position, then the successful candidate must speak Spanish.  If it is a preference, that skill will be considered but a candidate could be hired who does not speak Spanish.

Should we use a search committee?

Interviewing and search committees can be very helpful even at the parish level. However, such a committee needs to clearly understand its role.  For example, advice and consultation from such a committee in the parish can help the pastor prevent a hiring disaster but they need to understand they are advising not deciding.  Usually it is the pastor who decides.  

One of the potential problems that anyone who is doing hiring faces, is that we try to be sure that we address whatever problem or problems existed with the previous person and hire with only that in mind.  Maybe we had a DRE who was terrific with programs for young children but knew nothing about how to organize a program for middle school and high school age.  The pastor may be so focused on getting a person skilled with older children that he misses other gaps in the candidate’s skill set.  There is a factor present in many hiring situations called the halo effect.  One particular skill or dynamic personality style becomes so positive in the mind of the hiring person that he or she no longer sees the problems with that candidate.  Committees really help us avoid this problem.  Others will see when the hiring decision maker is too focused on one or more particular characteristics or skills and missing the others.  

Committees will also be skilled at having broader based interviews and will be very helpful to a candidate that is selected because they will have a stake in the success of that person.  There are many positions, where it is also helpful to see how the candidate relates to a variety of people and engages with a group of people.

Are there interviewing techniques that are helpful?

We all know that yes or no questions yield very little helpful information.  We also know that if the interviewer does most of the talking instead of the candidate, we have not learned much about that person.  Although relating information to the candidate about the organization and the position has a place in the interview, it is not the primary purpose.  The purpose of the interview is to determine if the person has the right qualifications and personality style to effectively do the job and further the mission.  

Interview questions need to focus on the position and the skills and attributes needed to do the job.  There are two kinds of questions that are particularly effective.  Behavioral questions focus on past experiences.  Such questions often begin with, “Tell me about a time that you worked on a project with others that was particularly successful.  What made that project successful?”  The counterpoint question will be, “Tell me about a time you worked on a project that was not successful.” You can follow up with, “Why wasn't it successful? What did you learn?”  Be wary of anyone who tells you that every project he or she worked on was successful.  That tells me the person hasn't tried much. Failure is not a problem.  Not learning from a failure is a problem.

Hypothetical questions point to the future or potential issues that the person could face in the position for which he or she is applying. For example, “What would you do as the new school principal, if you found there was a small but vocal group of parents who were sabotaging any of your suggestions for change?”  These questions will tell you a lot about a person’s leadership style, problem solving abilities and communication skills.

Questions about the person’s skills, credentials, and education are always appropriate.  Likewise, any questions that get to motivations or personality style as they relate to the position are also appropriate.  It is important to invite the candidate to also ask questions of the search committee or the interviewer.  One thing you can find out in such a question is whether the candidate has done their homework about the parish or organization.  Does he or she know who you are, and are they interested in your mission?  These questions help you understand if the person will be a good “fit.”

There are questions that are illegal to ask in an interview.  Any question that could lead to a charge of discrimination in the hiring process must not be asked. For example, you may not ask questions related to the person’s race, ethnic background, marital status, family status such as number of children, language skills unless listed as a job preference or requirement, age, military discharge status or disability.  You can consult your diocesan human resources office for a list of such questions.  Likewise you may not request a photo to be submitted as part of the application process.  Some of these questions, but not all, may be asked after a job offer is made, such as marital status for the purpose of enrollment in health insurance, date of birth, etc..

When do I check references, and do background and credential checks?

Criminal background checks are usually completed after a job offer is made but before the person begins the job.  Job offers are contingent on successfully completing the criminal background check. Credit checks are rarely done and usually only for positions that involve handling of significant amounts money. Checks on credentials are very important.  Exaggerating and even lying on resumes is commonplace.  Don’t believe that a person has an MBA from Harvard without checking on that claim. 

Reference checking should be done as part of the hiring process and is not limited to only those persons listed on the resume.  It is legitimate to contact anyone who might have information as to the employability of the candidate.  Ordinarily, we do not contact a current employer without the candidate’s permission.  Permission needs to be given before we make a job offer.  It isn't a good idea to make a job offer without talking to the current employer.  A bad reference isn't a deal breaker but is important information.  Sometimes a bad reference happens because the fit wasn't right or there was a personality conflict.  A pastor can get excellent information from another pastor. Use of the telephone is important for reference checking.  People will say things on the phone they will not put in writing, even an email.

Employers need to use of a standard application in addition to a resume.   Applications have a greater possibility of comparing like characteristics in a pool of candidates.  Applications have less possibility of being deceptive with numbers and dates and will ask the crucial questions of each candidate.  Applications may not have any of the illegal questions as outlined in one of the paragraphs above.  For example, you may not ask for birthday information or health history on an application.  On the other hand, when you ask for work history, you can include month and year for each position as well as reason for leaving.  When you ask only for the year, it is possible that gaps in employment are not readily visible. There is nothing wrong with a gap in employment, but you have a right to know why.

How do I make a job offer?

It needs to be clear that a job offer is contingent on successfully doing a background check.  Such an offer usually comes in the form of an offer letter with the job title, compensation, including annualized salary or hourly wage information and a brief outline of benefits, start date and may include a few immediate goals to be accomplished relative to the job description. No ending date should be included because that makes the offer into a contract. With the exception of schools, most positions do not require a contract.

What happens next?

Orientation, which is often now called on-boarding, probation periods, and systematic feedback are critical factors in the first stages of employment for a new person.  Contrary to popular opinion, the higher level of the position, the more on-boarding activities are needed.  People in significant leadership positions often need coaching and feedback for as long as two years after they begin their new position.  Executives often fail in their second year, not the first.  I am a believer in probation periods of three to six months because systematic feedback to the new employee is required when there is a probation period. Such feedback really helps the person be successful in the position. Terminations during or at the end of a probation period are often a little easier than when they happen later, but a probation period does not mean that terminations can happen for a discriminatory reason or that a charge of discrimination can’t be filed with the EEOC.  However, as long as the termination is not discriminatory, it is usually easier.  The main reason for probation periods though, is that the potential success of the candidate is enhanced when there is clear feedback about expectations, strengths and weaknesses at the beginning of the employment period.


The goal of the good hiring process is to find the right person, with the right skills, qualifications and experience to do the job very well.  It is also crucial that we find the person who fits.  Will this person’s leadership style and personality characteristics add to the well-being of this parish or church organization?  Will the other members of the staff and the parishioners or clients of the organization find a person with whom they want to work? These are critical to the successful hiring process. Does this person really care about the mission, vision, and values of this organization and will he or she work efficiently and effectively to make them happen?  We are looking for the person who want to do more than their job description.  We want the person to be committed to the mission almost as much as we are!  Don’t settle for less!

Carol Fowler is formerly the Director of the Department of Personnel Services for the Archdiocese of Chicago.  She coordinated the work of 17 Archdiocesan agencies, which oversee all of the human resources functions for laity, religious, and clergy of the Archdiocese.  The Archdiocese employs about 16,000 people.  As one of the seven Archdiocesan department directors, she served on the Cardinal’s Administrative Council.

Ms. Fowler was the President of the National Association of Church Personnel Administrators and served on the board of Regina Dominican High School.  Carol is a member of the Board for the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management. She was also a member of the Advisory Board of the Center for the Study of Church Management at Villanova University and a member of the Society for Human Resource Management. 

She holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from St. Mary’s Seminary and University, Baltimore.  Her doctoral project was on lay ecclesial ministry.  She has a Master of Arts degree in Counseling Psychology from the Adler School of Professional Psychology and a B.A. in Social Science with a secondary teaching certificate from Michigan State University.  The Human Resources Certification Institute of the Society for Human Resource Management certifies Ms. Fowler as a Senior Professional in Human Resources.

Jim Reaves

Safeguarding your Congregation & Cash Collections

Jim Reaves

Safeguarding Your Congregation

We are called upon to be good stewards in safeguarding our entire congregation.  A church security management program, or security awareness, must strike a workable balance between maintaining the church’s mission and protecting its congregation and assets. This article will discuss some of the foundations for establishing a church security ministry program concluding with an overview of internal and external  proactive cash collection management strategies.

Many do not enjoy talking about security issues in a church setting, which is naturally a welcoming and sacred environment, and nobody would ever think of stealing from the church.  Security and loss prevention attempts could be viewed by some as to impede members with restrictive policies and procedures and potential fear that could be perceived as uninviting to parishioners, volunteers , ushers, staff and others.

Equally disturbing is the external criminal element that would victimize a church because it is a potential “soft target” for property thefts with limited parking lot lighting at night or easy access via older windows surrounded by overgrown bushes.  Stories across the US describe how some criminals do not look upon the church as a place of worship but rather as another building  that could be an easy target.  Many criminals who have victimized churches and houses of worship have committed crimes ranging  from the burglary and theft of copper rain spouts on older churches to the theft of sacred vessels from the altar or sacristy.  Some well documented crimes have escalated with the armed robbery of church usher and volunteers making the Sunday collection deposit after the last Sunday mass. 

Villanova University’s Church Security & Loss Prevention Management Program 

To address some of these security and loss prevention issues, the Villanova University MSCM program has been offering the Church Security and Loss Prevention Management course to students from the US and internationally via the program’s on-line masters degree in church management, webinars and seminars offered to various church and faith based organizations and students from around the world.  

This interesting and sensitive program reviews proven security, loss prevention & threat management topics for safeguarding  a  congregation’s  people,  property and assets.  It studies proactive loss prevention methods for recognizing and dealing with important loss issues such as protecting congregational finances and especially church collection security procedures that will be focused upon in this article. The program reviews case studies, personal stories offered by the students and reviewing publicly available reports discussing why and how people would steal and embezzle from the church – a thought that most people would never even consider.  The program concludes by examining the topic of threat assessment, workplace violence prevention and physical security protection procedures for safeguarding staff, clergy, congregation, visitors and pastoral protection.  

Throughout the classes, proactive church security policies, plans and procedures from church and faith based organizations across the US are reviewed and discussed. Some of the best dialogue in the class and programs have come from the honest and open discussion of the students and attendees who have included clergy, business managers, parish level staff, risk managers and others.  The program also provides suggestions for starting a voluntary church security ministry, designing and offering usher security awareness training programs and recommendations for safely depositing  Sunday collections in order to safeguard the overall congregation.  

Until Something Happens

So often, security or risk management procedures that are in place or are being considered do not become a priority until a security related incident happens or an unexplained financial loss occurs. 

This includes crimes committed by outsiders involving a burglary of church equipment or sacred vessels, protecting the personal safety of the clergy, staff and congregation to the financial controls of the Sunday collection money.  We have to sometimes recognize the unfortunate fact that people associated with a church or faith based organization could contribute to a loss if proper controls are not implemented or enforced. 

Without a good security foundation, the rest may not fall into place with your security program. Burglars and thieves know this so well and awareness tips are always helpful in recommending a security program or protection initiative.  A one-time security incident may not be a reflection of your ministry; however, the methods by which you respond are reflective on your ministry should the situation continue to occur or basic controls are never put into place or enforced because “nothing ever happened.” 

This article will focus upon addressing cash collections, specifically, what practical policies or procedures may work for the collection of the weekly offerings, from the collection and transfer to the sorting-counting room security by ushers or others, and making sure that there is no collusion between two or more parties in the handling of cash and the deposit procedure.

Cash collection: Internal & External Controls.

Cash management for any business, retail store, non-profit organization or a church or faith based organization, can become one of the more problematic financial problems. In a church setting, cash management often starts with the collection of donations from the congregation. 

In our Villanova MSCM program, we have reviewed cash collection procedures from  various churches and faith based organizations from across the US and internationally.  Of all of the topics covered in the program,  cash management has become one of the most talked about topics that we discuss.  When some students are asked about their policies and procedures for cash collections, their answers range for some doing nothing or “blank stares”  to very detailed and impressive procedures and policies.  In some cases, some detailed procedures were developed or followed “after something happened” or after a loss was experienced. 

Collection Baskets to the Bank.

Proper controls for cash collections start with the collection of donations from the congregation and conclude with the funds being properly deposited and used for their intended purpose for the congregation.  


It is well-understood that churches have limited numbers of ushers and volunteers to help with various duties, and people would never even consider taking from the church. However, it must be explained to the staff that the proper policies and controls are not only required to protect the funds, but are to provide for their personal safety as well.  

For the process to work properly, two people are necessary for this process as well as rotating the counting of the offerings by ushers or other church leaders. This adds another layer of security to the process as further outlined below.

  • After receiving the offerings, the senior usher with another usher(s) takes the offerings immediately to a secured room for counting.   Some churches have a finance team that will also assist with the counting process. 
  • In some churches, the offering are presented with the gifts and then taken to the sacristy or other area. Again, two people should accompany the funds at all times. In some progressive cash collection procedures, some parishes and faith based organizations use three people on a rotating basis just in case one person has to leave the counting room for a restroom break. 
  • Using a serial numbered tamper proof,  sealed bag for collecting the donations, the mass offerings can be securely contained and sealed. If there is a second collection, another sealed cash collection bag should be used. Many sealed bags are available for purchased via some of the reputable church security product suppliers. 
  • After each collection, the collection should be placed in a safe in the secured counting room.

Secured Counting Room

Having a secured counting room is important to protect the internal accounting and to prevent any potential loss that may possibly occur during the counting process.  In one case, the cash was counted every Sunday morning after the mass and anyone walking by from the outside could look in the window and see the cash lying on the table being counted. 

  • Although space is limited in many parishes and faith based organizations, space must be allocated in having a secured cash counting room.
  • The counting room should be a secured and locked room where access should be restricted, especially from the outside.  
  • Security cameras in the counting room have been installed by some larger parishes that cover the room and cash counting. The counting process is always recorded. The camera recording system should be locked in another room with access only by the pastor or senior parish or finance person. 
  • Some progressive and larger parishes that have started a church security ministry have a counting security team.  This team, usually off-duty police, sheriffs or security professionals from the congregation, stand-by while the money is counted, secures the room and monitors the process but is never engaged in the actual counting. 
  • Some cash counting procedures that we have reviewed across the US require the pastor or associate pastor to also be in the room only as observers when the cash is being counted.
  • This separation of duties between the counting team, security counting room team, and the pastor involved provides enhanced separation just as accounting procedures strictly require this for other financial aspects. 
  • The church counting teams should be rotated so that the same people are not always counting the cash. 
  • After the counting of the cash, the money should be placed into a secured bag or bank bag for transport to the church rectory for deposit in the safe or bank deposit. At least two people should accompany this transport that would include  security ministry team members, if available.  
  • In many parishes and faith-based organizations with church security ministries, an usher security training program has been developed that will cover the cash counting process and explain the reason for this process.

Rectory or Bank Deposit. 

Recently in a few local parishes in the Philadelphia area, the usher making the deposit was robbed via gunpoint when taking the deposit to the rectory after Sunday Mass as they have done so for many years at the same time on every Sunday.  

Some suggestions for consideration for making cash deposits are provided below. Some have been adopted from the retail industry, who make daily deposits in banks across the United States. 

  • After all of the recognized cash accounting procedures have been followed for counting and recording of the cash and checks, it is time for the transport.
  • When transporting collections from the church or rectory to the bank, two people should accompany that transport, even if the transport would occur on a Sunday or Monday.
  • The bank deposit time should be varied as much as possible so as not to establish a routine that would be evident for the criminal element.  When transporting the cash to the bank on Sunday or Monday, the transporting team should not have the keys for the bank deposit bags if a locked bag is used.
  • Bank deposit bags with the church name and “Sunday (date) collections” written on the outside should be carried in a plain non-descript bag to the bank.   
  • Bank deposits should be made whenever possible during the daylight hours.
  • Drive your deposit to the bank in a locked vehicle even though the bank may be next to the church.
  • Drive to the bank or deposit box, observe the area for anything unusual, trusting your instinct for suspicious behaviors, and if all is clear, quickly make the deposit. 

Church Security Ministry - Putting It all Together

Although the information in this article is not all-encompassing and detailed as some procedures and polices provide, it does provide a starting point or benchmark for your cash collection program against other standards that exist for churches across the US. 

Implementing enhanced security programs in a church or faith-based organization can be overwhelming, especially when we rely on so many wonderful volunteers and others to support the church mission. Beginning with some basic procedures and policies is always a good start to ensure your congregation that these funds and their safety are being properly managed in safeguarding your congregation.

Jim Reaves has over thirty-five year’s experience in security management, loss prevention and emergency management in corporate, private and government organizations. He has also been teaching undergraduate, graduate and MBA classes at Villanova University for the past 25 years as an Adjunct faculty member.  During this time, he has taught operations, security, fraud, loss prevention and threat management classes and workshops to graduate Criminal Justice and Masters in Church Management (MSCM) students, as well as taught workplace violence classes to human resource professionals.     Jim teaches in Villanova's MSCM program and presents a class on Church Security & Loss Prevention Management to students from around the world.   He assists parishes and dioceses across the US on church security matters and is an active member of a number of professional church security management associations.  He is a graduate of the Catholic school system, has been serving as an Extraordinary  Eucharistic Minister for the past 11 years, married for 33 years with two adult children and has completed his MS degree in Criminal Justice and Management.

And the Survey Says… How are we using social media?

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University (CARA) has recently completed a survey of 539 parishes through its National Survey of Catholic Parishes. Questions included a series of items about parish use of social media and its impact. Among the findings were:

Parish use of social media:

  • 39% of parishes use YouTube
  • 61% are on Facebook
  • 22% use Twitter
  • 17% Blog

Impact. When compared with levels from five years earlier:

  • Parishes that employed YouTube increased their revenue 
  • Parishes that were on Facebook experienced increases in parish registration, Mass attendance, and attendance at religious education
  • Parishes that utilized Twitter experienced increases in revenue, Mass attendance, and attendance at religious education 
  • Parishes that blogged increased parish registration

While causality can’t be definitively proven, clearly there is some association between the use of social media and parish successes.

For More Information

Center for Church Management
Villanova University
800 Lancaster Avenue
Villanova, PA 19085
Tel: (610) 519-6015
Fax: (610) 519-6054