Heidelberg Institute in the Vatican

HI presentation at church management conference at the Pontificial Lateran University

ROME/ VATICAN/ HEIDELBERG. From March 23 until 25, Lucas Wehner, member of the executive council at the Heidelberg Institute, spoke in behalf of the institute about “Market Theology in Germany: At the example of a free church in Baden-Württemberg” at the International Festival of Creativity in Church Management at the Pontificial Lateran University in the Vatican (PUL).

The conference was hosted by PUL and Villanova University, USA. According to Prof. Dr. Charles Zech, Faculty Director at the Center for Church Management and Business Ethics at Villanova University, there was still much research to do such as in church metrics, church HR and evaluation, volunteer management, technology use in churches, and parish finances, for instance. In this regard, Giulio Carpi, Director of the International School of Pastoral Management mentioned that this conference was very important in laying the groundwork for what the church would look like in 20 years. It was his school’s slogan to “do good better,” and that could be applied to the church as well.

Calabrese Wehner Roma 2017 LongMore than 500 people from around the world attended this conference in order to listen to more than 20 panel speakers, 16 researchers, and other workshop trainers from more than five countries.

Several excellencies were part of the conference such as the Bishop of Novara, Mons. Franco Giulio Brambilla, Vice President of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, who mentioned that the priest could not be seen as the only protagonist of sharing the Gospel anymore, and that the image of the pastoral position has changed to a generalist pastorate, an integrative pastorate. This required lots of creativity for filling new pastoral roles which was why His Excellency, Bishop Enrico Dal Covolo, Rector of PUL, quoted Pope Francis in that God’s Spirit would renew all things through His creativity, and that we were creative because we were believers.

On the question whether Pope Francis wanted to “reform the Church” by the editor of “La Civiltà Cattolica”, Padre Antonio Spadaro, the Pope once answered that he wanted to bring back Christ into the center of the Church, and when this would happen, Christ would reform it. The Prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for Communication, Mons. Dario Edoardo Viganò, added in his interview that the Pope was not a marketing man or strategist, but simply a man of the people who related with them and was led by the Holy Spirit.

In his presentation, Lucas Wehner mentioned that predicting the church in 20 years would be difficult as the Holy Spirit would work wherever He pleased (John 3:8), and that yet, church management meant approaching people on a micromarketing level which was just what Paul did as he became a Jew to the Jews (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). In modern days, one could see churches studying their members and non-members such as through the SINUS milieu group studies in Germany (Hempelmann, 2013) which was a start, but the question was how individual churches could apply marketing tools – not to become business organizations, but becoming stable organizations which did not try to do everything.

Michael Castrilli, adjunct professor at Villanova University, summarized the conference well: “Church management is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be uncovered – in faith and prayer.” Uncovering this mystery means for Giulio Carpi establishing an international church management institute with an international church management journal in the future.

The Heidelberg Institute will assist in any efforts to bring the topic of church management forth, and was thankful for great networking opportunities at the conference. The institute would like to thank Giulio Carpi for the invitation, Giulio Carpi, Dr. Charles Zech and their staff for organizing this conference, the researchers and protagonists for sharing new ideas, and the interpreters for assisting throughout the conference.

The conference also gave room to talk about collaboration opportunities with Dr. Vincenzo Calabrese, board member of the Heidelberg Institute where he advises in the fields of international corporate law and the South European region. Lucas Wehner is certain that many more visits to Rome will follow after this conference: “We would like to strengthen these ties which were made as it will be a task for all to uncover this mystery of church management – whether in the Vatican, in the USA, or in Germany. In this regard, we will explore ideas for more collaboration with partners from this conference.”

The Heidelberg Institute is a private academic institution which offers high-end educational programs in the fields of business administration and international relations among other fields. The institute is rooted in the Christian image of God and man, and would like to carry Christian values and international understanding into society, politics and the economics.