Legal and tax matters. Human resource management. Strategic planning. If you’re responsible for managing the business of the local church, these issues can keep you awake at night.

Enter The National Institute in Church Finance and Administration (NICFA) at Candler School of Theology, which offers comprehensive training to those involved in the business of running churches. Offered each June in partnership with the General Council on Finance and Administration of The United Methodist Church, NICFA has been helping church administrators, pastors, and volunteers navigate everything from finances and property management to marketing and conflict resolution for more than 40 years. This year’s session runs June 1-11 on Emory University’s campus in Atlanta.

Candler stresses preparing real people to make a real difference in the real world, and NICFA is a great example of that commitment, says Dr. Robert W. Winstead, assistant professor in the practice of practical theology and the director of NICFA at Candler.

“NICFA is essential to our identity as a place that trains persons for the local church,” he explains, adding that the training is ecumenical in nature and open to persons from all denominations.

The NICFA program consists of two weeks of on-campus seminars, CEU electives and a final individual project. Satisfactory completion of all seminars, CEUs and the individual project allows participants to apply for status as a Certified Church Administrator (CCA), a professional designation awarded by The Church Network.

Dr. Ken Himes, executive pastor of Covenant United Methodist Church in Greer, South Carolina, earned his CCA certification after attending all four weeks of NICFA seminars in 2010 and completing his project. It was an experience that continues to shape his career.

"This was some of the best training and education I've ever received,” says Himes, a former university professor and business consultant. “The local and national specialists that were brought in to teach and facilitate our professional growth were second to none."

Participant Rebecca Hess not only appreciated the outstanding teaching, but also the opportunity to network with other church professionals from across the country. She attended a week of NICFA seminars when she became the business administrator for Wesley Church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She met colleagues from across the country, adding that she is still in contact with many of them, and they still consult with one another to share ideas and offer advice.

“The networking that continues after the seminars end is sometimes as important as what you learn while you’re there,” she says, a sentiment echoed by Himes.

"The relationships formed have continued to be a valuable source of day-to-day information as we continue to experience new challenges and opportunities for growth as we serve God daily," Himes says.

Completing the NICFA course work also offers a boost to those looking to advance their careers. Himes notes that his final project became a valuable asset for the church he was serving and was instrumental in him being offered his current position.

“I would encourage those who are serious about serving to invest in their own professional growth and development by attending any of the NICFA seminars they can," he says.

NICFA is also an excellent opportunity for those still in seminary who are serving or will later serve in the local church.

“This is something that will help you in the practical aspects of the church from the minute you hit the ground running,” Winstead explains. “This is the practical side of the work you’ll be doing as a church pastor.”

For tuition information and to register for NICFA, click here.