Top Ten Pointers for New Senior Wardens

by Linda Buskirk on March 14, 2017

Lynne Switalski was just coming off a 3-year Vestry term when she was asked to be the Senior Warden at Saint Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church in South Bend, Indiana. Nine months into that position, the Rector announced he had accepted a call at another parish. Lynne was propelled into a Rector search process, office cleaning and reorganization, and hiring a secretary. With a smile, she calls this her “trial and error learning phase.” Now, with 6 ½ years of experience, Lynn offers these pointers for new Senior Wardens:

1. Become a member of the Finance Committee. This helps to evaluate, develop and proceed with knowledgeable decisions.


2. Be involved in your Stewardship Committee. A few years ago our Stewardship Committee was renamed “Living our Faith” Ministry because we believe this ministry is more than just about pledges but what we do when we “live our faith.” The ministry has become a spiritual giving and learning program for our parish. Your involvement in your church’s stewardship committee connects it to the Finance Committee and Vestry strengthens all three benefits the parish by adding experience and knowledge in your leadership.


3. Know each ministry by being involved and encourage involvement. Talk to the ministry leaders. This is essential and helps dispel miscommunications and improves relationships within the ministries and leadership.


4. Know your office and daily routine, even if you have a secretary. There may be a time you do not have a secretary and you will need to be in charge.


5. Keep the lines of communication open. Encourage discussions and questions. Openness promotes trust.


6. Know your parishioners. Knowing your parishioners helps you to be able to recognize and invite passionate people for ministry work and strong leaders to be on the Vestry. I am a firm believer in action people and not seat warmers.


7. Answer all questions and emails promptly. Replying promptly shows respect and lets them know their questions are important even if the answer is not the one they want to hear. 


8. Do whatever it takes to support your Rector. Not only just by stepping in for them when it is necessary but making sure they are spending time with their family and putting time aside for their own spiritual renewal. 


9. Read Vestry Papers and subscribe to Vital Practices. The Episcopal Church Foundation’s publications provide informative viewpoints regarding today’s church issues and share success stories from congregations of all sizes and neighborhoods. 


10. Put your faith and trust in God. You may think this should be the first on my list, but I have saved the best for last. You have accepted God’s call to be in this central leadership position and know He will guide and support you through it.


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