September 30, 2016

Looking Back for Decisions Ahead

Many of us know what it’s like to be new a decision making body such as a vestry. It can take a while to ‘get-up-to-speed’ with the organization, getting to that place where you feel you know enough about its history, ethos, and current challenges to make informed decisions. In today’s ECF Vital Posts guest blog, Joseph John shares an approach that helped him and other vestry members get a handle on patterns of membership and pledging at their church.

Walk back in time with me when you were new to the vestry, as I was. Like a deer-in-the-headlights, I was paralyzed by the information overload and I began asking myself the proverbial question: “What did I get myself involved in”?

I recognized if I was going to be a member of the vestry, involved in this important ministry, I needed some facts — pertinent facts. I was looking for answers to “where have we been over the past 10 or 15 years”, and “are we growing, are we stagnant, or are we withering?” The three-ring binder of do’s and don’ts for vestry members didn’t include this. I needed a one page or two page of “factoids” that immediately painted a picture of our church and how those facts could relate to current and previous rectors’ tenures, our congregational numbers, and, very importantly, stewardship and pledges over the years.

After speaking to numerous people, we agreed that a “one-sheeter” of information to be shared with the vestry and the congregation would help us see the course our church has been taking over the past number of years. But, where would we begin?

Suddenly, we had our Eureka! moment. We’ve had the answer(s) in our possession all along: the Parochial Report. This was the perfect source to look to for an important snapshot over time for our church. The Parochial Report would also be a perfect tool to use during our current new rector search.

In addition to the snapshot, the Parochial Report also provides transparency because it is public knowledge. Yes, the Parochial Report provides facts, which can be interpreted in many ways — by vestry members and our congregation. And so we decided to dust off past Parochial Reports to paint a picture of where our church has been and where we think we’re going.

This resource details the use of the Parochial Report and how visual and beneficial it can be to provide information to inquisitive vestry members and congregation about the health and direction of our church.

Visit ECF Vital Practices Your Turn/Tools pages to see the resource shared by Joseph John as well as other searchable resources, across a variety of topics, gathered from congregational leaders from across our church.

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