January 2, 2017
New year, new vestry, same old issues. If that sounds familiar, consider your 2017 time together as opportunity to create a holy balance of prayer, formation, vision-level strategic thinking and routine business. It’s so easy to let the rush of life and issues of the day rule vestry agendas. Making a commitment to keep spiritual growth a part of your time together will prove more beneficial than just meeting the basic needs of “the business of the church.” Here are some ideas for creatively planning your meeting year:
February is an Ideal time for a Vestry retreat, particularly to incorporate new members into the leadership team. If you can swing it, take a road trip to the 2017 Church Leadership Conference at Kanuga Conference and Retreat Center in western North Carolina, February 17-19, 2017. Click here for more information and registration.
If that’s not possible this year, plan for a retreat that is at least one full day and leaves business reports behind, and includes plenty of time for spiritual emphasis. The Vital Practices web site is chock full of ideas for quality time together. To find them, do a site search for “vestry retreats.”
At the very least, take time to really get to know each other. One fun way to do so in a way that also casts an appreciative light upon your parish is to ask people – even the clerk and treasurer and rector - to bring to the February or March meeting an object that represents their love of the parish. No hints or examples about what to bring - just a request to prayerfully do it. You will be touched and surprised at what you learn.
As for the rest of the year, use the Episcopal Church Foundation’s Vestry Resource Guide has inspiration for new ideas and creativity. Assign two or three vestry members to present an overview of one chapter of the guide at designated meetings throughout the year. Each of the seven chapters includes valuable discussion questions, so include some time for the whole group to explore at least one of those questions as part of the overview.
This exercise will help identify areas where new energy for ministry exists as well as opportunities for strengthening and filling in gaps. It may also help you plan your calendar for vestry meetings into the future, as some topics may really resonate as needing more attention, such as planned giving or vision or team building.
Does your congregation have a labyrinth, centering prayer group or other ministries related to spiritual discipline? At one of your meetings this year, invite a guest speaker to teach vestry members about a spiritual practice, and to try it. Congregational leadership is truly a balancing act. Thankfully God doesn’t leave us to keep all of the plates spinning on our own.