January 26, 2018

2023 Annual Report

Here is a creative way to get visionary juices flowing at your next Vestry planning retreat: Start writing your congregation’s 2023 Annual Report. You’ll need sticky flip chart pages and markers, and room to work in small groups.

Step 1 – Determine 3 or 4 topic areas that seem to be the most pressing right now. Examples might be finding Christian Formation teachers, increasing outreach ministry, and - just a wild guess on my part - finances.

Step 2 – Divide into groups – one group per topic. Assign a recorder (to capture the group’s final work in writing, preferably on flip chart pages easily read by all assembled), and a reporter (to verbally report the group’s findings).

Step 3 – Start discussing this question: If our congregation makes positive progress to address this topic, ideally what would be different five years from now? Narrow your brainstormed list down to no more than 3 desired outcomes. One outcome may be sufficient. The recorder should keep a written copy of the list, but does not need to scribe it onto a big flip chart page.

Step 4 – For each of the desired outcomes, answer this question: What are some initial actions that would start moving us toward this outcome? (Try to avoid divine miracles and lottery tickets). Strive to identify actions that address root issues.

Step 5 – As a group, write an article on your topic for the 2023 Annual Report. Write one paragraph for each ideal outcome, describing what was accomplished and some of the actions credited for that success. Here is an example:

25 families have included St. Swithins in their estate plans, and so are members of our newly formed Legacy Society. This is due to the educational activities of our planned giving ministry team, as informed by Planned Giving on Demand, a resource of the Episcopal Church Foundation. Vestry has established an Endowment Fund where proceeds of planned gifts will be invested for the future of St. Swithins.

Step 6 – Next, share your group’s 2023 articles with all assembled. As a Vestry, identify which of the vision-bound actions should be accomplished this year, and by whom (name the Commission, Task Force, etc. responsible for taking the lead). Someone take notes! Commit to including progress updates on these actions at each monthly Vestry meeting for the rest of the year.

This activity will take about 90 minutes. It is time well spent to gain consensus on priorities for the months ahead. Questions? Contact me at lbuskirk@episcopalfoundation.org.