November 16, 2011

Vestry: Cast of Characters

Prudent rectors and nominating committees already are scouting the congregation for new blood.

Often annual meetings aren’t until January, but now is the time for recruitment. Outgoing vestry members and/or the nominating committee need to have a serious meeting and look at the composition of the vestry – what skills and gifts are leaving or missing?

Here are four key characters that I think any vestry needs:

  • The Thinker: Our churches need thoughtful, contemplative leaders who can see the big picture, with an occasional zoom to the micro-level for problem-solving. This person keeps the vestry aligned with its mission statement, compares last year’s outcomes to the goals, and proposes broad plans for moving in the right directions. It also helps if this person prays a lot.
  • The Doer: Not everyone can be the grand-plan designers. We need doers. Few things can halt the progress of a congregation than a vestry that is all-talk-and-no-action. The doer takes the grand plan and implements it with hard work and ultimately, by example, brings in other, nonvestry people to join in the labor. The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
  • The Stick-in-the mud: Whether we like it or not, we need a cautionary voice in the leadership. We need the person who asks us to slow down, to think about and the implications of a project or direction and to ask tough questions. Note that this person does not have the moniker of stick-in-the-concrete. Mud is moveable, but it requires collaboration and sometimes, convincing.
  • Bandwagon: After the questions have been asked and the scenarios played out, it’s time for the team to get on board, to get on the proverbial bandwagon. It’s always OK to take the temperature of the congregation, to ask in mid-stream if we’re still moving in the right direction, but the vestry needs to move in concert for greater success. Commit to a project as a group and don’t undermine the work with side conversations and parking lot criticism. We owe this to each other to provide mutual support and a clear direction.

This is a different way of rounding up vestry nominees, which ranges from begging and pleading to an all-out cattle call. But I wonder what could happen if we looked at the vestry as a team? What if we identified the weak spots, targeted our recruitment and presented a slate with these skills?

God knows what we could accomplish.