Although it has not yet been a month since our last Vestry update, I would like to take this opportunity to communicate upcoming changes in the way the Vestry members are selected. In a nutshell, we are moving from electing a House of Representatives to selecting the Cabinet.
How does the Vestry run now?
In Episcopalian circles, we are considered a large church, although most of us feel the Fig is small and homey. We have a 2 MM budget, 17 staff members, and close to 50k sq. footage of campus buildings to maintain. Long gone are the days when volunteers could run the church and its associated business affairs. During the past year your Vestry spent a great deal of time during our strategic visioning process discussing how to attract new vestry members who bring specific talents, skills and experience to the process of running an increasingly complex parish and Vestry. This need- to run our church and Vestry administratively like the big church it is- is the primary motivation for making a change to our election process.
Our Vestry work is organized around three distinct committees: BFA (Budget Finance and administration); BGT (Building, Grounds and Technology) and MM (Mission and Ministry). It is necessary for the chair of each committee to have both leadership skills and specific expertise in these areas, as well as critical to have committee members who also are conversant with the recommendations and decisions made by that committee.
Why do we need to change?
With the nomination process we have now, there is no guarantee our new Vestry members will have the skills and expertise these committees need. Beginning with a more intentional vestry nomination and selection process, as well as developing a pathway to leadership, we can develop parishioners’ familiarity with each committee and the role of the Vestry in the larger sense. Then, just as larger corporations do with nominating specific persons with specific skill sets and expertise for their Board, we can also have a pool of talented individuals to fill these roles.
Sometimes it is difficult to get the most qualified people serving on the Vestry. Some people don’t want to run because they have heard that vestry work is inefficient and frustrating, but that is more likely to happen when the needed expertise is lacking. If there is a slate of six with only four elected, two people will be disappointed, and they may have been the most qualified. Finally, many of us may have voted for those whose names we recognized and who we worked with in various ministries, rather than those who might have the most relevant expertise.
We think that with a vestry composed of persons with appropriate skill sets, accustomed to working in areas with which they have familiarity, the Vestry will become more efficient and effective- which will tend to attract more well-qualified candidates.
Our current process attempts to do a conscientious job of selecting people for Vestry who are qualified and involving the whole congregation. Our current policy calls for an electoral process that begins in early spring with the appointment of a nominating committee, under leadership of one of the Vestry members on BFA. These persons on the nominating committee are typically asked by the chair, with the goal of a diverse group encompassing all three services, and age, ethnic and gender diversity. The nominations committee then meets to identify parishioners who seem to be good candidates. Self-nominations are also solicited through the bulletin. Most years the nominating committee has difficulty fielding a slate of six for 4 positions. Although the current process is open to all, less than 20% of our congregation casts a ballot- and that is in a good year. With so few people participating in the election process, our current process isn’t getting the whole parish involved, and it doesn’t always get people who could add needed expertise interested in developing their lay leadership. Having a path to leadership and intentional selection based on the needs of the church insures that anyone who is interested can become involved and grow into a leadership position.
So, what changes are coming?
A process for leadership development will begin so those interested in a vestry calling can become exposed to and fluent in the work of our larger ministries, the vestry committees and budgeting process. In other words, they will develop the background knowledge to help make the vestry successful.
The vestry is currently identifying the skill sets and expertise we need for both vestry members, and appointed positions.
This will be a transparent process. Anyone may still self nominate. If you don’t have any experience with the work of the church, an intentional path will be drawn up for the committee experience you need.
The nominating committee will be the selection committee, and members of this committee will be sought via bulletin and enews. We do not want this to be a process shrouded in secrecy. The nominating committee will solicit, interview and select the four candidates that most fit the needs of the Vestry for the coming three years.
How can you be involved or feel like you have input into this process?
- Ask to be on the nominating committee
- Nominate others (with their approval) or yourself for consideration
- Become familiar with the needs we have (which will be communicated in the next 6-8 weeks) and recommend friends with those skill sets to apply
- Become involved in a ministry; lead a ministry; work on one of the three vestry committees
- Pray for God’s guidance for our church and our work on behalf of the parish.
–Liz Kerner, Senior Warden