The Vestry has continued to work through the summer to address the issues that are constant in our mandate: budgeting for 2018, caring for the physical plant, and strengthening our ministries. Our three Vestry committees have extensive reports that you can find in the Vestry minutes for June. It is our hope that parishioners will choose to stay informed by reading the minutes each month.
Each Vestry committee has been tasked with specific portions of the strategic vision and goals. Some of our goals are quite lofty, and this year we can only begin to think about how we will accomplish them. Some of our goals are very concrete, and we are already actively pursuing their completion. Many goals are interconnected, and all three Vestry committees (Building, Grounds, and Technology; Budget, Finance, and Administration; Mission and Ministry) play a role in reaching for the change.
One such intersection of goals involves our process of welcoming newcomers, connecting them to the life of our church, and developing a pathway for leadership within the church. Much research has been done in church circles on how to keep new members engaged, and as you would expect, connecting them to a group or ministry has proven most successful. The church quickly becomes home once you have a group of friends and feel like a part of a ministry that speaks to your heart. But the “how” of this act of connecting is a big question, and one we are actively considering. Related to this set of goals is the need to identify existing church members who have life experiences and talents that would benefit individual ministries, as well as equip them for leadership positions (hence the recent member survey that also asked for life skills and interests!).
In considering this last issue – how we learn people’s skills and talents and connect them with appropriate service and leadership opportunities – the Vestry has been evaluating the effectiveness of our Vestry selection process. At the Vestry retreat this past February, there was much discussion about the complexity of the issues and decisions that the Vestry had to handle, and awareness that the Vestry needs members with particular expertise and skills to enable us to function at a high level. Love and commitment to the church is fundamental, but we also need people who have the ability to actively participate in financial, facility-maintenance, development, strategic vision, and organizational work. As a result, we’ve come to realize that we need a clearer and more robust pathway to connect people who have skills and interest with opportunities to work with the Vestry and its committees, in order to better utilize our talented membership and ensure the 12 members of the Vestry possess a healthy and necessary mixture of abilities and skills.
Ideally, a Vestry selection process should be open, inclusive, and effective, yielding a new group of well-prepared Vestry members year-after-year. It should also be self-sustaining, so that instead of having to twist arms to get sufficient candidates to run for Vestry, there will be many leaders in the pipeline.
The current Vestry selection process seems open and inclusive because Vestry members are elected by the congregation at-large. However, both nominations and the election itself have largely turned on who is most well-known, and since voter-participation is traditionally quite low, the results may not necessarily represent the diversity of the parish. Thus, despite having the appearance of being open and inclusive, in reality it is much more insular and popularity-based. As to effectiveness, our current and past vestries have been faithful, diligent, and hard-working, yet there is consensus that we have occasionally lacked certain specific skill sets or expertise that could have enhanced overall performance and effectiveness. This is absolutely no knock on the amazing servants who have served on past vestries, but awareness that the current demands of leading this church are great and require a range of knowledge and skills.
One additional factor that came up in our discernment about the Vestry-selection process had to do with the experience of recruiting well-qualified candidates who subsequently lost the election and were turned off by the process. Many of those not elected felt that their talents mattered less than their popularity, and we have struggled to keep some of these talented leaders engaged and connected beyond the election.
Ultimately, the Vestry came to the realization that we needed to modify the Vestry selection process. This change involves more than simply how members are selected, but also includes efforts to create a healthier, more diverse pathway to all forms of leadership, Vestry included.
We urge you to get involved in Vestry selection by volunteering to be on the Nominating Committee or encouraging the participation of fellow faithful and talented members. We want the Nominating Committee to be knowledgeable, faithful, and diverse, so that the process is open, inclusive, and effective.
We also encourage you to consider participating in one of the Vestry committees, and if you’re interested, please contact me. We will always have room for anyone who wants to contribute. In looking over the strategic vision and goals, if you see one that speaks to you, please email me. Most of the goals have or will have ad hoc committees, and we need lots of willing hands to pursue these dreams.