Surviving the Annual Meeting is an ecclesiastical rite of passage for clergy and parishioners everywhere. Plus, since mine's this weekend at St. John's in Hingham, MA, it's been on my mind. A lot.
Thus, I thought I'd share a timely excerpt from my (now not so) newly released Father Tim's Church Survival Guide (Morehouse 2015). I'm pretty sure a number of you will be able to relate.
Annual Meeting Haiku
At the end of January most congregations hold their canonically-required Annual Parish Meeting. You can always tell when a parish has a divisive issue to address since they schedule the meeting on Super Bowl Sunday, secretly hoping fewer people will attend.
At their best, Annual Meetings are wonderful celebrations of parish life. They give parishioners a chance to hear about the breadth of ministry that takes place — both visible (Sunday School) and invisible (Altar Guild). New vestry members are elected, the annual budget for the coming year is presented, and the congregation is given an opportunity to ask questions and offer comments.
The Annual Meeting is an invaluable time to take a step back in the midst of the daily grind of ministry to seek the broader view, examine the past year, and look ahead to where God may be calling the congregation in the future.
Unfortunately they rarely live up to such lofty ideals which is why they are often poorly attended. If you haven’t checked your watch early and often during an Annual Meeting, you’re probably not a true parishioner.
These affairs are also an annual source of stress for clergy, lay leaders, and parish staff. Transparency is important and thus offering details about the budget plays a vital, if tedious, role. If there are “fireworks” at the Annual Meeting they usually stem from the budget presentation -- thoughtfully provided by the three parish cranks who bring up the same issues every single year.
As a service to all who diligently prepare for their respective Annual Meetings (and those who must endure them), I offer the following poem to save everyone time, effort, and copy paper. I recommend standing up, reciting this, and then sending everyone home. I promise you will go down in the annals of parish history as the most revered rector/senior warden combination to ever grace your congregation. The Annual Meeting will be over before you can say “brass plaque in my honor” three times.
The Annual Meeting Haiku
Budget blah, blah, blah
Something about Jesus Christ
Please up your pledges.