Parish Governance

Read "Hold the Course" - advice for how to handle parish investments in times of market downturn and volatility.

 

This section of the site includes information regarding the organization and overall governance of parishes—in particular matters relating to the vestry and wardens. For information regarding detailed financial, administrative and employment matters, please go to the Parish Finance and Administration pages.

 


On this page you will find general advice on best practices for vestries. On subsequent pages, you will find more detailed advice on specific topics (see the left menu bar).


 
Vestry Meetings
 
Talented individuals are more inclined to serve on vestries when they hear or find that the meetings are ones of accomplishment, and are not overly long. A great deal has been written about the conduct and effectiveness of meetings, the essence of which seems to be:

  • The agenda and related materials should be distributed to all members in advance of the meeting, so that each member will be prepared to participate and contribute to the greatest extent possible. When appropriate, such advance materials should include background information, analyses, and a discussion of alternatives.

 

  • The chairperson should study and apply proven techniques of planning for and conducting a meeting, in which all members are encouraged to participate in an orderly manner, and where appropriate conclusions and decisions are then reached.

 

Parish Treasurer's Report
 
 At each regular meeting of the vestry, the treasurer should present a written statement of all monies received and expended and of such other data as may be deemed pertinent or essential to a showing of the then current financial condition of the parish.

 

Parish Budget
 
In the preparation of its budget each year, each parish should provide adequate funds not only for deferred maintenance, but also for preventive maintenance and capital replacement.

 

Minute Book
 
 This book is to contain a record of all vestry meetings, the annual meeting, copies of Parochial Reports, and a current inventory of the real property of the parish. It is the responsibility of the clerk to make certain that the Minute Book is maintained.

 

Authority to Make Commitments
 
The dollar limits of named persons authorized to make commitments on behalf of the congregation should be determined and reduced to written form, for such transactions as these:
 

  • Capital Projects
  • Purchase and maintenance contracts
  • Consultant's fees
  • Fees of independent accountants
  • Expense reimbursements
  • Promotions, additions, salary increases
  • Purchase of operating supplies
  • Other operating expenses
  • Investment of funds
  • Changes in employee benefits
  • Changes in insurance coverage

 

Position Descriptions
 
In all but the smallest congregations, it is recommended that position descriptions be prepared and updated periodically, so that each person has a clear and complete understanding of his/her duties and responsibilities. Descriptions should be prepared for all positions, including the rector and any other clergy, lay employees, and key volunteers.