Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Official Steps

I've been thinking in terms of rhythms and rests, remarkable moments worth repeating, and how we are a growing parish.  We all know there are those in our Episcopal Church who measure growth in the simplest terms.  Their most common metric is "Average Sunday Attendance" or ASA.  

Especially because the Episcopal Church has shifted in its designations, titles, and qualifications relative to ministry in the building and follow-up to the "new Prayer Book" the new normal is "the ministry of the baptized."  

The basic theological argument is that baptism is THE marker of membership and therefore following baptism one is fully included in the life of the church.  The old standard of "confirmed communicant in good standing" is still a portal but now more specifically for service into leadership. 

BTW neither is the category "communicant" as good a measure. You can tell how it has lost effect as a measure by looking at its current use.  Ask any parish priest what constitutes "communicant." You are likely to get an answer like "one who attends Holy Eucharist at least 3 or 5 times a year."  

Others are developing but currently, ASA is the metric.  And here's some good news.  Our ASA is up. We are seeing higher averages at both of our Sunday services.  

Great!  Just not enough. . .  Yes, I am happy to see more people in the pews during all of our worship offerings.  More IS better.  

But more is only better when it goes with more ministry, more moments, more prayers, more programs, more of what the Church of the Advent should be FOR the world around it. That's why I said, "The shape and direction of our growth is largely determined by how we prayerfully decide to add to the rhythms of each week and month." It's moments not just bodies.  

So, we will continue to use ASA as a basic measure of one kind of important growth. We'll use some others too, because we are a growing parish. 

After reporting our ASA in the annual parochial report there are other official measures or steps we must take as we grow.  In order for my tenure to continue beyond June 30, 2016 we must measure our lives using a set of standards pre-determined by the Bishop for moving through the last year of our current agreement.    Here's some of the questions we are to answer in that process:
  • The established ministry priorities: how they have been addressed?
  • Has trust built among the priest and various leaders in ministry?
  • What is learned from the mutual ministry review?
  • Have parochial reports and annual financial audits as required been filed in a timely fashion?
  • Have Dismantling Racism training and Safe Church training been held, and is the parish current on all financial obligations?
Some of these official steps are simple and we already know the answer.  Others will require involvement of members beyond the vestry to be fully addressed.  All of them are consistent with the responsibilities and blessings that come to a growing parish.  Indeed, several of these official steps are themselves invitations to further growth.  

I used to cringe at the simplistic, procedural, bean-counting, box-checking way of evaluating and encouraging attention to growth.  Now I am glad to be invited into a process that helps me to mark the "other than ASA" growth of the parish community I am more and more coming to call home.  

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