Vestry Corner: Plan Ahead to Find the Right People
For a vestry to truly help a church fulfill its mission, recruiting and nominating the right vestry members is critical, says Fred Staley, Associate for Administration at The Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach, Florida.
“We have to consider not just who is going to be on the vestry this year, but also next year and two to three years down the road. Otherwise, we’re not prepared,” Staley explains.
The vestry of the 1,600-member church consists of 12 members and the rector. Each position rotates out every three years, so the church fills four positions annually.
“We try to get a diverse cross-section of the congregation, in terms of ethnicity and gender, so it’s a true representation of the population,” Staley says.
Strategizing for Years Ahead
Potential vestry members might start out serving on a committee or subcommittee to gain experience. That way they are more likely to be strong candidates for the vestry in the future.
A vestry member is required to be a confirmed communicant in good standing. He or she must have been baptized and confirmed in the church, attend faithfully, serve in a ministry, and give to the church regularly.
Making the Selection
Bethesda-by-the-Sea distributes a nomination sheet in its weekly newsletter and encourages parishioners to put themselves forward or to nominate others. The parish’s Leadership and Governance subcommittee compiles a list of candidates, and the parish also allows nominations from the floor at its annual meeting, when vestry nominations are confirmed.
Staley says the subcommittee must also be prepared to conduct a ballot election if a new candidate comes forward at the last minute. While a contested election doesn’t necessarily produce a better vestry, it can easily cause hurt feelings.
“That’s why we stress organization and preparedness,” Staley says. “They are key to a vestry nomination process that works.”
Church Publishing Incorporated’s vestry and leadership resources can help you in your candidate search by offering sensible guidance and practical tips.