Prof. Patrick Kimball

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Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts, United States

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Tactical Plan for St. David's

Tactical Plan for St. David’s

A tactical plan is what you will do when the enemy has you surrounded
and demands that you surrender.  Fortunately, the situation at St. David’s
is slow-moving.  There is plenty of time to work out a plan for keeping
the doors open.  It is not necessary for St. David’s to hire an interim
priest at full compensation for an indefinite period.

In a previous post, I wrote:  “I believe that St. David’s could survive if
it were free to plan its future unhindered."  The four hundred pound gorilla
in the room is the diocese.  Up to now, their representatives are managing,
and are far-removed from reality.  The exercise we participated in on
August 24th was worse that useless; especially the suggestions that we
hire two full-time clergy!

According to the co-chair of the search committee, a financial forecast
will be forthcoming from a group appointed for this task, and presented
to the congregation.  If it resembles the 2014 budget circulated at the last
annual meeting, the total for the year is not too far off from an income
required for compensating a full-time rector.

There are two fatal flaws in this picture.  The first is in assuming that pledges
will continue at the 2013 level.  At the last transition, they dropped 27
percent, from 2008 to 2009.  Then 2013 saw a further decline of 10 percent,
made up from "special gifts" and "anonymous donation."  Barring a miracle in
the form of a bequest, or supplementary donation, income alone will be far
short of that required.

The second problem is in the compensation of staff.  I won't get into specifics,
because that would compromise negotiations with present members.  But I
would guess that the 2014 budget is about 25 percent short of what the
minimum wage laws would require for the present positions.  And if a plan
for part-time clergy were adopted, a full-time parish administrator would be
needed.

Which leads me to a brief outline for a tactical plan for St. David's:

1.  Employ a retired or part-time minister to celebrate Holy Communion
     once a month on Sundays, and on Holy Days.

2.  Schedule Morning Prayer services on other Sundays, officiated by
     volunteers from the congregation.

3.  Encourage the present outreach of dedicated volunteers, adding the
     visitations and other services often performed by clergy.

4.  Enhance the adult education now taking place in discussion groups at
     church, and small groups in homes.

Now if that seems impossible, we did all the above at The Anglican
Church of the Resurrection for three years prior to the hiring of a vicar.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Survival Strategy for St. David's

Survival Strategy for St. David's

Below is an outline of a survival strategy for St. David's that I wrote in
December, after five years of attendance.  With my management
consultant hat on, I found St. David's to be a marginal operation with
no worthwhile plan for growth.  The parish directory for 2003 listed
354 units, single and families.  The 2013 directory listed 207.  That
is raw data, of course, but the numbers are telling.

I have belonged to eight Episcopal churches over 58 years and have
lived through upheavals and periods of transition.  They always
result in loss of a few parishioners, who depart looking for stable
situations in their religious life.  We hear talk about the success of
St. Mary's in West Barnstable, and have seen their dynamic rector
in action.  A similar encomium of Dennis Union Church prompts us
to pay it a visit during this transition period.

I forwarded this piece to the co-chairperson of the search committee
with strong words about the need for a realistic financial assessment.
She assured me that the parish leadership was working on same with
advice from a diocesan consultant.  At present, I don't see the
possibility of St. David's meeting the compensation requirements for
a full-time rector that the diocese imposes.  I believe that St. David's
could survive if it were free to plan its future unhindered. That would
mean the diocese would have to take a back seat role.

Strategy for St. David's

1.  Have the Yarmouth health department and/or the building inspector
     declare the mission house uninhabitable.

2.  Move the offices and the the thrift shop to the common building,
     replacing the March Room and the classrooms.

3.  Discontinue use of premises at St. David's by the day care operation.

4.  Install movable partitions in Nelson Hall for use by the church
     school and small meetings.

5.  Use Nelson Hall regularly for coffee hour and other social activities.

6.  Change the name of the church to St. David's Church, dropping the
     specific Episcopal identification.

7.  Post "We have answers" and similar evangelistic messages on
     the signboard.

8.  Begin the work of a search committee immediately to:

Forecast the financial condition of the parish

Determine what the parish can afford in paid leadership

            Shortcut the self-study process to avoid an interim rector

Use supply priests in the short term

Advertise, examine, and call a new rector or part-time minister

9.  Scrap the organization chart in the Shoreline, and replace it with a
     simple listing of primary functions, volunteer activities, and their
     leaders.

10.  Take decisive action, resisting pressure from diocesan officials
       to burden the parish with unnecessary requirements.

11.  Keep the congregants informed of progress and decisions made,
       but do not permit them to derail the process.

12.  Begin an active marketing campaign to attract new members.


None of my conclusions and recommendations came from Armand.
He did tell us that the mission house could not be torn down because
it is an historic structure on Old Main Street.  That protection does
not mean that it has to be used.  It is unsafe and a money pit.

Nelson Hall  is another white elephant, in that is not used enough
by St. David's.  Dividers in a parish hall are frequently seen in
other churches.  St. Mark's in Venice, FL, uses theirs for small
meetings throughout the week.

Discharging the day care center will be a tough nut, but it has to
be done.  They monopolize useful space and contribute nothing to
the core mission of the church.  Same for AA.

We can understand the diocesan insistence on full compensation
for interim and permanent rectors.  They are trying to protect
the interests of the clergy.  If a church can't meet their requirements,
maybe it should merge or go out of business, in their view.

In some Episcopal dioceses,  two churches may share a full-time
minister.  It is a bad solution, for a number of reasons.  Also,
attempting to go it alone is perilous.  Citing the Dennis Canon,
the diocese will send down a lawyer to seize all the assets and
evict the congregation.  Has happened already to others.

The failure of St. David's leadership to reach out to attract new
members is breathtakingly stupid.  Much of church marketing
can be free or very low cost.   Congratulations to those brave
souls who managed to find the church and join it.





Strategy for St. David's

Strategy for St. David's

December 19, 2013

1.  Have the Yarmouth health department and/or the building inspector
     declare the mission house uninhabitable.

2.  Move the offices and the the thrift shop to the common building,
     replacing the March Room and the classrooms.

3.  Discontinue use of premises at St. David's by the day care operation.

4.  Install moveable partitions in Nelson Hall for use by the church
     school and small meetings.

5.  Use Nelson Hall regularly for coffee hour and other social activities.

6.  Change the name of the church to St. David's Church, dropping the
     specific Episcopal identification.

7.  Post "We have answers" and similar evangelistic messages on
     the signboard.

8.  Begin the work of a search committee immediately to:

Forecast the financial condition of the parish

Determine what the parish can afford in paid leadership

            Shortcut the self-study process to avoid an interim rector

Use supply priests in the short term

Advertise, examine, and call a new rector or part-time minister

9.  Scrap the organization chart in the Shoreline, and replace it with a
     simple listing of primary functions, volunteer activities, and their
     leaders.

10.  Take decisive action, resisting pressure from diocesan officials
       to burden the parish with unnecessary requirements.

11.  Keep the congregants informed of progress and decisions made,
       but do not permit them to derail the process.

12.  Begin an active marketing campaign to attract new members.

Incipient Collapse

Incipient Collapse

December 31, 2011

We predicted the collapse
Of St. David's Church in 2014.
That prediction has been confirmed
By the present financial crisis.

The rector of the church,
For whom we have great affection,
Has written a mournful letter in the
Monthly publication of the church.

In it, he states that the shortfall for
The coming year's budget will be
Made up again from the reserve, and
"cannot be relied on for more than another year."

He proposes inviting a "planning" committee
To outline means to build up the reserve.
That is not planning, it is fund raising, or
"Development" in the parlance of non-profits.

But a church cannot raise funds from donors;
It must rely on the contributions from members.
Therefore the solution lies solely in recruiting
Many new members to the church family.

As we have often stated, the objective of
"Stewardship" as it is colloquially known is
Not to squeeze more money from the faithful,
But to get more faithful to squeeze money from.

The "perfect storm" discussed heretofore
Militates against attracting new members
In substantial numbers, so long as the church
Continues to follow its obsolete business model.

As we have argued previously, continuing to do
What is failing is not a recipe for future success.
Adding new outreach programs simply stretches
Church resources, while older programs suffer.

If we are to plan the future of St. David's,
We must examine the total environment of our church,
List all available options for growth, sift and discuss,
And determine what we can reasonably pursue.

Strategic Alternatives for St. David's Church

Strategic Alternatives for St. David's Church

June 21, 2010

Assuming no change in the present offerings and activities at St. David's', it will be defunct no later than 2014. From a business standpoint, therefore, the strategic alternatives open to the parish are threefold:

1. Liquidate

2. Merge

3. Downsize

No doubt liquidation would be painful for the remaining parishioners, but it is not a unique situation. Faced with an inability to pay clergy, staff, and services; going out of business is mandatory. According to the Dennis Canon, the property reverts to the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, who would undoubtedly put it up for sale to any reputable buyer -- except a rival
Anglican Church. That is forbidden by The Episcopal Church.

Merger makes sense for two or more declining congregations, and is sanctioned by church authorities at both the national and diocesan levels.  Recent mergers in New Bedford provide a precedent. Where the surviving parish would be housed is open to question. No doubt, struggles for supremacy would ensue, leaving bad feelings, and departure by persons devoted to the losing parish.

A remnant church could deliberately "downsize" by moving out of the quarters it can no longer afford, and seeking to rent an economical space in which to worship. Functioning without overhead expenses is the modus operandi for small Anglican churches. Part-time clergy suffice for conducting services; laymen perform all other ministries. It really works; I have participated in the early phases of a church plant in Brewster.

Instead of letting decline take its toll; there are ways in which a church can renew itself, grow, and achieve solvency. The objective is establish a unique identity, and thus to secure a competitive advantage. It does work.

I have seen the astounding growth of Brewster Baptist Church take place. I have also seen First Parish of Brewster (Universalist-Unitarian) find a commanding position -- and then lose it. In general terms, the alternatives are:

4. Advertise the internal strengths of the church.

5. Remove distracting and non-missional activities.

6. Organize an ancillary activity that attracts new church members.

7. Pursue a media-worthy community service.

8. Adopt a significant and newsworthy theological position.

and some combination of the above. But you cannot do all of them.

Churches do not advertise their internal strengths because they don't know what they are. I ran a 40 question census at Brewster Baptist, answered by over 400 parishioners, and found that its growth was due to one, and only one significant factor, to wit, the superb preaching by the senior pastor.

That was not news to anyone, but it disturbed the senior pastor no end.

If an activity sponsored by the church or conducted on its premises does not lead directly to attracting new members, then it should be discontinued.  Goodwill in the community does not pay the bills. At St. David's, that means ending the community suppers, AA meetings, and the nursery school. However, organizing and conducting an ancillary activity that benefits people to the point that it draws them to join the church is what we want.

Pursuing a media-worthy community service may do that, with reservation. For example, dinners for the homeless are certainly Christian outreach, but they do not add parishioners, with rare exceptions. Try something with a more direct connection. Both Willow Creek and Saddleback do not depend on their Sunday worship services to attract and keep members. They provide a variety of helpful activities. A small church, like St. David's, has to focus and be known for doing something special that leads to Christian living. Brewster Baptist tries to do too many things, and not all of them well.

Differentiating one's church by adopting a significant theological position, and being known for it, is the province of many Episcopal churches in Manhattan. I recall St. Mary the Virgin, the original "diverse" congregation, St. Stephen's, the theater church, and of course, The Church of the Transfiguration, which everyone knows as "The Little Church Around the Corner." We liked St. Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue for its high, holy, sung services.

My personal preference is for continuing education. Willow Creek conducted a survey of its members, and found they wanted more explanation of their faith. Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan does just that. A combination of evening programs at the church with follow-on home groups draws people and keeps them coming back. St. David now has only two little groups of old ladies talking to one another at the church.

Planning the Future of St. David's

Planning the Future of St. David's

May 16, 2010

Directory Listings: 2002 - 354, 2006 - 349, 2010 - 226.
Looks like the bottom dropped out!
Partially explained by 33 deaths/funerals/burials in 2009.
Average Sunday Attendance: 40-50 at 8, 80-90 at 10 (ushers' counts),
Including everyone but school age children.
Pledging Units: 130 to 140 at last report.

A fact never discussed at St. David's
Is the meltdown that the parent denomination is suffering.
Whilst arguments are constantly made about the merits of its actions,
The results have been an accelerating decline in membership,
By abandonment and separation.

St. David's is not insulated from a perfect storm of negative factors:
(1). Nationwide disinterest in attending church services,
(2). Oversupply of churches on Cape Cod,
(3). Aging demographics of the local population,
(4). Visible contention of theological views by competing Anglican churches.
Ignoring these conditions means losing control over the future of St. David's.

The existential question is:  "Is St. David's worth saving?"
If St. David's continues on its present course, It will be defunct by 2014.
The Diocese of Massachusetts has no interest in shoring up a dying parish.
Bishop Shaw extolled the combination of four parishes in New Bedford.

Growth, even survival of St. David's depends on
Dramatic differentiation of what we do from other churches;
Perhaps even a new identification of service that can attract
People to join us in its accomplishment.

Budget Crisis at St. David's

Budget Crisis at St. David's

January 6, 2009

The intent of these entries is not to derogate the good people
And their efforts at St. David's Episcopal Church.
As previously reported, the survival of the parish
Is severely handicapped by the environment in which it functions.

Now, again, a budget crisis looms,
Despite a recent every member canvass,
The pledged amount for 2010 falls critically
Short of a proposed budget.

The budget itself is patently inadequate.
The new rector agreed to a truncated contract.
Compensation of the paid staff is unconscionable;
Outreach and improvements depend on dedicated funds.

Week by week the Sunday attendance falls.
Old folks go to their heavenly reward
And are not replaced by contributing newcomers.
Fewer hands are able to work in vital functions.

Again, the old feasible solutions are liquidation
Of perhaps merger with a more affluent parish.
It won't happen, the mindset of those in charge
Is simply to ride to gradual extinction.