About Me

My photo
Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts, United States

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

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.

No comments: