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Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts, United States

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Church Analysis

Church Analysis

Analysis of the spreadsheet, “Church Statistics”

The spreadsheet is a compilation of bar graph charts available at http://pr.dfms.org/study.
The figures contained therein were supplied by each church annually.

All the ten Episcopal churches on Cape Cod have a clergyperson listed as “rector.”

The minimum compensation required for a full-time rector by the Episcopal Diocese of 
Massachusetts is 100K per year, which is composed of salary, health insurance, and pension contribution.  

Therefore, it is doubtful that the three churches at the bottom are paying, or could pay that
amount to their rectors.  Some other arrangement must be in force.

Based on the operating costs of St. David’s, about 180K per year is required for staff,
utilities, and maintenance at most churches. The bottom three are well below.

Churches five through seven have insufficient funds, also, and must rely on withdrawals from
endowed funds to achieve a balanced budget of 280K per year.

Churches one through four should be operating in the black, so long as the annual collections
continue at the 2013 level.

Levels of attendance have held steady for the past five years, with some ups and downs
during periods of transition in leadership. Trends vary for collections.

Reported levels of membership are grossly inflated in the underlying documents.  To be
accurate, they must be pruned of deceased, departed, and disaffected members.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Church Statistics

Attendance -- Collections 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013

Holy Spirit, Orleans 250 -- 430K 240 -- 435K 240 -- 485K 230 -- 450K 230 -- 430K
St. Mary's, Barnstable 170 -- 260K 260 -- 240K 160 -- 235K 180 -- 240K 200 -- 310K
St. Chrisopher's, Chatham 220 -- 410K 240-- 440K 230 -- 460K 220 -- 500K 200 -- 480K
St. Barnabas, Falmouth 200 -- 290K  210 -- 275K 210 -- 290K 200 -- 275K 190 -- 280K
St. David's, S. Yarmouth 140 --200K 120 --200K  140 --200K 140 --235K 150 -- 230K
St. John's, Sandwich 240 -- 260K 230 -- 240K 220 -- 230K 180 -- 250K 150 -- 210K
St. Peter's, Osterville 130 -- 240K 160 -- 300K 110 -- 290K 100 -- 270K 100 -- 230K
Christ, Harwich Port 90 -- 115K 110 -- 150K 100 -- 135K 110 -- 140K 100 -- 145K
St. Peter's, Buzzards Bay 75 -- 85K 80 -- 85K 85 -- 90K 90 --100K 100 -- 100K
St. Mary, Provincetown 80 -- 130K 70 -- 135K 75 -- 160K 75 -- 190K 70 -- 170K

Monday, October 13, 2014

Four Little Churches

Four Little Churches

Four little churches in a
large Episcopal diocese
are in  transition, searching
for the next rector.

None of them have
sufficient mesns to pay the
compensation for clergy
required by the diocese.

The diocesan consultsants
remommend that each church
withdraw large sums from
endowed funds to cover.

Inasmuch as the attendance and
collections at each church have
been declining for years, there
is little chance of replenishment.

The diocese pursues two aims:
Keep clergy employed while
insuring that the assessments
continue to flow to the diocese.

The consultants have suggested
paying only 3/4 of the prescribed
compensation for clergypersons
but retaining full assessments.

Faced with little prospect
of expanding their congregations,
the little churches will eventually
run out of endowed funds.

When this happens, and the
church closes its doors, the
remaining assets and buildings
revert to the diocese.

Not only does the church vanish,
but the buildings which the
people paid for over the years
are sold on the open market.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Incentives to Decline

Incentives to Decline: Why Some Churches Really Don't Want to Grow

By John Flowers and Karen Vannoy Posted on February 1st, 2010

This article is featured in the New Places for New People (Feb/Mar/Apr 2010) issue of Circuit Rider

Your congregation has been in significant decline for years. Members acknowledge that something must be done to reverse the decline. Plans are discussed and official votes are taken to make church growth a top priority, but with few results. Nothing seems to gain traction. When growth is a priority but nothing happens, low-grade depression and lethargy inevitably follow.

The slow death of certain denominations has been charted by polls, study groups, seminaries, and think tanks. Countless sermons are preached, classes are taught, books are written, and consultants are hired, in order to revitalize congregations. Denominational executives establish committees, task forces and study groups. Conferences are held and encouragement is given lip service, while privately, everyone knows the sad truth: few congregations will ever reverse decline once they are in its grip. The money, time, and effort are better spent on starting new congregations, because the old ones seem incapable of rebirth.

How can this be true for a faith founded on new life? If the gospel can prevail against the gates of hell, why can't it prevail against the massive decline facing our congregations?

No church members want to see their local congregation die. It would seem that their motivation to keep the church alive would be strong enough to overcome any obstacle, yet each year more churches close their doors while lamenting their fate. It is as if there are counterforces at work against the very changes that would bring new life.

We know along with Paul that there is perversity at work in the human heart and believe that same perversity can be at work on an organizational level as well. At an unconscious level, members of dying churches may be influenced by some hidden payoffs in the church's decline. Until we're willing to name and confront the incentives for decline that exist alongside the desire for new life, we may find our churches continuing to not do the thing they want but instead to do the very thing they hate.

Incentives for Decline

The individual member becomes more powerful the smaller the church. Members often hold more than one office in dying churches, their individual financial contributions carry more weight, and their absence has a bigger impact.

The church feels more intimate and familiar as it declines. With fewer people, you can know more about each other. Programs, traditions and experiences are more easily shared. Communication is easier because someone will call you to fill you in on what happened. Also, not as much is happening, so it's easier to stay informed.

The growing sense of familiarity and intimacy also make the church feel more caring. People notice when you aren't there. The pastor knows your name, and you are more likely to get personal pastoral attention.

While youth and children's programs are the first to decline in numbers, fewer children and youth provide for less disruption in worship, less pressure for change, and ease the strain on budgets and volunteers.

Fewer people make assimilation less work. Getting to know people is hard work. It requires an emotional investment in strangers, which gets more difficult as we age. As church growth ceases, the members can spend more time visiting with existing friends, which is more fun and enjoyable anyway. Six to ten new people a year is a manageable number to get to know.

The Church as a place of safety becomes primary over the risk of following Jesus. Just as some people live in a gated community to keep the world out, some church members feel safer with a symbolic gate around the church too. Laypersons with a high priority on safety and security issues are likely drawn to a church in decline. As churches decline, it becomes easier to exercise control and to minimize activities. Church growth brings increased vulnerability for a local congregation.

Finally, members with limited gifts and graces for leadership now find themselves in leadership positions. As the church declines and gifted leaders die off or leave, the remaining members are called upon to fill vacancies even if they don't possess the necessary gifts. Sometimes they are asked to fill multiple offices, and feel indispensable. The ill-suited leaders can become resistant to losing this recognition and power.

We can't begin the process of change without a frank discussion of the behaviors that feed the decline. Some individuals, like some congregations, will never get there. But healthy processes can be built while incentives are phased out.

Addressing the Incentives

Limit everyone to one office. This will meet with resistance and may need to be implemented over a 2-3 year period. In all likelihood, some offices will be left vacant. Begin by eliminating at large committee members and use the minimum number required. Name coordinators for broad ministry areas—witness, outreach and nurture—without naming committee members. Coordinators can recruit volunteers as needed. The Leadership Committee must train for a new kind of leadership that focuses on uncovering new ministries and allowing existing programs to “maintain” themselves.

To counterbalance the disruption that comes from growth, lay a new groundwork to meet the members' need for intimacy. Develop a lay-led system for caring for the membership that doesn't place you at the center. (Some members will undoubtedly feel this is “your job.” Lead Bible studies, write articles, and preach on Acts 6:1-7 until the membership understands and values the practice of caring for one another.) As you develop the network, make sure that caring for newcomers takes place as well. They aren't as easily missed as longtime members are, so save your oversight to make sure they don't fall through the cracks.

Change the focus of what it means to lead. Most dying churches are already organized into small groups for existing members through Sunday school, UMW, and informal friendship networks. It isn't the job of leadership to maintain these groups; celebrate that these groups are self-sufficient. The job of leadership is to develop new small groups for new people to connect. When you can identify twenty people who attend worship but aren't connected anywhere else, it's time for a new group to form. Solicit one or two longtime members to help you lead the new group, with the idea of taking over the leadership from you. If no one steps forward, start a new group anyway, knowing God will provide!

New people will neither know nor value the church's history as much as longtime members do. Let the established members channel their energy into writing both a detailed history and a brief history of your congregation. (By brief, we mean no more than one page). Use the brief history with newcomers. When too much emphasis is placed on a church's history, we communicate that our best days are behind us, not ahead. Who wants to join a church whose best days are gone?

With growth comes difficulties in communication. Develop the idea that members can't know everything that's happening by modeling it yourself. We hope for the day when our church is so active that we can't know everything going on at the church. Hallelujah when something happens without our knowing it! Instill new methods of communicating while constantly reinforcing the idea that no individual can know everything that's happening in the church. Make sure that websites, online newsletters, e-mail, prayer groups, telephone trees, and bulletin boards are up-to-date. If information is readily available, communication complaints tend to be about control issues.

Nothing can change the enjoyment received from visiting with old friends, so it is important to intentionally recruit and train people whose sole job each Sunday is to connect with newcomers. Surf the websites of growing congregations to see how they welcome newcomers. (Letting visitors know what to expect is especially important.) Select the people who seem naturally outgoing and friendly with a heart for the gospel, and place them near the doors. Check in each week for their contacts, how their conversations went, and what they learned. Maintain a list of the information, and every 4-6 weeks contact the new people to see if they are becoming connected to your congregation (if they aren't, it's time to start a new group). When the numbers get too big for you to handle, you'll know it's time to turn this task over to your lay leadership!

If you have limited children or youth, accept that this will take a while to grow and begin to look for possible seeds. Who in your congregation has a passion for ministry with children or youth? Which schools and childcare facilities are closest to your location? What needs might your church meet for those families? After-school care? Drama, arts, or singing groups? What about the grandchildren of your members? Are there children in your neighborhood? Your assets are that you have a big, empty building! Host birthday parties, Saturday playtimes, “Friday Night Out” babysitting services. Whatever you do, make sure you are tying these families in with your congregation, not just with a service you are providing.

Some members will never be positive about the work of growing the local church. As leaders, we need to listen to their concerns, measure the effect of those concerns on others, and yet stay focused on the vision that God calls all churches to make new disciples. In his book Hope Within History, Walter Brueggemann points out the importance of naming our pain. Only when we do that can we begin to dream again.

Karen Vannoy and John Flowers are co-pastors of First United Methodist Church in Phoenix, Arizona, and coauthors of Not Just a One-Night Stand: Ministry with the Homeless. 

Church Finances

Church Finances

October 7, 2014

(Excerpts from the Parish Profiles of three churches seeking new rectors, as
published on the website of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.)

Trinity Episcopal Church, Marshfield, MA

OUR FINANCES, like the finances of many churches today continue to present
challenges to our community. Although our 2013 budgeted expenses exceeded our
actual income, we ended the year better than expected. Our actual income in 2013
was $215,335 with expenses of $226,717. The 2013 income included a $36,944
draw from our endowment funds. This draw from our endowment fund is just $9,000
over the recommended 4% draw. Our church is fortunate enough to have two
endowment funds, worth a combined total of $669,161 at the end of 2013 that gives
us the ability to present a balanced budget. In 2013, income from pledges
accounted for 43% of our revenue with additional plate offerings accounting for an
additional 5%. 

Our budgeted expenses for 2014 presents essentially the same picture with
expected expenditures of $223,377 and our income continues to reflect an expected
draw from our endowments, now targeted to be $73,062. Our pledges for this year
represent 39% of our budget and other Sunday collections account for
approximately 4% of the budget. As of May 30, 2014, our endowment funds totaled
$691,863, which included a withdrawal this year of $34,795. As a congregation we
know that it is not prudent to continue to rely upon our endowments to balance our
operating budget. It is our hope that our new ¾ time Rector is willing and able to
motivate and energize our congregation in a new way which will lead to greater
visibly and involvement in the community and create an environment in which
people will want to join our Trinity family. We, as a congregation, are making every
effort to balance our finances and minimize our draw from our endowment.
(Trinity Church attendance has declined from about 75 to 60 persons.)

St. John's Church, Westwood, MA

Through the support of our congregation and partnership with our diocese, 
St. John’s will thrive for the next 50 years and beyond. St. John’s Vestry has 
managed its budget, successfully raised additional funds through the Together 
Now Capital Campaign and sustained its annual Stewardship Campaign to meet 
capital and operational commitments.

(St. John’s has had a Priest-in-Charge for the past three years.  Plate and pledge 
collection has declined from $180K to $150K in that time.  Average Sunday 
attendance is holding at about 70.)

The annual Stewardship drive funds the operating needs of the church each fiscal 
year. Over the last 3 years, parishioner contributions have been steady but the total 
contributions have been flat, year over year. Contributions from long time families 
and individuals represent the majority of the contributors, so greater contributions 
from newer parishioners and families will be needed. An additional source of income 
is rental of the nursery school wing to St. John’s Nursery School. The rectory is 
currently being rented to a parishioner but is an option for the living quarters of our 
new Rector. 

St. James Church, Amesbury, MA

St. James has consistently operated in the black, with the recent exception of 2011, a
year in which St. James spent nearly $100,000 on building improvements, some of
which was spent in advance of insurance reimbursements received in 2012. With an
annual operating budget of ~$145,000, St. James is well capitalized with over
$100,000 of investment assets as a backstop to the current year’s working capital.
That said, St. James has been the beneficiary of a single large annual gift for several
years. This generous gift has represented 30% to 40% of our annual income for nearly
a decade, and replacing this income with the pledges of new members is the number
one priority of our vestry and stewardship committee.

In 2006, when the new Priest-in-Charge was assigned to St. James, the finances of the
church were in disarray. Having had one rector in place for 20 years, standards and
procedures had become lax. Our Priest-in-Charge put in place a series of best
practices for bookkeeping, audit, and financial oversight that have been integrated into
the daily operations of the parish, and significantly improved the transparency of St.
James’ finances.

The decision of St. James to fund the increased cost of a new “3/4 time” rector is
calculated to support the growth required to achieve a growth in membership and
thereby achieve financial self-sufficiency by 2018. The vestry of St. James has
approved the proposed deficit spending, to be financed in the near term with savings,
and in the long term with increased pledge revenues.
(St. James has declined in attendance from 100 to 70 persons.)

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Stand Firm Conversation

Stand Firm Conversation

I’m in the position of an anglican evangelical using my management consulting expertise to try to save a small TEC church from extinction at the hands of its diocese.  Along with two other parishes, the diocesan minions are attempting to get us to take down our modest endowment in large chunks to fund a gilt-edged compensation package for interim and full-time rectors.

It isn’t going to work.  We are about 50K short.  Long-time members, those who are left, are not going to double their pledges.  Some of us are already church-shopping in case the church collapses.  The only reason I’m there is that it seemed a good idea to accompany my wife to her church when we married five years ago.

My suspicion is that the diocese would rather see us go out of business than bend to meet the needs of our situation.  We are looking at alternative scenarios, which I will not detail. My understanding is that we will be forbidden to pursue them.  If you have any helpful guidance, please email me through Stand Firm, where I am a member.

All the gory details are in a personal blog, which I do not make public.  I will give you the address (URL) if you ask.  We are in our late eighties, so we do not enjoy the distraction that this turmoil requires.

[18] Posted by profpk on 10-2-2014 at 04:16 PM · [top]

Profpk—that’s happening increasingly around TEC.  Remember—the bishops’ friends are the clergy—by and large bishops are going to use their power to help the clergy at the expense of helping the parish. They would rather the parish go under, if the priests are “taken care of.”

All you can do is 1) protect the vestry elections fervently, 2) continue to say “no” on using the endowment, and 3) prepare for the threats: “we will declare you a mission and appoint our own mission committee” and “oh looky—no supply priest for you, so no services.” 

Remember—in most dioceses, if a parish collapses, the endowment reverts to the diocese so that the bishop can fund all of his revisionist and useless staff appointments.

[20] Posted by Sarah on 10-2-2014 at 10:23 PM · [top]

Profpk and Sarah,

3) prepare for the threats: “we will declare you a mission and appoint our own mission committee” and “oh looky—no supply priest for you, so no services.”

Sarah, USC must still be a more civilized diocese than many in TEC.  One needs to be prepared to receive a letter from the bishop replacing the vestry and pulling the license of any priest who might be involved in parish resistance.  There won’t be a “threat”- it will just happen.  What you hear is “The vestry now consists of 5 members of the TEC Loyalty Group who have been reporting to me on your attempts to take the parish out of TEC (whether you were doing that or not), and the canon to the ordinary will preside at the Eucharist next Sunday.”

Under the more recent canons of many dioceses, its not any harder to shut down a recalcitrant vestry than it is to accept an episcopal renunciation or faculty resignation.

[21] Posted by tjmcmahon on 10-3-2014 at 06:34 AM · [top]

I very much sympathize with your situation.  Other than my rather cynical response above, I cannot offer much of anything constructive- those parishes I was involved in prior to my own departure from TEC all failed to resist the diocese.  Another where I knew several of the principals, and led by a conservative rector, was closed by the method I cited in #21- the rector and vestry thought they were going to a “reconciliation” session with the bishop and instead found themselves facing the chancellor demanding the keys to the building.

[22] Posted by tjmcmahon on 10-3-2014 at 06:47 AM · [top]

RE: “Sarah, USC must still be a more civilized diocese than many in TEC.”

Well I was referring to many dioceses, not necessarily USC.  And keep in mind my comments are for parishes who have no interest in taking themselves out of TEC—doesn’t even cross their minds—they’re just trying to survive and hold onto an endowment and take appropriate steps to maintain.

But the truth is, many bishops don’t want these small parishes in mostly rural areas or tiny towns to “survive”—why waste that endowment on a tiny historic parish when one might help a priest feed off of it uselessly for 4-5 years more, or better yet, it might go to the diocesan coffers, since so many parishes are struggling, losing members, losing money, and thus can’t give enough money to My Diocesan Program & Staff.

[23] Posted by Sarah on 10-3-2014 at 07:22 AM · [top]


Your last paragraph in #23 is certainly true.  Diocesan policies in many places will likely lead to circumstances similar to what is going on now in N Michigan.  Once the majority of parishes collapsed to the point of being unable to support a rector, the diocese raised their apportionment to astronomical levels to pay five “missioner” priests to oversee a hoard of untrained volunteer clergy (in local parish, 20% of the ASA have been ordained as priests or deacons- the senior warden is a deacon).  As the endowments run out, the parishes are reduced to home churches, and then may vanish altogether.  The diocese will sell the building or the Tiffany stained glass (the churches up here were built by lumber and mining barons in the late 1800s- they spared no expense), in the end, to continue the salaries of the diocesan “missioners” and “ministry developers.”

[24] Posted by tjmcmahon on 10-3-2014 at 07:41 AM · [top]

RE: “to continue the salaries of the diocesan “missioners” and “ministry developers.”

Heh—yup.  The “ministry developers” . . . what a nice name.

And don’t forget the bishop.  Mustn’t forget the bishop’s salary.

[25] Posted by Sarah on 10-3-2014 at 08:15 AM · [top]

Thanks, T.J. and Sarah for your replies.  Unfortunately, you have confirmed my suspicion that we are likely to lose our assets and be reduced to a home church.  Our wardens and vestry are TEC neophytes who have no apprehension of duplicity in the machinations of our diocese.  I had hoped to be instrumental in turning our church into a traditional posture within a TEC diocese.  One of our urban churches has done so, advertises its position vigorously, and is thriving.  So far, they have gotten away with it.

[26] Posted by profpk on 10-3-2014 at 02:24 PM · [top]

My experience has been that churches in a diocese tend to be categorized into tiers.  In the bottom tier (rural, poor and unimportant congregations), the diocese doesn’t much care what happens there, so long as there aren’t any problems.  The top tier parishes are the very wealthy ones, are almost always liberal, tend to be very insular. and want to largely operate independently.  Of most interest are the middle tier parishes.  The diocese will pounce on these parishes during transitions or other times of weakness to bring them further under liberal and/or diocesan control.  They would rather have a part-time liberal priest in charge of a declining congregation, than a full-time conservative who is growing the church.

My experience has also been that unless you have a pretty solidly united congregation that is engaged, informed and willing to hang tough, there isn’t much hope in holding out against the diocese when it turns its eyes on you.

[27] Posted by jamesw on 10-3-2014 at 03:03 PM · [top]

Probably my cynicism showing through, but if you have a revisionist bishop tolerating a large, orthodox, urban parish, in all likelihood that means said parish is paying its full apportionment to the diocese to fund its revisionist programs and pay the bishop’s salary.  So he allows them to continue paying his salary and supporting the diocesan policies and programs.

However, that said, you might want to make contact with that large parish- as large, cardinal parishes do have a certain amount of influence in diocesan circles.  If nothing else, they would likely invite you to come in on the weekends to participate in programs, and be able to provide you with some resources- such as educational materials- that won’t be available from the revisionist diocese.

[28] Posted by tjmcmahon on 10-3-2014 at 09:14 PM · [top]