Adventures of the Parish Council President-Part 2

Okay, so I sneezed and already it’s 5 days past the promised continuation of the story.  Where does time go?!?

The annual meeting itself…

Overall, I must say the meeting was a good one. There was a lot of civil discussion about the variety of items brought forward for vote which pleased me immensely.  Not until I entered the Orthodox Church did I encounter such hostility and verbal abuse at council meetings. Wow!  My current parish is very sane about their meetings.

As usual, I had an agenda and stuck to it.  The secretary is grateful since they make her life much simpler. It also keeps everyone on task, especially me!

A big discussion at the 2014 annual meeting was the necessity of background checks for those who work with children/youth. Our jurisdiction requires it. We will (and must) adhere to the requirements.  Many people were offended and suspicious of the necessity.  “Everyone knows everyone else and has for years,” was the general consensus. That was quickly countered with proven stats that a child is most often abused by someone they know well or are related to.  I wanted to revisit the topic to say “We are in compliance” and to deliberately get it in the parish minutes.  Call it CYA. Call it insurance. Call it whatever you want.  I wanted everyone to know the background checks were done. Period. No one died. No one got arrested. It was painless. Get over it and get used to it people. We’re in a new world now.

The two big issues that were going to be addressed this year were 1) having, for the first time ever in the history of the church, a budget; and 2) improve our giving records in order to provide each donor a record of their giving for the year by utilizing an envelope system.

What was my rationale for wanting these two items on the agenda?  I mean after all, was I looking to pick a fight, or what?  No, I didn’t want to fight or argue. What I wanted to do was to continue to bring order to the chaos. I started small (having an agenda for every single meeting).  I continued with working to step out of the “middle man” job and direct people to speak to the priest with grievances, concerns, and celebrations to work at derailing back alley conversations and gossip. A budget would continue the work of orderliness instead of chaos.

The current system is rather free.  Money is kept track of for the most part.  Income had some categories (candles, prosphora, membership/dues, offerings, other).  Expenses were loosely categorized (materials for church, services, utilities & insurance, other).  However, whenever the suggestion of “let’s advertise Christmas services” someone always said, “We don’t have the money!”  Yet we spent $400 on advertising and categorized it “other expenses”.  So let’s make a line item called “advertising,” allot $400 to it and spend no more than that! There was no target to measure our tithes/offerings against.  How can one be a good steward when one doesn’t know WHAT they are stewarding?  Enter –> budget!  Conversation was lively but fair.  In the end, the parish voted a bottom line of $31,000 of income, to be allocated however the council felt was appropriate but to keep it to the line items established at the meeting.

Now this sounds all nice and pretty, doesn’t it?  What you don’t know dear Reader is 2014 income was $27,000 and expenses were $30,500.  So rather than approve a budget that met 2014’s income they approved a budget that met 2014 expenses!  Oookkkaaayayyy.  There was no discussion about cutting costs.  No discussion about fundraising to meet the shortfall. Just “all in favor say aye!” One parishioner said, “I’ve never done a budget in my life! So do what you think is best and let’s make it $31,000!”  Really? REALLY!!  Well, I says to myself, “Self, at least they got behind the concept even though they didn’t quite get it.  And Self, how does one get to be 66 and never have done a budget before?” Really? REALLY!!

The discussion regarding implementing an envelope system was quite interesting…and I’ll tell you about it the next time!

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One thought on “Adventures of the Parish Council President-Part 2

  1. But…but…but…..you can’t even run a household without some form of budget, however rudimentary! I know how much per week I can spend on food, and that’s it. Not a penny more. Why do folk think a parish can be run with no reference to or knowledge of its income??

    Well done, though – I would possibly have been banging my head on the table long before the meeting ended 😉

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