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Annual Consultations

Alice was an active laywoman at Calvary Presbyterian Church in Riverside, CA, where I was called right out of seminary to my first position as Minister with Youth.  She was one of the adult leaders who helped start the off campus ministry with the Native American youth enrolled at Sherman Institute, a federal boarding school for youth from the reservations in the Southwest—Navajo, Pima, Apache, Hopi, Utes.  Since I was the Youth Minister and the only person of color on the 4 member pastoral staff, there was never a question as to whom would be assigned the staffing responsibility.  In fact, the Calvary congregation was 99% white, while the entire custodial staff was men of color—Mexican and African American.  The office staff was all women.  This was the 60’s.

As staff to this newly created ministry, I had to learn how to work with adult volunteer leaders.  What was my role?  What were my responsibilities as distinct from the volunteer leaders?  What did they need from me?  How do I work with them?  Some lessons came naturally.  I was good at relating to the Native American young people, so I served as a role model to the adult volunteers as to how to do that.  I was good at leadership training and development.  But where I needed lots of help was with administrative details and responsibilities.  The volunteers needed me to provide that administrative support in order for them to do their job.  One day, Alice, called me and without mincing words, scolded me for falling down on the job of providing the detailed administrative support for her fellow volunteers.  She gave me a tongue-lashing which could be summed up by the lesson from the Parable of the 2 Sons in the Gospel of Matthew, one of whom promised his father that he would do what was asked and ended up not following through. To Alice, I had verbally promised to take care of some administrative details and ended up not following through.  Don’t make promises that you know you will not or cannot keep, especially to volunteers.

That tongue-lashing has served me well throughout my ministry.  My congregants have been able to count on me to get things done, especially when I tell them what I will do.  I applied this important lesson to the way I worked with the Personnel Committee at the Presbyterian Church in Chinatown.  For my Annual Consultations with the Personnel Committee, I prepared a two part report.  The first and indispensable part was my projected goals and activities.  In other words, I gave the committee in writing what I intended to accomplish in the coming year.  The second part of the report was my personal assessment of how well I accomplished the projected goals and activities set at the beginning of the just completed year.  The two part report provided the committee direction and guidance on how to conduct the annual performance review.  Given the fact that they had in their hands my projections (and promises) from the previous year, the committee could provide invaluable and constructive feedback.  They had something concrete to review and were able to work with me on how and why some goals were not met and jobs not done, and more importantly to set goals for the following year.  In time, the Annual Consultations were so helpful and constructive that the church officers—Deacons and Ruling Elders—were inspired to prepare and share a similar 2 part annual report with each other in order to take their leadership more seriously and responsibly and to hold one another accountable.  In the end, the annual consultations did not focus just on me personally, but on the life, health, and direction of the congregation. 

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

(1 Corinthians 12:4-7)

2 thoughts on “Annual Consultations”

  1. This week’s topic was helpful. I was hired as a 16-20 hrs. part-time secretary by a congregational church almost two decades. My job description never got changed beyond the first two years even though due to deaths, aging, relocation of congregation members and thus a steep declining church, I absorbed all the fiscal and administrative responsibilities. I was in effect an unofficial Executive Director utilizing my post-graduate educational background, broad work and life experience, creativity and full-time+ time commitment. I was happy to do this as my personal ministry in light of their need.
    In recent past 5 years I have been trying to get the congregation members to learn the essential components of what I have been doing which they have taken for granted, and what will be coming down the road. I was trying to do succession planning. Unfortunately it hasn’t gotten traction as their individual lives moved on and they are in their own bubbles; but they are not ready to let the Church (the existence of the church and its buildings) go.

    I am no longer willing to continue as before and was not sure how to more definitively let them know. I have suggested a Memorandum of Understating from them but circumstances and human resource attention have not been available. In my view, they are in hospice and I am not sure I want to be one of the hospice care attendants.

    1. Gwen, I hope the congregation appreciated all you did and attempted to do even though you did not receive the needed support over your long tenure. I have serious questions and concerns about the absence of both pastoral and congregational leadership.

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