Voice of the vestry: The business of church

By Nancy Flowers

Nancy FlowersWhen I submitted my application as a candidate for the vestry two years ago, I ran on my business acumen. Having worked in the corporate world for over 20 years, I believed my background and business perspective could contribute positively to running a healthy church. I went in boldly falling back on how meetings should be run and decisions should be made; I thought the vestry could be swifter, more efficient, more effective. Let’s face it, there is a lot of business in church. There are budgets, and planning, monthly and quarterly reports, strategic issues, cash flow issues, building issues, scheduling issues, meetings, minutes, agendas, bylaws, etc.

And while my business experience does prove to be useful for my vestry responsibilities, my perspective has been turned upside down. I now believe we need more church in business. I cannot tell you the number of lessons I have learned from participating in the vestry and belonging to Grace Church that I now find myself applying to work. There are the obvious lessons like the “golden rule,” but there are less obvious ones like the “act of discernment.”

One of the first things we were asked to learn about as a vestry member was discernment- we read Graham Standish’s Becoming a Blessed Church and discussed it and since have been regularly called upon to utilize it as a decision technique. It’s so counter to my usual decision making technique, which is to gather as much data and input as possible, weigh the pros and cons, think about how it impacts the business, the big picture, and make the most logical decision. Discernment is to listen, to be silent, to pray, to wait patiently for direction from God, to let the best decision rise to the top.   Discernment isn’t always easy and it certainly isn’t always fast, but I can say it has not steered me wrong, and it has always felt good to implement a decision that came out of discernment.

It’s a funny thing how what you expect out of an experience is often the opposite of what you get. The first few months, I was impatient when we took up precious meeting time to pray or work on spirituality. Now those are often my favorite aspects of the meeting. Now I wish I could start every meeting in my life with a prayer. Wouldn’t that be nice?