Annual Meetings and Reports
Wednesday, January 30, 2019 at 10:40AM
Robert Gallagher


Tis the season!

So, a few random thoughts on annual meetings and reports.




What’s the tone of the report?

A PR piece for the rector and vestry? Shows honesty and humility?

Or like this – bleak, grim, disappointed, fearful, agitated, concerned, angry, frustrated, alive, content, pleased, warm, etc.


Does it provide valid and useful information?

Provides the basics – Average attendance, pledging, financials, participation in adult formation offerings.  It’s essential that the information be offered based on the past 5 years and then back 5 and 10 years. That helps understand trends and to avoid the understandable impulse to hide uncomfortable facts.

See the PDF “Intervention Theory.”  The model places the need for valid and useful information in relationship to gaining increased internal commitment.

Does it feel honest and open or like you’re being sold something?


What does it say this parish is about?

There are three tasks of the parish church:


  1. The worship of God
  2. The formation of the People of God, and
  3. Nurturing a sanctifying relationship with the external “publics” the parish is most connected with (usually the neighborhood around the parish, sometimes an entire town or city, other times a particular community, e.g., the performing arts.


Does the report highlight expressions of those tasks? Does it help us understand and be reflective on the core of our life or does it draw us off into information included to satisfy some individuals or is it filled with trivia?



Useful participation

Was the meeting designed in a way that generated participation? For example, instead of opening the floor to questions (tilting things toward the more assertive people) have two or three short periods in which people talked in small groups and then comments or questions were invited. 

Or, was there a more involved conversation about either all of parish life and ministry (“How are we doing”) or around a particular program, issue, or proposal? The session needs to be carefully structured and facilitated so people feel safe to contribute.

For example, if you decided to look at an issue such as the decline in average attendance.  How might you structure the process?

1. Present the data, e.g.

2005 – 90

2010 – 200

2012 – 250

2015 – 200

2016 – 190

2017 – 185

2018 - 180

2. For 10 – 15 minutes the Rector and other leaders share their understanding of why there’s been a decline and how they will respond (what strategy they will engage – organic evangelization, “right size” stance, lots of programs for targeted groups, etc.)

3. Small groups use the Likes-Concerns-Wishes Process. Newsprint pads are used. Items are prioritized.

4. The prioritized items are reported back to the whole group

5. The rector and wardens respond with – “What we hear the community saying is …”


What evaluation/feedback system are you using?

I know, the question will throw many of you off. Who ever thought about asking people to assess the meeting? Yet, as with other aspects of parish life, if you don’t reflect upon it and see what can be learned, you’re likely to repeat mistakes and/or be inclined to make changes based on too little information.

You want something short? Maybe three questions.

1. Satisfaction Level

Very Dissatisfied    1   2   3   4   5   6     Very Satisfied

2. What was the most positive thing about the meeting, for you?

3. What was the most troublesome part of the meeting, for you?


Or you might ask questions along these lines: Was the purpose of the meeting clear? Did you feel listened to and heard? Was the meeting well designed?

Here are two worksheets that offer areas that you might assess and reflect upon. Be sure to ask yourself whether the items on the assessment will be understood by most members. If not, is there some training to be doen on the next few years before attempting to change the meeting? 

            Assessment 1    Assessment 2

Or you might use the Likes-Concerns-Wishes format. That might be especially appropriate if you are trying to get that format used in other parish settings. Having a familiar format can help build trust and a sense of communal competence.

         A web page on the process        A PDF worksheet


Learning from experience 

Have a working group reflect on the meeting and the report. It can help for the members to complete the same assessment used at the end of the meeting and then look at the results from those present at the meeting. That can assist you in seeing your own bias.

Identify learnings – what can we do to improve the report and meeting? What do we want to maintain next year? What might we do differently next year?

If you decide to change your approach -- take care. Think through the issues related to the process of change.



Article originally appeared on Congregational Development (
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