Thursday, 9 June 2011

Number crunching

I’ve been settling into my new role in the parish and musing about the various official bits and pieces of communication I have received. The Guidelines for Residents in diocesan houses makes sense, though I’m still waiting for someone to come and sort out the lack of hot water for a bath, having reported the problem a week ago. There’s the legal stuff like assigned fees and the Statement of Particulars as part of Common Tenure (see Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Regulations 2009).

However, the piece of paper that really caught my eye was the details of Parish Share for 2011 from the Diocesan Office. The sheet sets out a breakdown of how much the parish has given so far this year and the balance left to contribute and it was enclosed with a letter of welcome. On the back is a breakdown by parish of the deanery Parish Share for the last 5 years. Now I don’t have a problem with this in itself, I think that the Parish Share is important in enabling the mission and ministry of the parishes and the diocese. What I do have a problem with is the fact that this is the only published measured assessment of a parish’s contribution sent to me as I embarked on my ministry. The message it communicated to me was that this was what the diocese really cared about when it came to measuring the effectiveness of my ministry or the work of the local church. I know that is not the case but that is how it felt.

Why no figures about the number of baptisms, confirmations, regular worshippers, vocations to various licensed and authorised ministry, weddings, funerals, pastoral visits, discipleship programmes, home groups, children’s and youth ministries, missionary support, outreach activities, community engagement events and the hundred and one other things that the local church is about? Now I know what most of these figures are because they were clearly set out in the parish profile that I received during the appointment process. But these figures aren’t published or discussed in the detail or with the same scrutiny as the amount of money a church gives to the diocese. So what does that say about where our values and priorities are?


UKViewer said...

I ponder this often as Benefice Treasurer. The measure of performance is how many are on the Electoral roll and average attendance. This year we had 24 confirmations, double last year, the Bishop came, but it did not even get a mention on the diocesan website.

Each diocese has a different way of calculating parish share and my diocese allows the deanery to work out individual benefice and church within benefice share. We actually pay more to support those parishes that are unable to pay. This is part of mission. But it hurts when we have our own issues including elements of deprivation scattered between more afluent areas in our five villages.

I'm not popular when, with the Vicar, I give the bad news to PCC treasurers of what they have to pay next year. We are stretched, we struggle, but somehow manage to pay every demand.

If we were paying for our own stipendiary and an amount towards shared diocesan expenses it would be simple, but its all of the other services which are included. Often this leads to a 'them and us' feeling among the PCC members.

When things are going well, we hear little from DBF, when someone falls behind, say the treasurer is on holiday and can't sign a cheque, we get hassled for payment. DBF is more of a debt collection agency, rather than a Board of Finance.

Charlie said...

Welcome to parish ministry.

I think most Diocesan staff think of themselves as working at Head Office, where the churches are the branches, or shopfronts, or something like that. As soon as you see it that way, it becomes clear why they push out stuff like this: the only measure of effectiveness of a branch is how much it sends back up the line. Whereas if they understood that the parishes are the Diocese, and that their job is to support them, they would be more interested in identifying church's effectivess in the communities that they serve.

Sipech said...

So long as the gospel is preached faithfully, that's all that really matters.