The diocese's Congregational Consultants are this year marking 15 years of service to congregations, during which they've offered countless hours of guidance on everything from annual budgeting and audits, property matters and financial planning, to leading vestry retreats, conflict mediation and mutual ministry reviews to assess how lay and ordained leaders are working together to accomplish goals.
The group began in 2004 as a team of business professionals recruited from parishes around the diocese to foster sound business practices in congregations. Five years ago they merged with the diocese's team of congregational coaches, which had come into being around the same time as the business consultants group and whose members were trained to work with congregations to promote their health and vitality.
Today the group numbers about 35. Payment is voluntary for the services they provide.
"I would like congregations to know that consultants bring rich experiences to their work with parishes on various issues. Being able to exchange ideas from other parishes and to access resources can often help a parish find a way to solve its problems," consultant Betsey Anderson said in an interview via e-mail. She is a member of St. Paul's Church in Bedford, where she has served in many positions over the years, including as treasurer, senior warden and, currently, as assistant treasurer.
Anderson joined the consultants in 2012 upon her retirement from Tufts University where she had worked for 15 years in the finance department, as an accountant and financial analyst and, finally, as university budget director.
"The skills I had from my work experience, as well as my many years working in a parish, seemed a good fit for becoming a consultant," she said. She has also been involved in local government in Bedford for many years, serving on the town's finance committee and as a selectman and, from 1999 to 2016, as town moderator.
This year, Anderson will take on a leadership role in convening and coordinating the Congregational Consultants, alongside Chris Meyer, a founding member of the Congregational Consultants and the group's volunteer coordinator since 2007. He is a member of the Parish of St. Paul in Newton Highlands.
In addition to the business and leadership coaching they offer to individual congregations, the Congregational Consultants also host an annual series of spring workshops at locations around the diocese that are focused on the business aspects of congregational life.
"Parishes are conducting annual meetings and electing new officers at this time of year, and these workshops can be especially helpful to incoming wardens, treasurers and vestry members, as well as clergy, in gaining an understanding of the business aspects of congregational life and becoming familiar with some of the tools that are available," Meyer said in an interview.
The workshops will be offered on four Saturdays: March 16 at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston; March 23 at Trinity Church in Melrose; March 30 at Trinity Church in Canton; and April 6 at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Wareham. (Click on the date links for registration information).
Interested in becoming a congregational consultant? The group is always looking for new members who have time and professional business and leadership experience to share. Inquiries can be directed to coordinator Chris Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.