The Stated Clerk’s primary function is to provide polity guidance to the presbytery and its member congregations. As I live into this role, I have challenged myself to write an occasional piece for the 10/20 highlighting different issues which I hope will be helpful in clarifying confusion or enhancing the work of sessions. If you have polity questions, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the presbytery office at 225-275-1242, and dial my extension to be forwarded to my cell phone. Also, I welcome your suggestions for future topics!
With the Annual Statistical Reports due next month (February 18), I wanted to talk a little about that process this month. The primary questions that I have heard about this annual report are “Why do we do this? Does anyone even look at it?” The answer to the second question also answers the first. Yes, someone does look at it. The data is compiled by the General Assembly and used to identify trends and recommend actions like providing materials for senior ministries in an aging church or investing in Youth and Young Adult Ministry to build up a new generation of leaders. Another important consumer of this data is potential pastors. The Ministry Information Forms (MIFs) of congregations that are seeking pastors directly link to the most recent statistical report. Many pastors will also read the five year report (available at https://church-trends.pcusa.org/) to get an idea of what may have been happening in the life of the congregation, as changes in membership, finances, or gaps in reporting can all be clues that something significant happened that a new minister probably needs to know. Finally, the most important consumer of this information is you. The Book of Order says that sessions should be “reviewing the roll of active members at least annually and counseling with those who have neglected the responsibilities of membership” (G-3.0201c). The annual statistical report is a good way for sessions to begin that process and to notice other important trends in the life of the congregation as they plan for a new year of mission and ministry.
May the Peace of Christ be with you,
Rev. Barry Chance, Stated Clerk