St. Paul’s is blessed with a thriving congregation. Even in the midst of a pandemic, we want to grow wisely and well. In 2019, St. Paul’s Vestry had the foresight to appoint a subcommittee that represented a cross-section of our church membership. Their mission was to develop a proposed strategic plan for the parish that would shape our activities for the next 3 to 5 years. Bill Anlyan, Twink Barr, Cleve Callison, Rachel Carroll, Ashley Eason, Julie Martin, Joan Rosko Miller, Anne O’Dell, the Rev. Adam Pierce, Shannon Rowe, Patt Scherer and Leon Tillery made up the team.
As shown in the timeline on this page, the group worked for 6 months to develop the plan, which ultimately focused on strategies for reaching objectives in facilities, financial stewardship and human resources.
St. Paul’s Vestry ultimately approved the plan and set to work on a response to implement the strategies. They wanted to bring the entire parish into the process, so they scheduled five forums in October and November 2020 to openly communicate the process used and provide an update on where the vestry teams were in the implementation process.
St. Paul’s plans a series of five meetings to discuss our strategic plan and how we will be “Growing Together in Faith,” held via Zoom on Sunday mornings from 9:15 to 10:15, in place of adult formation.
- Oct. 4: Growing in Faith—Why a Strategic Plan | Fr. Ray and Fr. Adam | Recording
- Oct. 11: Discerning God’s Call-How We Got Here | Cleve Callison (Overview), Bill Anlyan (Facilities), Anne Babcock O’Dell (Financial Stewardship), Ashley Eason (Human Resources) | Recording | Presentation
- Oct. 18: Updating our Facilities | Steve Haughey, Angela Green, Ruth Gates, Teresa Singer | Recording | Presentation
- Oct. 25: Financial Stewardship—Deepening Our Generosity | Jan Vick, Rhonda Stroud, Joe Farri |Recording | Presentation
- Nov. 1: Human Resources—Staffing for Mission | Meaghan Thomas, Keith Calder, Sally Pope, Joan Rosko-Miller
FAQs from Forums
What is the strategic plan and who developed it? Beginning in 2019, a vestry subcommittee spent 6 months working with the Rev. Jim Hanisian on the plan. The group agreed on a proposed strategic plan that identified three key strategies for the congregation over the next 3 years: facilities, financial stewardship and human resources. They presented this proposal to the vestry. The vestry adopted the plan unanimously. Now, even though we are in a pandemic, this plan is such that we can move forward. This may seem bold. It may seem risky. We are stepping out in faith and we’re doing this together. This is like Peter getting out of the boat and trusting that Jesus will help him walk on the water.
What happens if we don’t take this step? St. Paul’s will stop growing and likely will shrink back into a smaller size church.
Why were these needs identified and not program needs, such as music, worship, outreach? The needs that were identified are foundational and will allow us to build our programs.
How can members of the parish offer input into these committees? If anyone hearing these presentations has talents and gifts they could offer to the committee, don’t hesitate to come forward and offer services. The human resources committee is going to perform a spiritual gifts assessment to determine what God is calling you to do with the talents He has given you.
Aside from ADA and fire compliance, what other serious flaws does the parish house have that we would have to address? When we took a look at the major problems (ADA and fire) and if we take a look at space utilization ratios (space we have versus space we can use), the question came up in our discussion whether going forward this facility can continue to support a growing parish. Then there were questions when the hurricane swept through in 2018 and water damage occurred in the gym. In November 2018, the vestry had a complete engineering analysis of both buildings. While there were lots of problems, we were told by the engineers that this 90-year-old building is in very sound shape.
Are we anywhere in doing two things: 1) an actual plan that the congregation could see to renovate the parish hall or 2) a plan to tear it down. There is a committee that will be working on that. Right now we are working on a request for proposal that will be sent to various architects. It includes information about St. Paul’s and the scope we’re looking at, which would include fixing some of the problems, renovating, or tearing it down and starting over. We are about to finish that document. We will speak about it at next week’s meeting in more detail. The vestry will determine who we will select to perform the scope of work to evaluate the buildings, get input from professionals, then get a cost estimate. We will have a more in-depth conversation next week as a facilities report.
A week from today (Oct. 18), at this same time, the entire conversation will be about facilities. Two weeks from today (Oct. 25), we will discuss financial stewardship. Three weeks from today (Nov. 1), we will deal with the final of the three, personnel. Nothing will be done without input from the congregation, for whatever we decide to do.
We must be careful about what we must do from a legal standpoint and what we would like to do. We have to be sensitive to how much this is going to cost. We are working on the simple, inexpensive fixes as well as the long-term solutions.
In terms of changes to the building, we need to think about not necessarily what’s permitted by law and what we can get away with since we are a church, but how we are making space for all of God’s children in this place. We don’t want to rely on the endowment to fund these projects. We believe that the money is here to do these things. We believe the resources and gifts are all around us.
In our discussions early on in the strategic planning process, as a church, we need to really decide what we are as a church. Let’s think about how we serve our older parishioners. You are fine as long as you have mobility. Sadly, we have a history that if you no longer drive, you no longer come to St. Paul’s. I would hate to see us get the cart too far ahead of the horse. Let’s us sharpen our focus and think about what are the programs we really need to serve our congregation and the demographics of that group. What do we need to do to adapt the building to serve the needs of the parishioners?
When we did a mini-remodel in the kitchen, we ran into all sorts of roadblocks with the Wilmington Historical Commission. Do we anticipate problems again with this work? In looking at prospective architects, we wanted to use architects who had experience with historic sites, namely, churches. One of the things we looked at was architects who had experience working in historic districts. When you are in a historic district, you’re going to have certain things you have to follow. It might be frustrating, but that architectural firm is going to tell us what would be allowed and what wouldn’t be allowed.
As a general rule, we are in the overlay section of the historic district. They have pretty much absolute control over the exterior of the building. They have almost zero control over what we do on the inside of the building.
Has there been an estimate to the cost of the architect’s fees and expense for the study? What will be the source of those funds? There is no estimate for the fees yet, but there have been conversations with the senior warden for how the funds will be secured to pay for those studies. We walked into this knowing there will have to be money up front to pay for that. That’s why we went with the request for proposals (RFP) instead of just coming up with a firm to do the proposal. The proposals will be free. Three years ago, St. Stephens (Ray’s former church) did a major renovation. It was about a $1.2 million project. The architectural drawings themselves cost about $60,000. We could be comfortable estimating fees would be in a range of $40,000 to $75,000.
The property of the church is owned by the diocese. Is it realistic to relocate in an area with eight other Episcopal churches? If we were to buy or sell a property, we would need permission of the diocese. If the RFP determined that the costs to make the changes were astronomical and not feasible, one of the things the vestry would explore would be relocation. The diocese would get involved in the sale or purchase of property.
Right now we are struggling to increase giving to sustain our funding on an ongoing basis. Are there other complementary sources of funding, such as loans through the diocese, national church, foundations that would add to the amount of our capital campaign ability? There are other sources available, but the majority of the funding would have to be raised by St. Paul’s. We are not doing a capital campaign right now. That is something that would be done in the future after proposals are received, a candidate (architect) is chosen, a plan developed (case study). That case study would be presented to prospective donors during a capital campaign. That will be addressed in detail in the presentation next week.
There is the possibility of putting up a third structure on the property. There are other options from not just remodeling or relocating. In the RFP we have indicated that there is other space on the property. That is something we would want the professionals to consider.
The Andrews’ facility study was referenced in another conversation. The price they put on repairs related to those pictures was about $350,000. Some were urgent. Others had a longer time frame for their completion. Have any of those been addressed? The corner of the narthex has been addressed to prevent further sinking ($27,000). They had talked about fixing the shingles and gutter system. We got those fixed right before the hurricane. The RFP mentions those things that have been completed since the Andrews report.
We need to know that one option is replacing the existing parish building with a new structure, even raising the elevation somewhat to allow for parking underneath. We know we have serious problems with lack of access for people with wheelchairs, emergency evacuations for rooms with only one entry/exit. The consequences are dreadful. That is definitely something we have talked about (facilities committee). We are letting the professionals guide us toward that. The mission of the church is to drawn each other into unity with Christ. Our mission is to grow the church. Our facility does not help us do that. It hinders people coming to church. If you have a physical disability, you cannot get into the parish hall. The stair chair is a joke. For someone who is in a wheelchair, you have to pick them up, put them in the chair, pick up the wheelchair and get it up the stairs. Some wheelchairs are very, very heavy. That will just not work. It’s not acceptable. It’s not acceptable where we have only one entrance and we could have a fire and people could be killed. It’s about welcoming people and keeping them safe. Does it mean tearing out the inside of the parish hall and rebuilding it? I think we are obligated to address these issues. If you have some kind of disability, we need to welcome you. God has given us everything we need to do this. What you need now is to not be fearful, not be anxious, and to move forward.
What difference would it make in our church if more people tithed? If the number of pledgers we have now pledged the biblical tithe of 10%, we would have more money than we would know what to do with. We talk about it as though we are asking people to do something painful. Tithing isn’t a painful thing. We are asking people to give out of the joy in their hearts for the many blessings God has given us. If people would just give a 3% or 4% tithe, it would be a great thing.
How much have we lost in cash collections, the loose offering on Sunday mornings during the pandemic? We haven’t lost much. We are a little behind. We are at 65-70% of collections for the year. The loose offering is a few thousand dollars. Most of the offering comes from people mailing checks in or having their offering deducted from their checking account.
Are grants available that will help with the building? There are some available that could help and we should apply for them, but we don’t want to put the responsibility on someone else to get the funding for our ministry. We need to come up with it. We have all the money we need to do everything we want to do. The only thing is, it’s in your pocket. We have the obligation as disciples to sacrifice. Why are we here? We are here to grow the church.
Why are we not taking money out of the endowment in 2021? There is not money available from the endowment for us to take out. We are dangerously close to a value in that fund that would drop below the baseline that we have all fought so hard to maintain. We are looking to grow that fund over the next 3 years.
What other resources will we be considering? One of the ways we can grow the church is by growing a youth ministry for families. The average age of St. Paul’s parishioners is 63. We would like to be able to attract younger families. We have potential in growing the over-63 congregation, but also families. We have identified 23 groups of human resources that serve the church. Aside from professional staffs, we have people with all these gifts. Because of our location and because of the great need, we should be praying about and thinking about how St. Paul’s can use its resources for outreach: housing shortage, food insecurity, etc..
We had a conversation on the search committee regarding the terms “personnel” and “human resources.” That could be construed by some to mean paid staff. I think the committee meant what human resources do we have in the parish. I think we need to think about what term we use to define everyone. The vestry decided to use “human resources” as the more accurate term, since we are looking well beyond the paid staff to everyone who is part of our church.
Vestry Strategic Planning Leadership
Facilities: Ruth Gates, Ange Green, Steve Haughey, Teresa Singer
Stewardship: Joe Farri, Rhonda Stroud, Jan Vick
Human Resources: Keith Calder, Joan Rosko Miller, Meaghan Thomas, Sally Pope
We will welcome all to live God’s mission, teach Christ’s love and transform our community by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Aug. 2019–March 2020
- Vestry subcommittee convenes under guidance of the Rev. Jim Hanisian
- Performs environmental scan of parish data
- Identifies objectives: statements of focus for the next 3 years
- Writes goals to measure progress in completing strategies
- Establishes strategies that are to be the main thrust of St. Paul’s energies for the next three years
- Develops 3-year action plan of how the tasks might be approached
Subcommittee presents 3-year suggested action plan to vestry to meet objectives for:
- Financial Stewardship
- Human Resources
- Vestry unanimously approves plan
- Formulates response to implement the strategies
Clergy, vestry and members of subcommittee present rationale for the strategic plan and provide details to parish in series of five Sunday morning forums.