Leadership – look before we leap!

Several years ago I did a survey of staffing patterns in most of the yearly meetings in North America. There’s some variation, but it turns out that most yearly meetings have 1 staff person for every 2,500 to 3,000 adult members.

Indiana Yearly Meeting’s staff is on the high side for our size. We currently have 2,951 adult members and 3 full-time staff – a superintendent, an assistant superintendent (who mainly works with youth programs), and an office secretary, plus a part-time assistant secretary. We also budget $5,500 per year for expenses of the treasurer. Compared to other yearly meetings our size, we have more staff per member than other yearly meetings can afford. Our staff are not over-paid – it’s safe to say that all of them could earn more in a regular job.

We assess meetings on the number of members each meeting has – $75 per member for missions, and $75 per member for programs or operations of the yearly meeting. Last year, we spent almost 2/3 of our program budget – $179,195 last year – on staff costs, which works out to just over $49.47 per adult member.

If we go ahead with dividing the yearly meeting, each of the new groups will certainly be smaller. Regardless of the theological issues and passions on all sides, one thing stands out: we’re not going to be able to continue with the size staff we have. At best, we will only be able to afford one full-time staff person, possibly with a part-time secretary.

Most denominations have some kind of staff – a bishop, district leader, or CEO. For over 100 years, Indiana Yearly Meeting has had a superintendent – a title which may not suggest the kind of leadership we want. As we think about what a new yearly meeting will be like, we may want to consider the roles and responsibilities played by staff.

Do we want an executive? A visionary? A servant leader? A fund-raiser? A gopher? Someone to put out fires and mediate conflicts? How much authority do we want our staff to have – and how much are we willing to follow their leadership? Before we even think about calling someone to such a position, we need to figure out what kind of a leader we really want, and what we really want them to do.

We wouldn’t start a business without a clear job description and a clear set of goals for the people we hire. Let’s not start a new yearly meeting without doing our homework.

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All of the posts on this blog are my own personal opinion. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the members and attenders of the meeting where I belong or any organization of Friends. For more information, click on the "About Me" tab above.

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