What Does the Vestry Do?

By |2018-10-08T10:18:35+00:00April 25th, 2016|Categories: Anglican Leadership|Tags: |5 Comments

Tonight I have another Vestry meeting; maybe my 350th monthly meeting of the elected leadership of Christ Church. The Vestry in an Anglican church meets routinely, usually monthly, to give leadership and oversight to the mission and ministry of the congregation.

Over the years, Christ Church has been through many different phases of Vestry development, involvement, and leadership…not all of them have been easy or effective. There are Canons to be followed, to be sure. And certainly, we (the Vestry and I) have grown and changed over the years. I have made too many mistakes in my leadership.

But the Christ Church Vestry and I have come to a point of clarity about our roles and responsibilities which I would like to summarize in these 10 ideas:

  • 5 for the Vestry (below),
  • 5 for the Rector (my next post).

The Role of the Vestry

1. Protect the Vision

The Vestry’s primary role is to protect the stated vision of the parish. Each member of the Vestry should be able to articulate and safeguard the primary visionary direction of the congregation. They should each know the answer to this question: What is it we are trying to do here? How to discern and articulate the Vision that God has for the parish deserves its own blog post, but once the Vision is understood and prayed through, the Vestry should guard and protect it. It shouldn’t change with the seasons or passing of years.

2. Insure the Values

The next function of the Vestry is to insure the values of the congregation.  That is, while the Vestry may know the direction and what they are trying to do as a parish, the Values question is this: How are we actually trying to live out our vision? What are the means and programs by which we are working toward our Vision?  Where do we focus our efforts?  What are we going to do now? Adult Discipleship. Worship. Evangelism Ministries, Small Groups. Student Ministry. Compassion Ministry. Local Mission, etc. These are not choices to make…one instead of the other…but areas to build up and maintain.

3. Uphold Financial Integrity

The Vestry is also charged with protecting the financial integrity of the church. Through a designated Finance team, the Vestry should scrutinize the finances on a monthly basis.  They should provide for an annual audit of all funds; approve budgets and make routine reports to the congregation. They should approve long-term financial contracts and basically act as guardians of the financial life of the parish to insure that the church has a long-term future and is operating in a trustworthy way with all funds that have been given or borrowed.

4. Support the Rector

Supporting the Rector is the fourth key role of the Vestry. The Rector is the main agent of the Vestry to accomplish 1, 2, and 3 above. The Vestry’s primary role then is to help the Rector accomplish these things. Vestry leadership is never honorary; they are not rubber stamps for what the Rector decides is best. But they are not either to be ‘devil’’s advocates’ (who needs that!?), the loyal opposition, or representatives of any special interest groups or programs in the parish. The Vestry have one job in a sense: find the Rector to lead the parish in 1, 2 and 3 (above) and support him however they can.

5. Model Sacrificial Giving

The final role of the Vestry is to model sacrificial, tithe-based giving to the parish. The Vestry should be among the most generous and financially committed members of the church. Why? Obviously, the leadership should never ask members to give beyond their own willingness to give; their own personal level of commitment. Leaders lead in every area. That makes sense. But the Vestry should be strong givers because people who are sacrificial givers…tithers…have usually discovered in themselves a heart of generosity that will help create a parish-wide culture of generosity in the years to come.

My next post will summarize the Role of the Rector.  But I want to quickly add to this post:  Like all things Anglican, these ideas must be locally adapted to custom, temperament of the people, and the church and its traditions. Many effective leaders may disagree with these five points…or add a sixth or seventh. But this is what I have learn as I get ready for yet another meeting tonight with one of my favorite groups in the church: the Vestry.

(Next post: The Role of the Rector)

This post first appeared at LeaderWorks.

Canon David has over 35 years of local congregational ministry, diocesan and national involvement, leadership, and ministry experience and is the founder of Leaderworks. He was the founding Rector/Pastor, Christ Church, Plano and currently serves as the Strategic Leader and Dean, Diocese of C4SO.


  1. James Moore April 25, 2016 at 10:29 pm - Reply

    Great thoughts

  2. David Roseberry April 25, 2016 at 11:40 pm - Reply

    Thanks, Jim.

  3. margo November 5, 2016 at 2:19 pm - Reply

    what happens when the vestry andw the rector do not see eye on an issue that had the priest or rector handled it when first noticed, more than likely would not have become an ISSUE. now there have been miscommunications and a level of delimma. who makes the final decision?

    • David Roseberry November 10, 2016 at 6:24 am - Reply

      The answer will depend on what the issue is. But typically, if it is a serious issue involving moral, financial, or theological problems, the bishop should be consulted. If it is just a difference in style, those can or should be able to be worked out in the fellowship of the body of Christ.


  4. Michelle Latour Desjardins August 30, 2018 at 9:36 am - Reply

    what happens when the minister does not respect the vestry, stating bluntly that vestry has no power in the parish only he the priest in charge has any power as the church is his house. Bishop has been contacted on more than one occasion now if someone from our parish calls his secretary state “the bishop is tired of hearing from your parish” and won’t speak to however is calling. There is no justice or accountability in the Anglican church from what I can see. Priest in charge can do what they want, treat people however they want and the parish is to take it and be thankful they have a priest. No wonder young people stay away. I am a young woman with young children, I attend but I no longer take my children. No one my age would tolerate his treatment.

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