Parish Finance Council - Part VIII This, the eighth and final column on parish finance councils, will be on keeping finance council meetings focused and productive.

Most parish finance councils meet monthly with perhaps a few breaks during the year to accommodate such busy times as Advent, the Easter season, summer vacations, etc. Meetings are often slated for one hour but it is not unusual for meetings to extend two hours or more. While it is not the intention of the pastor to give the finance council meetings short shrift, neither should he tolerate discussions with little or no value that consume excessive time. Following are some tips to make the meetings more efficient.

Prepare an agenda in advance and send it along with a meeting reminder at least one week before the meeting date. The agenda should include the time allotted for each topic and the person presenting the topic. An example follows:

St. Mary Parish

Finance Council Agenda • Jan. 15, 2014

I. Opening prayer – Father Doe – 7:00 to 7:05 p.m.

II. Approval of minutes – John Coe – 7:05 to 7:10 p.m.

III. Financial report – Jane Foe – 7:10 to 7:25 p.m.

IV. New carpeting quotes – Dan Hoe – 7:25 to 7:45 p.m.

V. St. Patrick Day event – Sam Moe – 7:45 to 8:00 p.m.

Assuming the pastor is chairing the meeting, he should remove his watch and put it on the table in plain view so it becomes obvious that keeping to the time allotments for each topic is important. Invariably, one of the topics will invoke extended, and sometimes heated, discussion. It is the responsibility of the chairman to keep the meeting on task. The chairman might say, “Excuse me for interrupting this discussion, but I see that it is now 7:30 p.m. and we need to wrap up our thoughts on the financial report.” It often helps to personalize the request to end the discussion by following up with something like, “I don’t to cut into Dan’s time because I know we have a lot to discuss regarding the new carpeting.”

It is important to be respectful of everyone’s time. Sometimes, however, the time allotted is insufficient to cover the topic. In that scenario the chairman might say, “I see that we haven’t allotted enough time to review the financial reports. Let’s move on to the next topic and if there is time at the end of the meeting, we will resume our discussion. If time runs out, we can either continue the meeting past 8:00 p.m. for those who are able to stay, or continue the discussion at the next meeting.”

It is common for the discussion on one topic to lead to another topic. For example, in discussing the new carpeting quotes, a finance council member might suggest that the interior of the church hasn’t been painted for more than 20 years and it is beginning to show its age. However important the topic may be, the chairman cannot allow discussion on a new topic and also maintain the integrity of the meeting agenda. At this point the chairman should respond by saying, “That is certainly an important topic, but unfortunately we did not schedule time to discuss it at this meeting. I have made a note to put this topic on next month’s agenda.”

If the pastor is not chairing the meetings, but attends them, he still has the opportunity to keep the meetings moving along. In advance of the meeting, the pastor should discuss with the chairperson the agenda topics and time allotments for each. If, during the meeting, the chairperson cannot control the discussion, or perhaps is the one extending the discussion, the pastor has the option of stepping in to put the meeting back on track.

Remember, no one complains if a meeting ends early.

MR. LENELL, C.P.A., Ph.D., is the director for financial and administrative services for the Diocese of Rockford, Ill. Dr. Lenell’s book Income Taxes for Priests Only is published by “Fathers Guide.” He lectures and conducts workshops and does consulting to several dioceses on priests’ taxes, compensation, and retirement planning. Write to Dr. Lenell, c/o The Priest magazine with questions, or e-mail him at WayneLenell@fathersguide.org