If you’re new to your position of Clerk of Session, or even if you’ve been Clerk before, you may be wondering why it’s so important to complete the Annual Report forms for the Presbytery and General Assembly. It’s a time consuming process, and you might think it’s just not a priority in today’s world.
It’s true. It does take some time to complete the GA Statistical report and all of the Presbytery forms adequately. You might have to do some research. You might have to enlist the help of others in your congregation. You might even have to call or email the Presbytery Office to get a copy of your password. It’s all necessary, and here’s why.
GA Statistical Report
If you follow sports, you know that statistics show a snapshot of the health and dynamics of your team at a given point in time. By completing the Annual Statistical Report online, you are offering a snapshot of where your congregation is at the end of each year. It’s not the whole story, but it’s an important component.
Things like membership, attendance, finances, racial-ethnic make-up, and even baptisms give a glimpse of your congregation’s vitality. When you look at the statistics of all of the congregations in a presbytery, you get a glimpse of that presbytery’s vitality as well.
In addition, the presbytery utilizes that data throughout the year for various purposes. For instance, the membership figures that you submit to GA in February are used by our Operations Team in the summer to figure the Per Capita budget for the following year. The more congregations that fail to submit their reports, the less accurate the snapshot becomes and the harder it is to figure out an accurate budget.
On top of completing the GA Statistical Report, clerks are asked to complete several reports specific to our presbytery. These generally remain the same from year to year, but as the presbytery changes these reports may change in the future too.
Annual Report of Elders
This report gives our office accurate contact information for your church, and also key officers and staff. (This form is sometimes the only way we hear that your church has a new clerk of session!) We also use this form to keep our annual Directory updated, as well the congregational listings on our website.
In the past, this form helped our Nominations Committee staff committees. Now, it helps our Directors fill out their teams, and plan for leadership training events.
Here’s another example: Church A wants to invite youth groups to an event in their region. They reach out to the Presbytery Office to find out which churches have youth groups, and who to contact at those churches. With the information provided on this form, we’re able to help with that request.
Each year we honor the Ruling Elders in our congregations that have passed away at a special service during the February Stated meeting. This form ensures that we are able to include your congregation’s recently deceased elders in that worship service.
The reading of the Necrology Report has become a cherished part of our history, and our future with the Advancement Team’s continuation of this tradition. Join us at Westminster College on February 28th for this year’s special service.
The Insurance Survey and the Corporate and Legal Issues Report
Is your insurance up to date? Do you have a cemetery and is it a separate corporate entity? Do your financial reports include IRS requirements? These are just a few of the questions that appear on these two forms. They help us to make sure your church is complying with state and other requirements, and minimizing any liabilities that may arise.
Many churches have not actually submitted copies of their Bylaws or Articles of Incorporation to the Presbytery Office, despite checking “yes” each year on these forms. It is okay to check “no” on both of these questions. Just make sure that you have a copy of each stored safely, or are able to obtain copies from your county courthouse if needed.
The Mission/Work Trip Report
This report has been used by our Mission Committee, and now our Congregational Support Team, to find out about trips our congregations have planned, report on usage of grant funds, and share ideas with other congregations. This report has also been a great resource in finding participants to share stories during presbytery meetings and learn about new mission partners.
Get Those Reports In
We encourage you to submit your Presbytery reports (as well as Terms of Call and Study Leave reports) by the end of January. You have until midnight on February 16th to submit your GA Statistics. Links to our online forms, as well as the GA Statistical site are available on our Forms & Documents page under the Stated Clerk’s Corner heading.