Presbytery Visitation Report

[Explanation: About every 5 years a “visitation team” from the Presbytery of Barrie visits Westminster to inquire about the well-being of the congregation. The “presbytery” is our overseeing body. What follows is their report from April 29, 2018. This report has been seen by Westminster’s elders and has been approved by the larger court of Presbytery on June 12, 2018.]

Presbytery Visitation Report – Westminster Presbyterian Church, Barrie ON

Introduction and Background

Visitation Date: April 29, 2018. Visitation Team: Karen Horst, Peter D. Ruddell, Ministers, Deborah Watson, Peter Walton, Elders.

Documentation Viewed: 2017 Statistical Report, 2017 Annual Report, Notes from the Minister, 19 Congregational Questionnaire, Session Records

The Visitation Team attended Morning Worship with the congregation and then interviewed the members of the congregation, the Stewardship and Building and Maintenance Teams, the Session and the minister.

Governance and Structure

Minister and other Leaders: The Rev. Matthew Ruttan, Minister, Jennifer Harris, Director of Music, Julie Cunha, Youth Co-0rdinator and Cathy Clark, Pastoral Care Coordinator.

The Session consists of 9 elders and Term Service has been in place since January 2016. The following teams are in place: Building and Maintenance, Stewardship, Pastoral Care, Human Resources and a Sunday Morning Team. An elder has been identified for of each of these areas so that people know whom to contact.

A Leading with Care Committee has been established and the program is functioning in the congregation.

The session has developed and approved an Oversight Structure and Procedure Manual (2016) to help streamline decision-making and clarify reporting at its meetings. New Mission and Vision Statements were adopted by the congregation the same year.


The congregation places amounts in its annual budget in support of both Presbyterians Sharing and Presbyterian World Service and Development. As well, there is strong involvement in local outreach to the community and beyond.

Spiritual Health

Several members of the congregation spoke affirmatively of the spiritual well-being of the congregation. The things that they identified as supporting and strengthening their spiritual journey(s) were the weekly services and the clear and helpful messages presented by their minister, the Bible study opportunities and the diversity of programs offered by excellent volunteer leaders.


The session is in a good place with respect to how it sees itself and its leadership of the congregation in this time of change. They shared that one of their challenges was providing the pastoral care people in the congregation required.

There is a variety in age among the elders and their personal views on matters that come before them. They get along well and are comfortable in their freedom to disagree, not to see things in the same way. They are looking forward to the report of the Growth Committee and to exploring its recommendations. They are excited about the future of the congregation.

The minister is also in a good place. However, he is conscious of the personal stress that is coming from the increasing size of the congregation. It is clear to him that the congregation needs more staff, but he is still exploring what is the best way to augment his gifts and skills.

He indicated that he has undertaken conscious steps for his own care. These include running, times with a prayer partner, consultations with a Christian Counsellor, work time at home and quality time with his wife and family.

Property and Finances

The team met with members of the Stewardship and Building and Maintenance Teams and learned the following:
• the church building is 50 years old and requires on-going maintenance
• some of the maintenance is handled in house by people with various skills
• the flat roof of the church building had been replaced in 2017
• volunteers do the clean-up of the church on Sundays
• the congregation’s financial status is in good shape
• income has been exceeding expenses for the past few years
• two signatures are required on all cheques issued
• there are teams of counters to count the Sunday offering in the church.

Congregational Growth and Its Repercussions

The congregation is experiencing significant growth to the point that it is on the cusp of changing from a “pastoral” to a “program” congregation. The minister and the members of session are aware of the decisions that are ahead of them. A Growth Committee which is representative of the congregation in its membership will be reporting to the June meeting of session. The Committee has sought advice and input from people both within the congregation and outside. Among the matters being considered by the Committee are the engaging of more staff and implementing another service on Sunday morning.

Parking has become an issue. One response to this issue is the presence of parking lot attendants on Sunday mornings. Some education of the congregation to the fact that parking is allowed on the street needs to be done. There is the possibility of parking at a strip mall with a shuttle service. There is also space on the property for the development of further parking places but this would mean losing green space.

Steps have been taken to ensure that there are ushers in place at both entrances to the sanctuary so that any new people arriving late can be taken to seats in the sanctuary.

While the minister, session and congregation are working on some of the issues that growth has brought, the Visitation Team would urge the session to seek help from an outside consultant in dealing with the shifts in how the congregation engages in its future ministry and mission.

Summary and Recommendations

All members of the Visitation expressed their personal delight in experiencing the joyful health of the congregation of Westminster Presbyterian Church. The Team also sensed the willing openness of the minister, session members and congregational members to engage in the challenges of change in the congregation’s future ministry and mission.


That the Session engage a consultant knowledgeable in the dynamics of changing from a pastoral congregation to and program congregation.


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