Structure Evaluation Session Notes

Structure Evaluation Session Notes

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Notes from Sessions Held April 4, 6, and 10 2016

Present: More than 25 Members, several staff members, Pastors Jay and Marisa, Leadership Team members Susan Kennedy, Dwight Shepard, Candy Heaphy, Mora Geoffrion, Ken White, Kristin Thomas, Stew Creelman, Rosemarie Jarrett. Steve Gelling and Marieke Burt.

Participants were given a copy of the Behavioral Covenant and the by-laws Article VI and VII which describe the structure adopted at the Feb 2015 Annual Meeting. All were seated, as space allowed, in a circle in the Buxton Room.

All sessions began with introductions giving names and how each person interacts with the structure, followed by reading the Behavioral Covenant.

The following questions where then presented the group:

  1. What positive experience have you had with the new structure?
  2. What needs improvement?

The notes below are a culmination of the responses to these questions.

What positive experience have you had with the new structure?

  • A good Liaison who brought fresh ideas. WBS had great help from their Liaison Rosemarie, who was new to WBS
  • The church feels very welcoming, says new member Sue M.
  • Leadership Team Notes in bulletin is appreciated and needed
  • E-blast is appreciated as a way of learning what is upcoming
  • Meeting flexibility is appreciated. Team meets only when it needs to meet.
  • Flexibility gained for finding Ushers and Greeters. No longer necessary to commit to dates in the future, no problem finding Ushers each Sunday.
  • Helpful that a team can meet when it wants, be flexible and independent
  • Teams can work on a project for a short time and then go inactive
  • Less structure of minutes, etc. More can be done via email. Meetings more efficient.
  • Teams are empowered to just do things. You can start a team anytime.
  • Environmental Justice Team was easy to start. Resources were available.
  • Adult Education got energized, came up with more ideas. It was easier to get funding approved for speakers who shared memorable programs. The team expanded their idea of what was possible and felt supported.
  • Music Committee had not been aware that there are endowment funds restricted to support of the music program. They now know they have access to these funds.
  • More awareness of less-visible ministries; example is expansion of Sacred Circles.
  • More fluid interaction between Teams, such as 300th and Worship collaboration on the Stephen Williams service. Easier cross-group sharing, such as interaction between WBS and Mission Team on planning donations to area causes
  • Possibility of more ideas being taken seriously. Easier to follow through on a new idea.
  • Easier to modify structure as needed
  • Leadership Team meetings more efficient due to written reports submitted from Teams. Time to discuss important issues in depth
  • There is continuity in discussions because the same people carry over, not a big change each year. Possibly easier to deal with important issues. Continuity of group studying an issue over several months. Old structure had a Council that was sometimes just ceremonial even though the by-laws gave it the power to make decisions.
  • Focus on what matters. The Leadership Team works well together, actually discusses sensitive issues with respect and thoroughness.

What needs improvement?

  • Communication:
    • From the Liaisons to the Teams: WBS liked it when their Council Rep brought back news. Other Liaisons share news pertinent to their Teams, but people would like to know the whole business of the Leadership Team and other Teams. Teams should give the Liaison time on the agenda to present what’s new from the Leadership Team.
    • Different forms of communication are needed for different audiences. People always want more, in many ways. Important to keep putting messages out there as people are changing the ways they communicate. Messages aren’t always received.
    • Republish the information about how the Senior Pastor Search Team is being organized.
    • Communication must be two-way.
  • Leadership Team news:
    • Overview summary in the bulletin, eblast, and COG is helpful. People would like timely access to the minutes of Leadership Team meetings and to have them sent via email or online, not just in the office and library. Leadership Team should consider email approval of minutes so they can go right out. Publish more information more often in more ways about what the Leadership Team is working on and decisions. Give summary of agenda before the meeting.
    • Remind people via all ways of date and time of meeting and that they are open. (People were reminded that just as the Council had a time for concerns of parishioners at the beginning of the meeting, so does the Leadership Team.)
  • COG:
    • Evaluate whether the digital COG is reaching enough people. Several people admitted that even though the digital version is very attractive, they do not read it as thoroughly as they did when there was a printed copy on their kitchen table. Frequently remind people when the new COG comes out, how to get it printed, and how to get the eblast. More printed copies of the COG need to be available around the church and more prominently displayed. We wondered how much money is saved by not having it commercially printed. The photocopy of the digital version is not very clear. Having at least the front page printed in color would help. Suggestion to put one at the end of each pew for visitors. It is placed around the church but easy to miss in the narthex.
  • Leadership Development Team
    • Not yet populated. Getting this team going must be a priority. Suggestion to move it to Congregational Life circle. It fits better with efforts to involve new members. Congregational Life has many “people people” so this would be a better fit for them.
    • People need to be asked. Not enough people respond to general requests to volunteer. Old Nominating Committee spent much time encouraging people to take jobs, which they sometimes liked in spite of themselves.
  • Membership:
    • Discovering the talents and interests of new members is important. Years ago new people filled out a form showing their skills and interests. This can be done for all members now as a database so we will have a better idea who to ask to fill a position. Deacons had a group focused on new members in the past. We need to focus on encouraging new people to get involved.
    • It’s important to find out if and why people are leaving. (Don Wesson has volunteered to put together a team which will contact members regularly, and is working with Rosemarie Jarrett to get this started.)
  • Leadership Team:
    • Too many issues need to be approved by the Leadership Team. This may disempower other groups. Work to dispel the image that “a small group of people are making all the decisions.” Is there a process for questioning decisions by the Leadership Team? Questions about how people get on the Leadership Team and the length of terms (election, 1 year renewable terms). Some feel there is secrecy.
    • Too much overlap of Leadership Team members with other key roles. Some people wear too many hats. People can get spread too thin. Risk of someone serving in a role too long. Risk of over-consolidation of power
    • Difficult relationship developed between staff and Leadership Team. A way for staff to participate and have their views heard needs to be found
    • Personnel Team has been appointed, not elected (Three members were elected at last year’s annual meeting, but one resigned and another moved to a different position. Two have been appointed during the year. Both the Council and the Leadership Team have been able to make appointments between annual meetings.) Concern about need to go into executive session for personnel issues. (It was pointed out that the Trustees in the past also had executive sessions for sensitive issues.)
    • Staff members feel that due to overlap of Personnel Team and Leadership Team, they have nowhere to go with issues.
    • There is still disappointment and confusion about the decision to reduce the hours for the Children’s Ministry Director. Mistakes were made in the decision making process and the Children’s Ministry Team was not consulted. Meetings have been held to move the program forward. Several ideas are being considered to strengthen our ministry to families.
    • WBS questions why the Christmas Fair was put in Mission in the World and WBS in Congregational Life. They would like to be just in Congregational Life but send a representative to the Mission Team, or welcome one from Mission Team to WBS, when either team is discussing donations, so that they can coordinate giving decisions.
  • Change:
    • Possibility that some people used to doing things in a more structured way, such as past Ushers, might feel left out of the more informal way of doing things. Change of structure for the Board of Ushers was confusing and not well communicated.

Final Comments going around the circle: What did you learn, or take away from, this discussion with the Leadership Team and other members of the church, pertaining to the present governing structure of the church? (Mon and Wed only)

  • Communication issues are being addressed.
  • Moving in the right direction
  • Concerns are taken seriously.
  • Leadership Team is listening
  • We are like-minded.
  • A joy to have this discussion
  • We need to look more closely at the materials available (COG, bulletin, eblast)
  • This was a good conversation
  • Make minutes of all committees more available, want to know what whole church is doing
  • Gratitude for the way the Leadership Team has learned to work together with respect for all and equal participation and listening as issues are worked through.
  • People have more power to just do things
  • Better idea of what needs to be included in communication
  • Efforts being made to communicate better
  • Grateful to hear everyone’s views
  • Overlap of people needs to be addressed
  • Need to get caught up on new definitions of roles
  • Member information was shared in the past and can be again.
  • Share the notes from these meetings with everyone and be sure to follow through