An Update on Our Governance Change Process from Jody Anderson

Hello Foothills Family –

As I sat down to write this blog in mid-November, I wondered if an update on our governance progress was the right thing to post right now, when hearts and minds are brimming with holidays and an uncertain future.  Our community continues to come together with hands held and tears shared in Sunday services.  In November we stood and clapped to display our solidarity in being right here, in the United States, at this time, as a community that is already practicing with each other the accepting message we could share with the country.  And I think – we have big work to do.  Let’s get this organizing stuff done to smooth the path for what’s ahead.  To that end, the Governance Task Force is striving to support our mission and channel our energy in our governance work.

Recent Progress

  • Last April, the Board confirmed our Vision of Governance, a statement that is guiding the detailed tasks of writing our future policies.  Participants in the summer book group thought it was a great statement, and encouraged us to share it more widely.  Here is a link.
  • Over the summer, we conducted a book discussion group on Ministry and Governance by Dan Hotchkiss.  We continue to follow the guidance of the book, other congregations of our size, and the advice of leaders in our church and beyond.
  • In September, we affirmed that we are indeed pursuing a policy based governance approach, though not the Carver model.  
  • In September and October, the Governance Task Force has been working with the Board.  We have presented several open questions for discussion around the topics of board role, size, officers, and member election.  While we discuss, we are keeping in mind the potential that bylaw changes may be required.
  • In October, Gretchen joined our team, adding her knowledge of the workings of our church, and experience in administration, to our deliberation.
  • November continued iterative discussions with the Board on topics of committees, delegation, and work products.

Coming Up

  • During December, we will continue to ask the Board questions that guide our writing process. Topics coming up include Oversight and Guidance.
  • Also during December, we will be connecting with the leaders of several of our current teams and committees, to understand where they are in reviewing their charter and procedures, and to ensure we are blending our expectations. Teams we plan to get in touch with include Nominating Committee, Personnel Committee and Staff, and Finance.
  • In January, we plan to hold a Congregational Discussion session on the items that have been affirmed by the Board.  This will be an ideal place for those interested in the details of governance to see policies so far and ask questions.
  • Also in January, we plan to drop in on small groups in the church with quick info to keep everyone updated.
  • All of our work through the spring will target having major decisions made and ready for a trial period during our 2017-2018 church year.  We will present that plan at our congregational meeting in May.

A reward from this work so far is to see the convergence of ideas.  Careful study and thoughtful decisions are aligning with current good practices.  Thankfully, some things can be easy and make sense.  🙂

May you all enjoy having some things fall into place as well, and enjoy a safe and blessed holiday season.

In Community,

Jody Anderson

Chair, Governance Task Force

Our Church Directory Experience

Dear friends,

We have heard from many of you that the experience with the photographers for our recent church directory was less than ideal, and that’s putting it mildly.  Others of you who we haven’t heard from, I’m assuming things went generally fine, or just not bad enough to warrant letting us know.

I am so sorry for these negative experiences – it was hard to hear them from you, and hard to figure out how best to address them after-the-fact.  One small thing I’ve done is written a letter to the directory company letting them know about our experiences and asking them to better train and prepare their photographers and more pro-actively anticipate the backlog/wait time that many of you experienced.

You can find the full text of that letter here.

I know that coming out for photos can be inconvenient and stressful even in the best of circumstances.  I am sorry that for some of you this was made more stressful, and I so appreciate your willingness to deal with these moments with your usual grace and sense of humor.

With that said, as you’ll see in my letter, based on the response from the company, we will be considering if we will use them for our next directory.  I will let you know as we see how things develop.

In the meantime, our directory has gone to press and you should be able to pick one up after the holidays.  Let me know if you have any questions or further feedback, and thank you for your patience and presence in this and in all things.

In partnership,

Gretchen

 

Communications Update Oct. 2016

Version 4

Sean Neil-Barron, Assistant Minister

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.-George Bernard Shaw

You may have noticed that we have been making some changes recently in the area of communication. The Extra has been shrunk down, we have revived our online events calendar, and we have increased our use of testimonials. These experiments all aim to help us communicate more effectively in the age of information overload and I hope we are able to learn about the type, style, frequency, and medium that will work best for different segments of the congregation.

Big Changes & Rationale

The ‘Extra’

The biggest change so far has been the pairing down of the Extra. In truth, only 34% -39% of our email list opens the Extra on a given week, and just because it is opening doesn’t mean it was read. Instead of being the catch-all email covering almost everything going on in the church, the Extra content’s content now is more curated and focused to information that at least 80% of the congregation would/should be interested in — as well as information targeting folks who are new to the community. We hope to deliver you a shorter but denser Extra, so you will actually read it all. Let us know how we are doing.

The Online Events Calendar

We have revived the church’s online events calendar (http://foothillsuu.org/events) to be the central hub where all information regarding church events is placed. Additionally, you can now sort the church’s calendar based on event categories such as Adult Religious Education or Seniors Programs to see all the events in a given month that might relate to you! To submit a church event to the calendar head over to http://foothillsuu.org/communication-at-foothills/ and click the Event Calendar Submission Form. Our aim is that this calendar will become your first stop when you want to learn about what is going on at Foothills.

Getting The Word Out

Foothills is a large and busy community and it can be hard to get the word out even when the event has been promoted through all the channels. There is also a bit of confusion about WHO to contact if you want to spread the word. No more! If you have an event or opportunity that you want to be shared with the congregation, head over to http://foothillsuu.org/communication-at-foothills/ and click on the communication request form. Once you have filled out the form, Church Staff will get in contact with you about what next steps and promotional avenues you could use. We are beginning to use a more targeted information delivery mechanism, so we may have an option that you didn’t even know existed. This page also contains the Calendar Event Submission form, so it is your go-to place when you are trying to mobilize the congregation.  We will reach out to you so no need to email church staff about the event!

What to Expect

In the coming months, we will be continuing our experimentation with a few new channels. Expect to be invited to join a few demographic or interest based email lists to receive targeted information related to your interests (one of the reasons we asked for your birthdates as part of our database refresh), and we hope to see how we can use text messages more effectively, so have your phones at the ready. In addition, we hope to hold a few focus groups with different segments of the congregation to assess our communication effectiveness and what can be done to improve or hone our practices. Stay tuned and let us know how we are doing as we go along; we are not going to get everything right but we are trying, so please let us know.

Our Biggest Hope

Our biggest hope is that you will receive pertinent information through a method that fits your lifestyle (text message, snail mail, email, etc) leaving you feeling informed, able to participate in the life of the church, and equipped to take your faith out into the world. We are still learning about how to accomplish this, but it our intent for that to be the case, and we welcome your feedback as we move forward.

Getting Into Focus

When the board met on February 22, we discussed all the good work being done within our congregation. We all feel spring is in the air. We discussed what we are working on, and what we want to accomplish before our time on the board this year is complete. Here are the areas we are currently focused on, and will be focused on right up to July 1st.

Hopefully all of you know about our Mission Task Force made up of five current board members who met with many of you between services in January to review what we have used in the past for our Mission, as well as discuss what a mission is for, and why we are looking at creating a new one to better reflect who Foothills is today, as well as what inspires us as well as our visitors. We collected many helpful ideas, visions, and words to apply to our new mission. The task force will be presenting a draft version of our new mission to see how it sits with all of us, then they will do some more work on it before they will present it at our annual Congregational meeting for a vote on June 5th.

Our Governance Task Force, which is made up of 2 board members, 3 congregation-at-large members, and Rev. Howell Lind, has now met a number of times. They are well on their way doing the good long work of discovering, creating, sharing, and trying on the best suited governance for Foothills. As we have shared before, this work will take about two years of their time. They are working closely with the model in Governance and Ministry by Dan Hotchkiss.

The Task Force looks forward to gathering information from all of you between services this coming Sunday March 6th, March 13th, 20th and April 3rd in the sanctuary at 10:10am – 10:45am.  They will use your feedback in these sessions to evaluate and updating our governance structure. These first sessions are primarily to collect concerns and questions from the congregation. They will share some of what they have been doing and what they expect to happen as we move through this process but mostly right now they just want to hear from you. Please join us for at least one of these important discussions.

The Board has been working with Rev. Gretchen Haley and a board appointed advisory team made up of one board member and 3 congregation-at-large members to interview and submit a candidate to the board for our new assistant minister position. The Board is happy to share that Foothills UU has received a number of excellent applicants, making this an exciting process, and we will hire this one-year, renewable contract position soon. The new assistant minister will start their position August 1st, just a month after Rev. Haley begins officially as senior minister.

I am happy to share that our Stewardship campaign that started two weeks ago is going very well! Thank you to all of you who have pledged thus far! Thank you for your generosity and commitment to the good work being done by this amazing community. I am very excited for what is ahead! For those who haven’t pledged yet, I ask that you please turn in your pledge cards as soon as you can. I must thank Kay Williams and her dedicated team who kicked off the campaign in church these past two Sundays with great success and some chaotic fun!

The other big areas the board will be focused on the remainder of this church year will be continuing our communication efforts with you all, as well as focusing on strengthening our leadership development for new leaders here at Foothills. Our next Informational Forum given by the Board and Howell will be held on April 10th after the 11am service. This will be the last time we are having this type of informational meeting before our annual congregational meeting on June 5th. At the informational forum we will continue to share the work the board is up to, how we are doing after the stewardship campaign, and it will be another opportunity for us to listen to you.

As we continue to grow, so does the skills and needs of our church leaders. This has been recognized for a while by many church leaders, and this church year we have made a great effort at better preparing these generous volunteers. This year we have begun delivering quality leadership development workshops to those who have shown an interest in becoming a leader, are currently leading, and are on our nominating committee. We will be having our next leadership development opportunities on Wednesday, March 30th and Wednesday April 6th from 5:30pm – 7:30pm. If you are interested in attending please speak to one of our ministers.

I want to end this blog by simply saying I have the honor to serve you in the company of an incredible Board of Trustees. This is a team of wonderfully dedicated volunteers who are generous, thoughtful, funny, and visionary. We are committed to representing all of you. We look forward to helping prepare next year’s “dream team” Board…and we thank each of you who make Foothills UU the special congregation it is.