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Leaders pop myths of communication in PNC

Participants in the Leadership Retreat at N-Sid-Sen on Lake Coeur d’Alene reflected on communication within the conference, raising issues to call attention to ways to improve communication.

mimi land

Mimi Lane of Everett UCC shares a communication myth and symbolically pops a balloon.

Skype, conference calls and Go-to-Meeting are now common ways to include people who are unable to be at meetings of committees in person.  Often when someone in the gathered group speaks, it drowns out the voice of someone on the phone or Skype.

Finances and people’s time preclude the former face-to-face meetings with everyone gathering in a single location.  Technology has not effectively replaced meetings so all feel included and heard.  Several older participants, however, defied the myth that older people do not have computers, use email, Skype or Facebook.

Emails, packets, Facebook, United Church News, trainings, meetings and camps are other avenues of communication.

The idea of the exercise was to “pop” myths about communication, saying the myth while popping a balloon at the center of the room, to determine what to do with the myths.

Moderator Andy CastroLang of Westminster Congregational UCC said that “we all have stories and histories of communication and miscommunication.

She then asked the leaders to share what histories may make them hesitate to engage with the conference.

Some shared that resolutions passed at Annual Meetings may be hard for them to discuss in their congregations.

Andrew Conley-Holcom, pastor at Admiral Congregational UCC in Seattle, drew out discussion of technical issues that can be fixed.

For example, in using Skype or conference calls, participants suggested that committees have guidelines for best practices in using technologies to run meetings, and that they review them at the start of meetings.  Every chair needs training in those practices.

Some of those practices include having each person give their name each time they speak.

Another suggestion was that committee members have separate emails for their work with conference committees, so those emails are not lost among the many other emails they receive.  Another suggestion was for each committee to have listserves for communicating by email.

There was also recognition that each person has preferred ways to receive communicatons—text, email, phone.  Arlene Hobson, executive administrator, Michelle Doherty, bookkeeper, and Cynthia Bauleke of Bellingham, will research how to get emails and keep confidentiality.

Conference News editor Mary Stamp will work with conference staff and others to improve communication matters.

Andrew and Janet Matthews of Fox Island will prepare best practices in July.

Steve Claggett of All Pilgrims, treasurer Wendy Blythe and Michelle will explore how to set up yahoogroups for each committee.

Participants also identified issues related to the culture of the conference that have impact on what happens.

Turnover on the board and committees often means that history is lost and committees spend time reinventing themselves, rather than engaging in and empowering congregations to engage in action.

Expectations for staff, board, conference minister and committees can also lead to misunderstandings.  There is need for clarity of roles.  Some, however, expressed frustration experienced over years of the board and committees spending more time on their own job descriptions and organizational issues, than doing the work of the committees.

Descriptions of what each committee’s responsibilities are will be prepared for the committees.

“Change is constant,” said Andy.  “The board has work to do, covenanting to strengthen churches.”

So each time the Board meets, it will go for overnight stays and visit different churches and communities.

“The idea behind longer meetings is to deepen the relationships among those on the board and with the congregations,” she said.  “We hope to make the conference relevant to congregations and to develop stronger, trusting relationships.”

Tara Barber of the Church Development and Spiritual Formation committees offered to lead “Healthy Congregations Workshops.”

Meighan Pritchard, as she finishes her time as minister for environmental justice with the national United Church of Christ, offered to do workshops and establish more face-to-face connections.

Dee Eisenhauer of Eagle Harbor UCC on Bainbridge Island pledged to lead family camps to engage people in time to talk and build significant relationships.

For information, call Andy CastroLang at 509-624-1366 or email

Copyright June-July 2015 © Pacific Northwest Conference News



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