Communications. How do we maintain communications with those we serve? Churches and other non-profit groups have recently found themselves in a generational challenge as the means that we utilize to share our information is changing all around us. In the past the communication channels were obvious, there were newsletters, meetings that everyone attended, Elders who visited their districts, the church was a hub in the community, so everyone made it their business to know the church business.
But now none of those things exist. In place of that context is a static group of hardworking, tired, long-serving, seniors, who are the first to show up and the last to leave, and they are forced to make decisions with an aging building, diminished resources (money), and fewer bodies. It is a tough go. So when criticized for not explaining their decisions, for letting people know what is going on it must be frustrating. The response is one I have used myself, as a joiner it makes me very frustrated to volunteer for a Board or committee on a non-profit and then be critiqued by someone who never shows up or offers help or offers an opinion. Nine times out of ten I stand with that small group of joiners and say, “if you don’t like what we did or are doing why don’t you give it a try?”
But we live in a world of facebook, social media, where people are constantly being asked their opinion, to offer their views. Comment sections under columns are filled to capacity, everyone (like me!) has a blog. We like to be listened to, we all feel if “they” listened to us all would be well. So in this climate of open forums and open communication to share information at an AGM, at a meeting, with a notice in the bulletin, or have someone stand up once a year and say something from the pulpit, well that is not exactly the best way to get the word out.
Colleagues of mine have learned from our First Nations peoples, that we need to share in circles, to take the time when big decisions are to be made so everyone feels heard and consulted. Time and time again when groups go through this process of circles in advance of big decisions the outcome is accepted by the larger body with far more understanding and appreciation.
All those in leadership positions need to find creative ways to engage those whom they serve. Those being served do need to understand that their silence is a form of consent, that passively sitting back and criticizing is no way to be part of a larger body. But to that small group who work so hard to make things run on time, to those who do the thankless tasks I say you need to find creative ways to share what you are doing, why you are doing it and how others can share their views. It’s a brand new world out there. We need to be part of it.