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“Welcome to our worship committee meeting. Thanks for being here! After I pass out the agenda, we’ll start the meeting and create action items for follow-up. After the meeting, we’ll type up the minutes to reflect our conversations, and they’ll be emailed out. The board is meeting next week, so we’ll probably wait until next month to make our report. Now let’s get to work!”
In many of our congregations, this is what collaboration looks like. Strictly defined, collaboration is the act of working with someone to produce or create something. As a concept, this isn’t complicated or ambiguous. We work together, we create something, we share it with a larger audience… and we have “collaborated.”
But let’s take a closer look.
If the worship committee is meeting in Classroom 1, then the education committee is probably meeting in Classroom 2, and the membership committee is meeting in Classroom 3. All these conversations are happening next door to one another – but the information within them isn’t likely isn’t being shared in real-time. Everything that happens in these closed rooms is ultimately shared with the entire board five weeks later.
By the time information is shared with the entire leadership, the work is most likely done. Yes, the worship committee is sharing its information openly and sincerely, but any outside suggestions for change or requests for input come long after the conversations have been had. All of the work that’s been done has happened in a vacuum, leaving no way for other committees to see the work as it happens or for other leaders to share constructive input.
We can do better.
With a little planning, and maybe a little help from technology, we can make our work and our organizations more transparent, enabling us to collaborate more effectively for a healthy, strong congregation.
Make other congregational leaders aware of your meetings.
Connect other congregational leaders to the information your committee will discuss before the meeting starts, and engage them in thinking about the way it impacts their area of work and responsibility. Increase awareness and engagement by encouraging representatives from other teams to attend your meetings.
Devote time at every meeting to review what’s been discussed.
During this time, be sure to discuss how these items may affect other teams at the temple. By the time the next board meeting rolls around, those affected people will be familiar with the issues because you have welcomed them into the conversation.
Don’t hold onto your meeting minutes until the next board meeting.
Release your committee’s meeting notes right away and invite feedback. Call someone on another committee to make sure they’re aware of how a certain item affects their work. By the time the board meets, other leaders will already be familiar with items discussed at your committee’s meeting.
Conceptually, these collaborative steps aren’t difficult to achieve. They can be done by simply talking to someone in the hallway or by picking up the phone – but additional tools can help make the whole process easier.
Set up a permanent email distribution list for your committee.
If you try to remember to copy everyone every time you want to email the committee, you’re sure to inadvertently leave someone off the list – so make it permanent. Then consider: Who else from your congregation should be included in the discussion, based on that month’s conversation? One month it may be clergy; the next month, the treasurer. If another leader expresses continued interest in your committee’s work, add them to the permanent distribution list.
Create a private Facebook group.
Make sure your entire committee is part of the group, but invite others as well. Closely monitor the group, and compel your leaders to have their conversations in the group rather than by email. Doing so will create easily referenced records of everything discussed.
Use an Enterprise Social Network (ESN).
Yammer is the platform the URJ uses for The Tent, our communications and collaboration platform for Reform Jewish leaders; other ESNs include Slack, Jive, and Workplace. Create a private network for the leadership of your congregation, then create committee-based groups within that network that all leaders have access to. Use the groups for minutes, agendas and reports; to connect to other committees; and to share information, invite input, and regularly review activity in your network.
Collaboration and transparency are easy concepts to talk about, but sometimes it’s challenging to do them in a truly effective way. With a little purpose and planning, though, your organization can become more effective by using these tools and techniques.
If your congregation is interested in creating a private Yammer space for its leadership, we’re here to help. Please email me, and we can get to work.