Report on Final Meeting of Decision Together Process
At the special Congregational meeting on the 8th of April, 2018, we finalized by voting the decisions arrived at by consensus at the previous meeting. This meeting, moderated by Nancy Schildt, our president, was relatively short and easy because so much work had been already put into the process, and much had been decided previously by consensus. The actions were:
1. The plan to increase rental income using the sanctuary was easily approved without discussion.
2. In the decision about improving our building to generate income from rentals on the second and third floor, there was discussion about the type of rentals that would be developed on second floor, but it was decided to leave the particulars of that question to be worked out later and we approved the original proposal.
3. The Board requested an additional vote to authorize funding of up to $100,000 to be taken from the Babcock Fund so that construction could be begun immediately. That passed easily after open discussion and an invitation for those members with concerns and productive ideas to take them to the Board and to the Team that will be implementing this decision.
We were once again impressed with the power and wisdom of this type of decision making process. The Congregation responded with a strong level of participation (over 60 people at three of the meetings) and patient attention at all five meetings over the course of four months. This bespeaks a high degree of commitment, caring, and love for this Church, which was rewarded by the success of this process.
We think this Decision Together process had several ingredients that it might be well to review for future reference and also in order to try to learn from our mistakes. The important elements were:
- We had a clearly defined goal, in this case, “How can we sustainably afford a full time minister and use our savings wisely?” We tried to constantly keep this simple goal in mind.
- We had an excellent team who did their best to present unbiased information on our options to inform our members. In this case this was principally Mike Mottl and Sue Yamane-Carpenter.
- We investigated our options as thoroughly as possible. Plenty of time was allowed for questions and discussion.
- We allowed opportunity during two separate meetings to hear people’s feelings and stories. Many people did respond, but we learned that these feelings tend to come out most readily when there is an actual attempt to reach consensus, rather than in response to an invitation to share such stories and feelings at separate meetings.
- We learned the hard way about the importance of having a good facilitator versed in consensus process when the time comes for decision making, both to educate the congregation in consensus and to facilitate the meeting. Fortunately in our case, the way forward had become fairly apparent after all our previous work, some helpful suggestions were made by a member familiar with consensus, and a few dissenters were willing to generously “stand aside” to allow consensus to proceed on the two options we approved. A third proposal, to investigate the option of rental of space from Temple Emannu-El, was blocked by several members. Unfortunately, we did not have time to explore the proposal, investigate those people’s concerns, and to try to modify the proposal in such a way that it could have been acceptable. We learned later some would have accepted looking into rental space other than the Temple.
- The final voting process proceeded fairly easily once we made it clear the task was simply to validate what we had already agreed on together. Additional voting for funding was handled as a new separate measure and also passed fairly easily because people were motivated to go forth with what we had decided.
This whole process was initiated by a letter written by some Council of Chairs members to the Board in the Fall of 2017 requesting a decision by the Congregation on ministry and the building. We are grateful that the Board embraced this process and allowed us to play a role. The Congregation should be commended and feel a sense of pride for showing up, doing the work, and making the decision together.
Yours in fellowship,
Junko and David Davis