Restructuring: It’s up to the New Board Now

(This article is a bit dated as it was originally written in early 2018 and then got shelved until April 2018).

With the somewhat-drawn-out conclusion of winter and the start of spring we’re in the season of fresh beginnings. New Year resolutions may last a few weeks but a new Synodical structure – that’ll last until at least 2021. There’s less than a year eight months left for the new Synodical administration to put the appropriate structures in place while the three Districts have to determine what, exactly, the implications are of what Synod in convention has done and the course it is charting.

And what an effort it will be! “Why is that?” you might ask. As an organization ages it collects “stuff.” This “stuff” can be special initiatives, best practices, standard procedures to handle it’s various business activities, etc. in its respective area of operation. When four organizations that have been around as long as LCC and the three Districts are being merged into one big organization, they’ll have to

  • identify all their various moving parts,
  • figure out which parts are the same and which ones are different,
  • reconcile their policies and procedures where possible,
  • develop new policies and procedures where it’s not possible,
  • eliminate certain practices that may have worked locally but won’t work nationally,
  • figure out a transition strategy to move responsibilities from the Districts to Synod
  • figure out how Synod will implement all the work currently being carried out by the Districts,
  • come up with contingency plans in case things don’t go as expected,
  • deal with differences in culture and past-practices between the three District,
  • “discuss” the allocation of resources now that the geographic boundaries are gone,
  • etc.

Once all that is done, Synod not only has execute the transition but it also has to design and implement an an entirely new set of business processes.

I cannot overemphasize how huge of a job this is and the amount of time, effort, and treasure will be required to bring it to a successful conclusion. If my past experience is any measure of what Synod is facing – things will be missed, “stuff” will happen to gum up the works, misunderstandings will need to be cleared up, etc. because that’s the nature of these kinds of transitions. If there’s plenty of up-front time and resources available to design, test, revise, and re-test the transition process as well as “dry run” the new processes to ensure everything works smoothly, a “throw the switch” changeover like this could be made to work.

The problem is Synod doesn’t have the requisite resources to get everything done in time for the mandated Jan 2019 changeover. And not only that, from my read of the East District BOD minutes of their Nov 2017 meeting – the same Synodical administration that had been pushing restructuring for almost two years appears to have washed their hands of the heavy lifting of implementation thereby leaving it to the Districts and the next Synodical administration with a compressed calendar in which to figure everything out.

Following is “Appendix B” of the East District’s Nov 2017 BOD meeting minutes – I’ve bolded the sections where the current administration is leaving answering a question for the incoming administration to address. These notes provide some idea of the scope of the work that Synod and the Districts will need to address.

  • Q. How does the first RMMC get elected?
  • A. They should have been included in convention Resolution 17.1.04A.

Except Resolution 17.1.04A has no constitutional authority and cannot be implemented under the new structure.

  • Q. When do Regional Pastors take office?
  • A. It is assumed that it will be January 2019, which is when synod will no longer deliver services through the districts. 

Given that these are paid positions and will require whoever fills them to leave their current position, a definitive answer is required sooner rather than later.

  • Q. How will the salary of Regional Pastors be determined? 
  • A . (Dwayne Cleave) Synod will have to produce salary guidelines for 2019 and have them out in the fall (presumably before the district conventions). This will likely be the job of the Personnel Committee
  • Q. Where is the funding for staff support and offices for RPs?
  • A. It will be part of the general administration budget of Synod
  • Q. When will Synod hire the Canadian Mission Executive?
  • A. (Dwayne Cleave) They will have to deal with this in 2018 and the intent would be to have this person in place before the end of 2018. 
  • Q. What will the LCC Board have up and running by Jan. 2019 in order to have service delivery continue?
  • A. This will be up to the new Synodical board to discuss.

Answering this and related questions should’ve been the administration’s top priority even before the convention. Given that President Bugbee has been in office for multiple terms and had been pushing for restructuring shortly after CEF became public, one would think he could’ve done some prep work and at the very least produced a short-form list of recommendations to help the next administration get off to a running start.

  • Q. What happens to District Archives and who will look after archives in the future
  • A. It will be a responsibility of Synod. The new board will have to review this.
  • Q. What will be done with all the district records? Where will they be housed and who will pay for this?
  • A. The new board will have to discuss this.
  • Q. How will congregational subsidies be maintained during the transition so that funding isn’t cut off at the end of 2018 just because there hasn’t been adequate time for decision making?
  • Q. Who and how will the Synod budget be determined for 2019 since the RMMC’s won’t have been in place long enough to do this?
  • A. (Dwayne Cleave) There will have to be ongoing discussions between synod and the districts. For the first year (2019), the intent would be to have a budget as close as possible to the status quo. 
  • Q. The East District currently operates a “Moving Fund”. Congregations who participate are assessed an amount as required and then when calling a new pastor, they are eligible to get assistance with moving costs.—Will synod take over/establish this sort of fund or will the ED continue to run it for congregations in their Region?
  • A. This will have to be discussed further. If it continues it should be done Canada wide and not just for one region.

Translation – if this moving fund is kept it should be Canada-wide (which means more cost.)

  • Q. Can you clarify what the role and expectations are for the Circuit counsellors in the new structure. President Zabel expressed the concern that many pastors are calling to seek clarification on this.
  • A. This is clearly laid out in the new bylaws.

If a substantial number of people are asking for clarification about something then you need to listen to what they’re saying. In circumstances like this, it is not appropriate to claim “it’s clearly laid out in the bylaws” in the face of people saying it’s not clear.

  • Q. Can our existing District departments be used as the avenue for services to be delivered under the new structure?
  • A. It will be up to the RMMC to decide how to do things.

Synod in convention mandated that Synod would cease to use the Districts to deliver services as of Jan 2019 – to me that’s a clear “no, you can’t use District departments.”

  • Q.  Regarding management of Regional resources (bills for travel, expenses for RMMC, etc.) how will this be handled?
  • A. This will require further discussion. It may be necessary for Regions to have a bank account for certain things.

This is the first sign of things creeping back to a “District” structure. Restructuring was supposed to move everything to Synod to manage so the Regional Pastors could stick to pastoring and Synod would handle administration. If a Region has a bank account, that’ll require policy on it’s use, personnel to implement the policy, reporting, etc. etc.

  • Q. Can Regions directly fund activities without having to go through synod?
  • A. I can’t imagine that there would be a concern if the region did fundraising for a particular activity within their own region.

This requires a  more definitive answer because “I can’t imagine” will eventually lead to someone doing something under the reasoning “you didn’t say I couldn’t!”

  • Q. What will happen to the missionaries that are called by a district?
  • A. There will have to be discussions between Synod and the districts so that there is a smooth transition. It would be unacceptable for these men to suddenly find their pay cheques stopping on January 1 of 2019.

More work for the next administration!

  • Q. Will district funding end as of Jan 1st 2019 i.e. will congregations be expected to send their mission remittances directly to synod as of that date? The fiscal year of both synod and the Districts ends on Jan. 31 and many congregations don’t send all of their money in until January or sometimes February?
  • Q. Will there be some sort of transitional funding to districts as there may still be district expenses associated with winding down the districts. Where will the funding come from to cover these expenses if congregations no longer send their offerings to the district?
  • A. These questions will have to be discussed between synod and the Districts.

The Q&A ends with this note:

The following are some other points raised during the meeting:

  1. Congregations need to be told that if they now send their offerings to their District, they should continue doing this until 2019 (January? or some other date — see question 12.) Apparently some congregations think this change occurs at the beginning of 2018.
  2. All Districts should be asked to prepare a list of resource people who could assist the RP and the RMMC as volunteers in the new structure, since there will be fewer resources and no departments.
  3. The new structure does not include the Regional Pastors as advisory board members in the way that District Presidents were. It is recommended that RPs be invited to attend Board meetings as advisors, since many more regional matters will be discussed at the synodical Board level, and hence their input would be essential.
  4. The implementation of restructuring will be up to the new Synodical Board. There is a lot of work to do, so they might consider appointing a special transition committee to guide this.

ANO’s Questions and Observations:

  • We’ve already got congregations thinking things have changed when they haven’t. If the membership is going to mis-hear something as simple as the implementation transition date, how can Synod reasonably expect the membership to clearly follow along when it comes to the more involved matters such as RP and Circuit Counselor responsibilities unless – like the Ethiopian eunuch – someone explains it to them?
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate – Synod needs to keep the membership up to date where things are, where they’re going, what’s coming up, what needs to be done, “how you can help.” Not only will this help with keeping everyone on the same page, membership’ll feel better informed about what’s happened and what’s coming next. And if some people volunteer to help out – all the better!
  • The number of BOD members was limited due to expense. Having the RPs attend Synodical BOD meetings is a good idea – but doing so would be an additional expense and negate the cost savings of only having regional Board members.
  • Why hadn’t the administration formed a transition committee earlier in 2017? Or immediately after the Oct 2017 convention? If Synod had formed a task force charged with identifying Synod’s options regardless of what happened to the restructuring proposal, the next administration would’ve been that much further ahead than they are now. Given the massive amount of work Synd and Districts have to accomplish before they “throw the switch” Jan 2019, every day counts.

The Jan 2015 meeting minutes provide some information on how restructuring had progressed from Nov 2017 to Jan 2018.

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