Creating our regional structure we wish to both learn from the best wisdom of our congregations and reflect good practice to them. I interviewed Stefan Jonasson, UUA expert on growth and on large congregations regarding what he sees as key issues our larger congregations are working. It was fascinating to see how closely many of these issues mirrored things we have been considering in creating our new region. Here are Stefan's thoughts on the first of the issues he mentioned. I will post more of Stefan's thoughts in the next couple of weeks.
Accept with agility continuing staff transition. It is fascinating how naïve many large congregations can be about the reality of frequent transitions of key staff. They need to regard staff transition as a continuing reality. If a year passes when there isn’t a transition of a significant staff member, it should be considered an odd year. I constantly see our larger congregations thrown back on their heels by the departure of a staff member. Our congregations need to be prepared for continuing transition—for the comings and goings of staff and the need to re-form.
Our congregations should in general view key staff and staff portfolios much more dynamically. Congregations, especially large congregations, find it hard to imagine changing portfolios. Congregations tend to ossify the portfolios from the beginning into jobs and job titles tied closely to specific work rather than considering that collectively they have a body of work to do that needs to be divided among them and redivided as needs emerge. Portfolios should be renegotiated yearly and perhaps more frequently.
By the sheer number of staff they can employ, regions have an opportunity to model good practice here. They need not replicate the DE and PC roles. They might ask how should rather ask how, if they can afford five or six professional staff, they can negotiate the portfolios to do the work—and stop doing work that no longer has value to those we serve or where work of greater importance has emerged. The structure needs to be organized so this can be done—and redone as needed--without the constant angst of eliminating and creating positions that are set in their focus. We need more nimble structures.