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to “increase collaboration and con- nections across this church.” “LIFT helped us see that net- working people who are passionate about a wide variety of ministries allows us to include more people and tap new energy for the mission of the church,” Ullestad said. “Creating the networks has opened new doors for more synod members to participate in the ministries and has already reduced costs associated with attending meetings in person.” The networks kicked off in Sep-

tember 2011 with an organizational meeting. Some 90 rostered leaders and lay members gathered to learn about synod and churchwide min- istries, select which networks to join, and develop charters to outline their networks’ values, purposes and projects.

Participants also took a crash course on how to organize and con- nect with one another using confer- ence phone calls, Skype, Facebook, group emails and other social net- working and electronic tools. “There was a high level of

energy and excitement among those who gathered,” Ullestad said. “Most had not realized how much is going on in synod ministries.” Each network has a facilitator to convene the electronic meetings. A synod council member acts as a liaison to share firsthand informa- tion about the network at council meetings. Network members will meet face-

to-face once a year in the fall and connect throughout the year using their choice of electronic media. The synod council reduced its number of in-person meetings from four to two per year, with the execu- tive council communicating more frequently through email. The restructuring also included elimination of the “leadership in mission” and “ministry in mission”


Synod council secretary Lynn Groe believes that kind of stream- lining, along with participation of council members in the networks, will help the council be more responsive to the needs of the church and synod members. “A level of organization that maybe wasn’t nec- essary is gone,” he said. “Hopefully, the synod council and networks will be more nimble to respond to needs.”

Synod leaders recognize that not everyone is comfortable using computers and some people may find it harder to get involved without in-person contact. “Care is taken to include those who want to partici- pate but may not have the most elab- orate Internet skills,” Groe said. “We want to be aware of those kinds of issues and find ways to keep people involved.”

The hunger network has begun communicating through email, Facebook and telephone conference calls for meetings that facilitator Norbert Strasser describes as “short, sweet and to the point.” Strasser said it’s easier to plan

meetings around a phone call than having people drive 30 to 50 miles to the synod office. The teleconfer- ences can be more frequent, which will be a plus as the network meets more often to plan displays, presen- tations and workshops for the 2012 synod assembly. “We can have 15-minute meet- ings once a week if needed,” Stras- ser said. “It’s not the same as getting together and hugging each other, but we accomplish the same things and it’s a lot more cost effective.” With fewer on-site meetings, synod leaders anticipate saving $50,000 to 60,000 a year in expenses for meals, mileage reimbursement and staff preparation. “We believe this system will

make better use of synod staff time, free more time for their direct min- istries to congregations, and require less time preparing for and partici- pating in meetings,” Ullestad said. Budget limitations compelled the synod to try something different, and DeVore believes embracing new technology is a good solution. “It’s bringing the church into the 21st century,” he said. “There is a com- puter geek in every church who can help anyone get online and set up a Skype account. It’s not hard or dif- ficult to set up.” 

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May 2012 33

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