The PNC ((Pastor Nominating Committee)) nominated Jason Santos as the next YMM ((Youth Mission and Ministry)) Associate Pastor. Last Tuesday (a week ago yesterday), Session allowed the nominee to proceed for a vote. Session wanted to hold the vote last Sunday (i.e. three days ago) because UPC was already having a town meeting and it would be simple enough to vote on the position. However, the Book of Order states that the congregation must be given at least two weeks notice. Thus, May 16th was chosen as the date since that would be the first Sunday after the two week notice given from last Sunday.
It also happened to be the only weekend that Jason Santos could come back out to give a guest sermon (although he’s not required to give a sermon, nor is the sermon linked to the voting in any way, nor do prospective YMM Associate Youth Pastors typically give sermons to the congregation…voting is all that is required) within the next 6 weeks or so because of obligations he already had.
If Session had decided to postpone his visitation until after he calendar cleared, some of the staff would have already left (because they were leaving after the end of the school year) and it would be nice to have some interchange between the outgoing staff and Jason Santos.
So the decision was made to hold the vote on May 16th after the 11:30 am service, which would put voting at 12:45 pm, or so. On paper, this seems like a great plan. Except that The Edge ((The high school youth group)), of which I am a sponsor ((basically a mentor/Bible Study Leader)), is going to be at camp. The Edge makes up roughly half the constituents of the YMM, the other half being The Rock (the middle school youth group).
This problem was first brought to my attention by my friend and fellow sponsor, Jesse, on Saturday on the way to a Mariners’ game. She briefly explain her disappointment in not being able to vote to me. I knew about the vote and I knew about the retreat, although I hadn’t connected the dots until now – the retreat started on May 14th, and that’s the day I had in my head. I called my local elder, who also happens to be my Mom, to see if she knew anything about this and to hear what her thoughts were (Mom happens to be very good in these regards). She pointed me in a couple directions and I continued to mull over what the best course of action was.
Later Saturday night, I also bounced the issue off my friend Tad, another great resource and future pastor (he’s starting seminary in the fall).
By Sunday evening, I decided to talk with our Senior Pastor, George Hinman. He was very patient in listening to my concerns and in pointing me to the appropriate people: Tim Snow and Juli Lorton.
I went to join my parents for dinner upstairs at church, and when I caught with them, they were already talking with Juli! How fantastic. I talked briefly with Juli who assured me that the point had been brought up and that a solution was in the works, possibly involving some sort of Skype or Justin.TV solution and a proxy vote of sorts where members who were on the retreat would be able to watch Santos’ sermon and then vote. I also told her what I thought to be a complete lack of communication from the PNC, Session, or YMM on this issue. I let her know that we had a Sponsor meeting on Monday (the next day) and perhaps she or someone else could attend to help explain what was actually going on, field questions, and report back to whomever needed to know.
I also talked with Jennie, the Interim YMM Associate Director, and mentioned to her that I thought it might good if Juli, Tim Snow, or someone else intimately involved with the process to be able to come to our Sponsor meeting, even for just a few minutes.
I emailed Juli later that night:
I believe that this would be a very good opportunity to address some of the people who have a very vested interest in what is going on, to be able to communicate what the scenario actually is (versus what the rumors are, and trust me there are still some rumors), and to be able to interact with the people, many of whom honestly have felt very left out of this important process.
As I’ve stated, and would like to reiterate, communication (and dialog) is key. Can we continue to keep in touch throughout this process?
My biggest frustration up to this point was that there was a HUGE disconnect between what the intent of the PNC/Session was and what they were communicating (or not communicating). The intent was along the lines of: We’ve found an amazing pastor! Let’s get this guy in and going! What was essentially communicated was: We don’t care about you as long as we get our guy.
Dave Hill, another elder (of the YMM, no less) and member of this PNC, was able to come to our sponsor meeting. He spent some time explaining the process and then turned the flow over to us. After a few beats of silence, I tried my best to gracefully lay out what my feelings were of the situation, the great work that the PNC had done so far (they’ve been at this for about a year now), and the seemingly utter failure in this last home stretch to reach out to some of the people who matter the most (i.e. the students, sponsors, and staff of The Edge).
Other people brought up some great points as well, including the fact that if you look at the demographics of the people who probably care the most (i.e. students, parents of students, sponsors, and staff), most of them trend toward going to the evening services, not the morning service. Dave held a belief that if people really cared about voting they would show up to the morning service, to which I paraphrased an interesting observation about organ donations:
When organ donations are a check box on a form where you opt into it, the rates of opting in are 25-30%. There’s an asymmetry here. If you start where the default is to opt out, then the organ donor percentage is 85-90%. We’re not sure why, but it’s completely different. It’s opting in versus opting out; in-group out-group distinctions.
My point was this: yes, people do care about being able to vote. Will they care enough to change their schedules? Probably not as much as we’d want them to.
By this point, it seemed like the best option would be to hold a second vote after the 7pm service. The idea of having a remote broadcast and proxy vote seemed unviable and overly complex. The third idea of post postponing the vote until another week also seemed more like the first idea, but more complicated.
I asked Dave to keep us in the loop, wanting reemphasize that communication is key. We prayed and that was that.
As I write this, the official word is that a second vote is going to be held after the 7pm service:
Dear UPC Family,
As you know, our candidate for Pastor of Youth Mission & Ministry, Jason Santos, will preach at the 11:30 am and 7 pm services on May 16. The original plan to hold one congregational meeting after the 11:30 service to elect Jason would have left out UPC members–YMM staff, sponsors, and students–attending the Edge spring retreat that weekend. In order to welcome their participation, we are expanding the congregational meeting into two parts.
Apparently, this may not be the kosher solution. But I think it’s the best solution, and I think this is a great solution that works for everyone. I just wish it had started out this way.
I debated whether it was even worth posting this. I decided it was, because it’s a great example of how something that had great intentions had some poor execution. I want this to be an example of why communication is so important. I want this to be an example showing that if people have passion, things can change, but someone has to speak up. I want this to be an example of how we can do things better next time.
Finally, to be clear – since we’re talking about communication – this was never about whether I (or anyone else) thought Jason was a good candidate or not. From the cursory research I’ve done so far, I think Jason is an excellent candidate and when I vote, I will be voting to affirm him. This was about making sure that everyone had a chance to have their say in the matter, regardless of what their say was.
Pre-emptive snarky comment: If only wishes were horses.