Calling All Stated Clerks

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As a new stated clerk of Classis Central CA (as of Feb 19), it sure is good to be able to communicate with other CRC folks what they think about how this classical position should work out. For my crash orientation about what I should be doing, I had transition talks with our outgoing clerk and used the CRC webpage where Dee Recker had stored all kinds of info for stated clerks and synodical deputies. What is lacking though from that page is an online forum where other stated clerks could exchange notes, experiences, and so-called best practices.

Aside from the traditional job description of a stated clerk, I have been charged by Classis to develop online tools for more efficient/timely information sharing and a more responsive communications system. Last year, Classis decided to move from a paper-based system to emails and online presence. When I took over, we launched our new website, www.classiscentralca.org, parts of which are still being constructed. I looked at the other Classes' websites, took some good ideas, and vowed to make our website fresh and interesting not only for the usual classical functionaries but also for the ordinary members of our churches. Much work is still to be done to make these a reality.

Two months now as stated clerk, I sure wish that there's an online place for other clerks and others who are interested to improve communications through our Classes (that is, in between sessions) to share notes and the like. Sheri, I wish to know if the Network's Church & Administration page could be a good place for stated clerks. Or, if there's a need for a separate page? Hope to hear from you soon. Thanks!

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Hi Fernando - Thanks for your interest in The Network and connecting with other classis stated clerks. It's people like you that will help make this vision for The Network a reality! We've got a Classis discussion network which is probably the best place for stated clerks, and others, to connect around the work of classes. There aren't any posts in it yet, so you can be the first one!

Hey Tim, thanks! Yes, I'm willing to break ground on this stated clerk-Network thing. With some hope and realizing that not all may have time to participate in this, let's see how this idea will pick up among the other 46 Stated Clerks and maybe a few others who may come as successors. (I will inform Dee Recker about this posting and ask her if she can inform the other SCs.)

So here goes my random thoughts and am open for comments/feedback, even help!...

- Classis Central CA decided last year to transition from a paper-based/snail-mail information sharing and communications setup to email and a functioning website. Classis saw the value of making classical records easily available, timely, and efficient. Being a pure DIY web-wannabe, I felt good about helping Classis on these. (Note: I have no formal tech training, just a patience in constructing stuff, sometimes inadvertently breaking them down!)

- Nothing fancy, but plainly functional and hopefully easy to navigate, we launched our new Classis website: www.classiscentralca.org. Almost free (if the many hours I spent on it are not monetized), this website got off the ground using FREE Google Sites. Even our domain name is free for one year which I registered months before at www.1and1.com.

- Right now though, I'm looking at our next generation website to use DRUPAL, an open source content management system. (My day job at UC Berkeley uses this.) For now, I think our website works and am still writing, tweaking some pages, and converting our classical records and posting them to the website. Our Classis was established in 1962. I have scanned and posted records from 1971 to date. Last batch to convert and post are those from 1962-1970. You can check these out at http://www.classiscentralca.org/classis_cmb/classis

- In the next 2 months, my goal is to complete our website. Functional, links established, information updated at least once a month, records kept up-to-date, and writing is accurate. In other words, a simple info sharing tool always available 24/7. Our other task alongside is to make Classis pastors, ministry associates, office-bearers, and church staff aware of it and to actually use it.

- Long term, my other goal is to make it one of the tools for community-building across our Classis. (Would meeting 2 -3 times per year in formal sessions strengthen community among 40+ organized and emerging churches, usually with almost the same attendees?) To this end, I've started encouraging our churches to contribute to our Stories of Grace (http://www.classiscentralca.org/stories-of-grace) and News & Photos (http://www.classiscentralca.org/news-photos). Will this catch on? I don't know. But we can certainly give it a try. Maybe we can come up with something else better. Before this, we didn't have any.

- One of the travails of email is to see your inbox being swamped by long email trails with spam sprinkled throughout! To prevent the Stated Clerk from adding to this nightmare, I've now started "eFriday SC" emails. If there are things to relay to our updated Classis email group list, they only go out every Friday. So everybody knows and can expect such to come on Fridays only.

- Two months after our website launched, I've sent out an online 'website user survey' using a free subscription on www.Zoomerang.com. Another quick and nearly-no-cost way to obtain people's experiences and critique about using the website. The plan is to be guided by their responses on how to move forward with the website. (After I close the survey on April 30, I'd share to whoever is interested that survey and results through a Zoomerang link.)

- Now, what you've read thus far are the nontraditional aspects of my duties as Stated Clerk. The other more traditional parts are writing Agendas/Minutes, safekeeping them, and maintaining communications with the Office of Synodical Services (Dee Recker).

- So far, it's been fun! Fellow SCs or future SCs, I look forward to hearing from your own experiences and perspectives. A key question I have for you: how have you been building 'community' across your Classis? Do you as Stated Clerk had something to do with that? Or somebody else? How exactly have you been doing it?

I am not a Stated Clerk but am in charge of the Classis website and helping churches and committees to communicate between Classis meetings (as Ministry Coordinator). So, I'll join in on this conversation. I appreciated looking at your website and getting some ideas from it. I would be interested in hearing the results of your survey. I still struggle with getting people to participate in the website. I know that people go to it and look at it but getting people to become active in the website has been a challenge. I would like to see it used more.

Thanks for starting this discussion. Hopefully we can get more discussion going about Classis and be able to learn from each other.

Hi Elizabeth, thanks again for your post here. SC (stated clerk) or not, you're most welcome since what you do in your Classis supplement well your SC's functioning.

In response to your questions... our current website launched last Feb 9 is the first one ever yet. Last year, my predecessor started a Yahoo Group as one way to transition from paper/snail-mail system to the web. Too early to say about degree of user-adoption but we're still on that stage when folks are just familiarizing themselves with the website as a communications tool. The important thing for now is that we have the website up, easily and publicly accessible. For the long term, the website could also serve as another community-building tool. For that, we've started the "Stories of Grace" and "News & Photos" pages. I'm thinking of another page that will regularly feature churches' newsletters as they're published. For these, I would solicit the help of church secretaries and/or whoever is doing their websites.

As for the website user survey, I'll email to you a copy. I'm closing it midnight tonight. So far, there's been a low turnout. But the few responses I received are substantial enough to guide our website's going forward.

P.S. I'll reply separately to your other post re privacy of agendas/minutes.

Participant

Classis Yellowstone (classisyellowstone.org) has been moving toward increased web based connectivity b/c geography in our classis is a unique barrier- not unlike many of the classes "west of the Mississippi" & in the "rain shadow" of the west coast mountain ranges. I still send a few paper based mailings to technologically challenged members; but I strongly encourage all our member churches to use email for communication, and to gather information from our classis website. I have observed, during the 10 years as stated clerk, the web grow from a novelty to an essential communication tool. Today, around classis session time, email activity turns into a frenzy...but in actuality that is not bad because (1) of geography, and (2)schedules- we all keep different timeframes and email and the website allow us to pursue and consume information within our individual life framework. I really believe the web has & will continue to draw us closer together...now to bring on virtual meetings via web based tools- the next frontier to conquer:-)

Hi there! Although I've been stated clerk for Classis Quinte for a number of years, having a website is new to us. I'm interested in the question of privacy of agendas/minutes and would appreciate your advice.

In posting all of our classis agendas and minutes on our website, our overriding reason was to have them easily and publicly available for review, study, and general information. The other reason is to help reduce the consumption of paper. The two items not posted online are the detailed financial statements (but can be requested from the Treasurer and Classical Finance Ministry Team) and deliberations from executive sessions. Our records had been online since March 2010. Hope these help.

Classis Toronto decided not to post agendas and minutes on-line for privacy reasons (we started doing this and then took them off a few years later). We still do most things via email - all agendas and minutes are sent via email, rarely do any get sent with paper any more. On the website we have a note that directs people to email the stated clerk if they would like an agenda or minutes but there is great resistance to having them accessible by anyone on-line. I have thought about having a log-in type situation where people can log-in and then find the documents on-line but with so many elders and deacons and pastors who rotate every year it seems a little too cumbersome. Privacy vs. ease of access always seems to be a balancing act.