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Here's the place to discuss all things classis - vision, ministries, meetings, retreats, reports, budget, staff - and more.
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Will, thanks for your notes. I'm also trying to develop our 4-month old website into one that's easy to update/maintain. So far, I find Google Sites easy to use and quick to establish routine tasks around it.
At present, we have 55 pastors, ministry associates, elders, and church staff in our email contacts list. I haven't done any snail mail since I took over last February. Like your website, it is largely one-way. But it's got a built-in members-only Online Forum, our virtual "Executive Session" site.
I understand my predecessor had to leave the SC job after one term of 3 years because of ministry demands upon him as a busy youth pastor. For me now, my SC role works well with me not having a full-time pastorate, but with a full-time employment at UC Berkeley (the day job that pays the bills).
Yes, how about the other SCs?
Just a quick note to get in on the conversation. I've been the Stated Clerk of Classis California South for about 7 years. About a year ago we built (my wife did the work) a website and I also compiled a list of @75 email addresses that I use to send notes and prompts. No more snail mail. We have deliberately kept the website simple so that I don't have to do too much work with it. It is mostly a one-way communication device.
One challenge I have is to balance the work of Stated Clerk with my day job as Senior Pastor of The River. How do others of you do that balancing act?
Hi Elizabeth, our Classis decided sometime in 2007 to create its website and make classical records available in it among other things. As I was not part of those deliberations, I understand they reached that decision for reasons of accountability/transparency and efficient sharing of information. Take note though that matters taken up during executive sessions and other sensitive issues involving specific persons are not included in the Minutes. For these, we created a member-only "Online Forum" (using Google Groups) where sensitive documents and online discussions can be posted. Membership is restricted to those authorized by their Councils.
About using Google Sites, I suggest you read Mavis Moon's post at "Church and Web" at http://network.crcna.org/content/web/how-start-using-google-apps. Mavis is church secretary at San Jose CRC and IT Manager of a Herman Miller company in San Jose, CA. I'm only a web-builder-wannabe - but I'm willing to share tips in using Google Sites. Pros about Google Sites: easy to use; no software to buy; flexibility with built-in Gmail, Google Docs, Picasa photos/videos, YouTube, almost no downtime. And very low cost, if not almost free. I only had to pay for extra 80GB storage with Google. If you know how to use some HTML coding, you can make your site fancier than their out-of-the-box layouts. OK, just let me know if I can help.
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.
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.
Classis Toronto (I am Ministry Coordinator) decided not to post any agendas or minutes on the web for privacy sake. Many people were worried about the information that was in the minutes and how that anyone could see it. Have you had any people express concerns? How do you deal with executive session minutes?
I like your website - we are looking at updating ours and I think I will look at Google sites as an option.
Hi John, thanks for your comments. What our Classis decided last year was to backup our records in electronic form (in MS Word and pdf) stored on an external harddrive and on the web. We still maintain paper records physically held by the stated clerk as you and the other SCs may be doing. I learned that the CRC archives office is still microfilming our records. So there you go, classical records are kept in at least four platforms. All goes to show how we respect the process and efforts done by those before us in building and strengthening God's churches. Thanks again!
In Classis Central Plains we distribute all our materials to the churches via email. Something to note, Fernando: We have decided to print hard copies of all material. If everything is stored only in electronic form, it can quickly be lost. Computer hardware and software changes rapidly. I have some 15 year old files that I cannot access now. We cannot assume that MS Word (et.al.) will be immortal or that future versions will be able to read decades old material. My understanding is that the CRC historial society operates under the same assumptions. Hope this helps.
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?
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!