Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Learning to say, 'No'

I had a phone call yesterday from a member of our community asking me if I'd booked him a place at the Annual Meetings.  I hadn't.  The last discussion at a meeting at the end of January was for him to discuss with someone else about sharing our delegate allocation and for them to get on with it. A previous treasurer had done Annual Meetings bookings some years ago - but I am not the Treasurer.  He asked if I would now do the booking if the days were sorted out with this other man - I said that I wouldn't as they were perfectly capable of doing this themselves. The conversation then went onto general things - how was I? - tired - you always look tired, you do too much, you have to learn to say 'no' - well I have done that in this conversation haven't I?  The irony was not lost.

The previous week I had been at a sub-committee meeting as a visitor - it focuses on the building and I have avoided full-time involvement (because I do too much!). Anyway I had found it quite difficult to follow what works needed doing, which needed planning permission and which pots of funding could be used for what.  So prior to the meeting I had put my understanding of the work to be done in tables and emailed these to people asking people to amend them to accurately reflect the situation. One person printed them off, wrote his comments and sent the documents to me. At the meeting I said that this really wasn't very helpful as the expectation seemed to be that I would have to type this person's comments in.  I have already had similar conversations when I get handwritten stuff for the newsletter. The best bit was when I was told that I was now the only person who had these tables with these comments as if somehow I had engineered this.

Last year we had a meeting when someone suggested that we send a letter to support a campaign.  I then asked who would do this. Someone said that as I was secretary that I should do this.  I responded that just because I was secretary did not mean that everything that needed writing was my job and that I already had enough to do. No-one else came forward so the letter wasn't written.

On Sunday at a brief after-service meeting we had an issue with minutes. Although I am the secretary I am not the minute secretary and she was away. No-one said that they would do them so the chair agreed to note agreed actions. In the longer term we said that we would get a minute book.  Someone volunteered to take notes during the meeting if the minutes secretary was not there. I volunteered to scan the notes in and send them round. Someone else suggested that we do this for three months to see if it works better (including being quicker) than our current system. This might not be ideal but it might actually work for us.

And the point of all this? If there is someone(s) in your congregation that you are concerned about because you think that they do too much - don't expect them to give up something that doesn't impact on you to make their life easier. Encourage them to give up something that does impact on you. Take some of their burden away or at the very least don't add to it. And if you are the one who does a lot do try very kindly but firmly to tell people that you won't do whatever it is, that either they can do it, someone else has to do it, you pay someone to do it or it doesn't get done.

At some point I want to identify the work that needs doing to run our community and to detail who does what and when. It is difficult in small communities which have no paid administrative staff. At some point this may become a problem and if it does it needs working through - like our minute book.  We need to find solutions, which may not be ideal, but have a chance of working and of saving someone a job.

Ultimately if we are building community then we all have our overalls on at times - we all have to put some time and effort in. We also have to appreciate that somethings might not happen because although we may have the will, we don't have the wherewithal - not enough time, energy or ability. As ever we have to recognise that we are all in this together. 

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