BYM Visioning Retreat

October 3, 2009

Overview

On 3 Tenth Month 2009, 64 Friends from 22 Monthly Meetings within Baltimore Yearly Meeting gathered together to apply their best thinking to key challenges facing the Yearly Meeting in our time. The initial queries and strategies offered at the session will form the basis for Friends’ consideration of a future vision for our Yearly Meeting.

Friends learned how to use the Action Learning method to consider and address current challenges. We were assisted in this process by Michael Marquardt, a consultant who works internationally helping companies and nonprofits address their organizational challenges. The author of Leading with Questions and Optimizing the Power of Action Learning, Professor Marquardt developed Action Learning based upon his experience as a Friend and on the Quaker tradition of using queries to deepen their faith and their practice.

There is only one “ground rule” in Action Learning: Statements may only be made in response to a question!

After a welcome from Betsy Meyer, Clerk of Interim Meeting, and instruction in Action Learning from Professor Marquardt, participants moved into small groups of 8 or 9. Each group took on one of eight key questions as listed below. One member of each small group served as a coach, helping Friends stay true to the query method.

After lunch, each of the eight small groups reported to the full body regarding the
clarifying questions asked by group members, and offered action strategies which could be carried out by staff or BYM committees.

Notes from Small-Group Sessions
Group 1: How can we better inform BYM members and Meetings about what the
Yearly Meeting does?

Questions
· What are we doing now? [Interchange 3x/yr, monthly email announcements, Handy Guide for MMs, etc.]
· What is BYM?
· Is BYM a service organization?
· Do attenders know BYM exists?
· What do Monthly Meetings need?
· How can BYM be open to its members and practice core testimonies so that
people can learn about and participate in BYM?
· How can BYM committees involve Monthly Meetings in their activities?
· How can we strengthen the connection between the Yearly Meeting and Monthly
Meetings?
· What is missing from my Monthly Meeting experience that BYM could help with?

Suggested Strategies
· Clearer communications (not haphazard)
· Expand beyond core group in BYM e.g. increase networking by “member ministers”.
· More inclusive nomination process
· More Monthly Meeting contacts
· Sharing personal stories of moving experiences one has had through BYM. (Not
just sharing basic info).
· Meaningful communication about participating in the reality of spiritual community.

Group 2: How can we attract younger (i.e. under 50, not retired) Friends to serve as BYM volunteers?

Suggested Strategies

Improve visibility
· Send a BYM rep (could be staff or a volunteer) to Quarterly and/or Monthly Meetings
· “BYM on the Road” – take some of the things offered at Annual Session and offer these as half-day or full day programs at various locations within the BYM region (e.g. workshops and topical programs)
· Ask MMs to identify individuals who are willing to serve as BYM committee
liaisons.
· Friends active in BYM should ask individuals to participate/volunteer. People
who do not respond to a generic sort of announcement might respond to a personal invitation.
· Additionally, if the person chooses to participate/volunteer, mentor him/her.

Communicate
· Start a BYM list-serve to communicate volunteer opportunities/events
· Publicize events/programs (e.g., Spiritual Formation) earlier
· Make use of newer means of communication – Facebook, Twitter, blogs to publicize events/volunteer opportunities
· Develop a streamlined way to publicize events at Monthly Meetings that might be of interest to others (e.g., speakers, Quaker Quest training)
· In addition to info about BYM, provide a way for MMs to communicate more with each other and the wider Quaker community

Address barriers to participation (time, geographic distance, cost)
· Create and publicize a scholarship fund for Annual Session (and continue offering the passes for two free nights to first-time Session attenders)
· Facilitate carpooling to Interim Meetings/Annual Session (e.g. a rideshare section on the BYM website)
· Do some committee work via teleconference
· Prepare well for committee meetings via email communication prior to the meeting to make the meeting time more productive.
· Publicize any volunteer opportunities besides committee work (are there any?)
· Explore the possibility of delegating some volunteer activities to Monthly/Quarterly Meetings
· Child care/activities for children – BYM does a good job with this and should continue
· Explore ways to make BYM service/volunteering a life-changing or spiritually enriching experience.

Group 3: How can we increase and sustain BYM camp enrollments?

Suggested Strategies
· Explore more intentional partnerships between our camping program and regional Friends schools
· Further discernment about what it is our camps DO for all participants, spiritually – and how we communicate that.
· To encourage a critical mass of interest, ensure that Camp information regularly goes to ALL of our Meeting communities. (This may require some special efforts at Monthly Meetings with little or no history of recent involvement, and may not be needed at Meetings where there are current or prior Camp participants who spread the news).

Group 4: What activities & programs would lead Friends to participate directly in financial support of their Yearly Meeting?

Questions
· Do BYM Friends tend overall to be generous with their time and money?
· If no, how can such generosity be nurtured in accord with spiritual practices and testimonies?
· If yes, can Friends be led to perceive a higher priority in their giving to monthly meetings as well as BYM activities and programs?

Suggested Strategies
· Better communicate the role of BYM to member Meetings: programs, relationship to MMs, character of the regional community.
· A Friend at each Monthly Meeting could volunteer (or be nominated) to serve as BYM liaison, passing along news of the Yearly Meeting.
· Each Monthly Meeting could reserve a specific space in its newsletter for BYM news.
· Those already involved with BYM could proactively share with their Monthly Meeting the value / meaning/ advantages BYM has had for them (Annual Session, Spiritual Formation, Camps, etc.): “What leads me to participate in BYM?”
· Communicate the value of participating in the wider “family”. (Analogy of children attending a family reunion with relatives they haven’t yet met).
· Ask Friends to consider what would be lost if the Yearly Meeting was laid down.
· The Yearly Meeting is not “them” but “us”! Monthly Meetings bear some responsibility for communicating and contributing to the Yearly Meeting (e.g. “How are we interacting with BYM?” as a query at Meeting for Business).
· Communicate specific funding needs (such as Camp Properties).
· Emphasize that BYM Annual Session provides opportunities for broader connections with Friends: BYM is a place to meet people!
· Allow opportunities for “belonging” at Annual Session.
· Support the deep networking that Friends can experience through Yearly Meeting service.
· Hold the expectation that local Quakers participate in their Yearly Meeting.
· Help people be aware that BYM empowers the Religious Society of Friends by providing a place where MM Friends can connect with other Friends, and thus work together to further their leadings and strengthen the voice of Quakers in the
world.

Group 5: How can we best facilitate the spiritual nurture of BYM members and Meetings, including drawing forth Spirit-led social concern ministries?

Questions
· What is spiritual nurture? What does it consist of?
· What would it look like to be a spiritually nurturing community?
· Is the questions about facilitating the nurture of spiritual development, or about nurturing spiritual development ? Is that a fundamental difference and if so, how do these differ? (Several of us saw facilitation as a process and nurturing as an action.)
· What can we do – beyond what is already being done – to be a more spiritual community?
· How to build community within and among Meetings and age groups?

Suggested Strategies
· Ask Meetings and individuals what they feel would nurture them (done by reps to BYM, not by staff)

Communications
· Have BYM website include spiritual growth and pastoral care resources
· Explore other electronic resources and means of communication
· Increase publication of the Interchange newsletter to FOUR times per year
· Create new information, including a Resource Directory and information on BYM

Relationship Building
· Provide end-of-life information and resources
· Nurture and develop gifts of ministry
· Provide opportunities for Quaker skill development (e.g. clerking)
· Traveling ministry
· One-to-one relationship development
· InTRAvisitation – encourage Friends to visit other MONTHLY meetings within our region
· Develop Resource Directory

Gatherings
· Provide and publicize retreat opportunities (e.g. spiritual formation)
· Encourage travel to Interim Meeting
· Training for deeper spiritual life and more effectiveness
· Host networking days around interests and issues (as Peace & Social Concerns has done)
· Host peer meetings for those doing similar functions (e.g. of all MM clerks, treasurers, etc.)

Group 6: How can we foster effective Religious Education throughout the life cycle?

Suggested Strategies
· The Yearly Meeting should provide us with greater opportunities for networking about our respective Religious Education activities (broadly defined)
· We need to build our informal networks of modeling, querying, and listening to empower committees (formal structures)
· [Create] flexible Yearly Meeting structure to avoid silos that prevent sharing and learning
· Communication is key: share about our [YM?] activities, broadly. This IS religious education!
· Storytelling is at the heart of R.E.; broaden opportunities for this, e.g. the concept of a “life fair” through which we let our lives speak (intergenerationally).
· [Provide opportunities for] regular sharing, such as a Talent Show or Life Fair at Interim Meetings and other YM gatherings
· Resource gathering and dissemination
· BYM should provide opportunities for life-sharing; can support Monthly Meetings in doing the same
· We need to reflect on BYM’s relationship to the regional Friends schools.
· Look outside of BYM (e.g. to other Yearly Meetings & national Quaker groups) to learn from their experiences
· We need to encourage more traveling between Meetings so that we are learning with one another.
· Religious Education is teaching people to “read life”.
· BYM should encourage opportunities for sharing questions as the other side is listening.
· R.E. framework for learning should be tied to key life transitions (as defined by individuals and organizations) as moments for transformation and opening.
· Can the rich sharing and conversation we just had be shared and expanded (e.g. blog, pamphlet)?

Group 7: How can we engage and retain Young Friends and Young Adult
Friends?

Questions
· What Yearly Meeting needs can youth help with?
· How do we “train” Quakers?
· How do we put faith into action, and how can youth best help with that?
· Can we build into all/more BYM activities a Youth Programs component? What additional support would be needed in order to do that?
· Can we make more connections between the BYM Camps and JYFs/YFs yearround?
· What is the draw or value added in coming together in person and/or virtually (in cyberspace)?
· What are different characteristics of our various youth groups?
· How does what we seek from community change as we age? How do we meet those needs?
· What experiences do we (Quakers? BYM? MMs?) have with intergenerational activities?
· How can we get YAFs to come back?
· How often do we [proactively] ask them to serve?
· What can we learn by recalling our personal experiences at those ages [youth] with our own spiritual communities?
· How does BYM provide vital, powerful experiences that will draw youth in to events that are not youth-centered?

Suggested Strategies
· Intergenerational retreats that re-create the camp experience at the adult level
· Hold worship sharing sessions with intergenerational queries
· Promote (and budget for) training for YFs, YAFs, and youth counselors
· Have youth lead group singing (e.g. camp songs)
· Involve youth in work weekends at the BYM Camps
· Organize volunteers to provide youth programs at Yearly Meeting events (ask BYM to do a staff/budget proposal)
· Have staff and/or volunteers do youth outreach (ask A&O to develop proposal)
· Strengthen Religious Education within Monthly Meetings
· Promote Faith &Play intergenerational play
· Ask YFs and YAFs to recommend nominations for as many Yearly Meeting committees as possible

Group 8: How can BYM better anticipate opportunities and problems, moving from reactivity to proactive planning?

Questions
Planning
· What does proactive planning look like? How is it done?
· How to balance "as way opens" with planning milestones?
· Does BYM have any one or committee to address planning opportunities?
· What do we mean by BYM RSF, so that we can see issues & concerns in that context?
· How does (and how well does) BYM collect information from Monthly Meetings?
· How does a current committee become aware of problems/opportunities?
· What would be the role of a BYM strategic planning committee compared with the Clerk, Interim Clerk, or Supervisory Committee?
· How well do Advancement & Outreach and Ministry & Counsel keep open a feedback communications loop with MM committees?
· Is Supervisory Committee or Ministry & Counsel (currently stretched) the place for proactive planning?
· How can all committees become proactive and communicate to Ministry & Counsel?

Prioritizing
· Given limited resources, especially individual member time, can BYM continue to support all it current activities and programs?
· Are each of us more and more reactive in our individual lives?
· Do we as individuals and as BYM as a whole recognize our limitations and prioritize how we are able to serve?
· Is it true that we tend to identify problems and opportunities but don't move beyond that?

Strategy and Guidance
· Who are we and where are we going?
· If we as BYM don't know who we are, then should each committee and Meeting have a mission or purpose statement?
· Does not the new draft of Faith and Practice, with the addition of Voices, guide us in our mission or purpose as we meet for business and committee work?
· Is BYM's current structure relevant, practical, and effective?
· Is there a connection between BYM and each MM's chosen programs, e.g., going green or prisoner ministry?
· Would we better know where we are going if we first articulate who we are and what is our goal, calling, and being reminded of our collective goal or mission (e.g., love and justice)?
· Is that expressed in Faith & Practice for individuals for individual leadings as well as BYM/MM as a collective community?
· When we talk about peace, justice, God-in-every-person, what does that mean?
· What do we mean by proactive? mission? ministry? the future? Are we going together?
· How do leadings inform this process?
· How to get more resources (time, energy, skills)?

Suggested Strategies
· Recommend that Ministry & Counsel [Ministry and Pastoral Care] “hold” questions about BYM’s present and future effectiveness.
· Provide Ministry and Pastoral Care with resources to facilitate a proactive planning process (perhaps replicating the Action Learning process)
· Ask individuals to articulate with one another their personal Quaker faith and practice as a way to realize our collective Quaker faith and practice. ("Collective good" expressed in Faith and Practice guides individuals.
· Recognize the need to balance individual and collective activities, given our larger (American) culture’s emphasis on individual fulfillment and multi-tasking. Let love and compassion lead each of us to wise prioritizations of our time and activities.