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March 10: 2008: Managing the Information Flow

The biggest frustrations for first-time commissioners and advisory delegates are the exhaustion and futility of trying to do everything. The best way to avoid those results are to have a good plan for managing the information.

If you are picturing the schematic diagram of wires and connections for your television and dvd player, you are in the right place. If your eyes have glazed and you have a headache just thinking about it, this post should help.

Manage the information flow? What does that mean?

1. Start now.

In years past, many people have said, "I am going to wait until after Easter to really look into the GA material." If you are one of those people, it is fortunate for you Easter has come unreasonably early this year; thus, there is a little more time than usual. Even so, if you are able, do not wait. The earlier you get started, the easier it is to stay on top of things.

Starting early is important, but starting smart is more important.

 

2. Know what to know; know where to find the rest.

Think of the General Assembly as an information supermarket. Follow me on this:

It is like a Costco or other club store where there are large aisles with general categories of items and many people milling about looking at things. Everything in a general category is going to go in the same aisle. In Costco, there is an office supply aisle that has paper, scissors, pens, toner, chairs, and all sorts of other things. There is a different aisle for home decorating with vases, and shelves, rugs, and different kinds of chairs and all sorts of other things. There is a breakfast food aisles for different kinds of cereal, pancake mix, syrup, granola, and all sorts of other things. There are freezer aisles and refrigerated aisles.

Those aisles are like commissioner committees.

Knowing where to find things makes tracking a whole lot easier. The Office of General Assembly has posted the list of proposed commissioner committees for the 218th General Assembly. Those are the aisles through which all of the business will travel. Sometimes it takes a little bit of looking and figuring to find stuff that you are interested in. The search is much quicker if you know the general area to look.

Take some time to look through the commissioner committees, see how they are organized; and then start looking at the business. Read through the overtures with an eye to where they will be going more than what you would do with them if you were asked to decide on them today.

 

3. Set your priorities early

For first time commissioners and advisory delegates, this may be the most difficult. "I don't know what all is there -- how can I know what is most important?" That's true; however, the faster you can get past that feeling, the better you will be able to prepare for your time serving as commissioner.

Know your limitations. Be aware, things happen very quickly at the Assembly and you cannot be involved in everything. Pick what is most important to you and focus your attention on that.

Let me illustrate using two big issues that are coming to this GA: Israel and ordination standards.

Israel: There are multiple overtures and actions proposed regarding statements about Middle East relationships; Israel, Palestine, Gaza, etc. (overtures 06 and 26 for starters, and there are others). No matter how much I try, I am not going to become an expert on Middle East relationships between now and June. If that were the only issue at the Assembly, I suppose I could try to dig in and try to figure it all out. But it is not the only issue. And that's not where I am going to invest my time.

Now, to be clear: I am talking about my own personal preparation. I am not saying that the issues raised are unimportant or what the Assembly decided does not matter. On the contrary, these issues are important and what is decided does matter. My point is that I am not going to spend my limited time and energy in this area. Other people are called to invest themselves in these issues, are able to read these things with a keen eye, discern the nuances involved and have a good handle on what is the best course of action. In my preparations now, I am going to be looking to find the people whose reasoning and discernment I find persuasive. Then, when the time comes that I need to know, I will know where to look for help.

Ordination standards: There are multiple overtures and actions regarding ordination standards and sexuality. I was involved in these discussions for more than a decade. It also is true that many, many people come to the Assembly focused only on these issues. For me, it is the ultimate opportunity to "throw in my two cents" and then let others work on it. Unless I am assigned to the committee handling these issues, I am not going to invest much of my commissioner time trying to be exhaustively prepared for whatever contingencies might arise. Of course I will be following what is happening and will be prayerfully considering how to vote, but it is not where I am going to prioritize my time and energy.

I will be focusing my attention on the proposed new Form of Government (proposed nFoG). That can hardly be a surprise since most of this site has been looking at the impact it would have. So, for me, it will be that and the business of whichever committee I am assigned; and that's it. For the rest, I will keep tabs and will prepare to vote.

Summing up: start early, know what to know and where to find the rest, and set priorities early.

Tomorrow: Find Your Help Before Going To San Jose.