The Power of Networking
By Mark D. Burkhardt, Director for Outdoor Ministries, ELCA
We are blessed in the ELCA to have abundant outdoor ministry resources. For the past 15 years, many people have worked out front and behind the scenes to build a network of support for outdoor ministry professionals and board members. I am always encouraged to hear about ways in which our outdoor ministry organizations are sharing information and leaning on each other for encouragement and support. Often our outdoor ministries office in Chicago plays a part in helping to connect people across the country, and sometimes it happens in other ways. However it happens, it's healthy for us to stay connected. One of my most frequent prayers is that more leaders in our outdoor ministries will discover and tap into the power of networking.
As we move forward, I continue to be concerned about the health of our outdoor ministry boards and their reluctance to reach out to others for advice and counsel. Many times over the past year I have been disappointed and frustrated by the tendency for our board leaders to go it alone, trying to solve complex problems without asking for help. By the time anyone else in our network finds out about the problem, the situation has often reached the critical stage and finding a workable solution becomes very difficult and time consuming. There is no reason for any of our ELCA outdoor ministry boards to feel like they are alone with no place to turn for help. As a board leader, you may be surprised to learn that your board is not the only board that has ever dealt with a difficult issue or challenge.
Some of the difficult challenges frequently encountered by outdoor ministry boards include the following:
- Resignation or retirement of an executive director
- Shortfall in annual operating funds
- Debt management
- Site and facility management
- Insurance, legal, regulatory and taxation issues
- Personnel, staffing and compensation issues
- Conflict with staff or within the board
So, here are two primary suggestions for making sure that outdoor ministry boards know how to access the power of networking:
- Executive Directors: please educate your board frequently about the ELCA Outdoor Ministries network and the resources available to your organization. If you don't know about these resources, then please call the outdoor ministries office in Chicago for more information.
- Board Leaders: please know that you can always call the outdoor ministries office in Chicago and we will be happy to discuss options, including putting you in contact with other outdoor ministry leaders who have successfully navigated a similar challenge.
One of the biggest mistakes that outdoor ministry boards and executive directors can make is isolating themselves in times of trouble. In almost every case, someone else has already dealt with a similar situation and potential solutions are out there for you to consider. We are indeed blessed with abundant resources in ELCA Outdoor Ministries. A large network of experienced outdoor ministry leaders stands ready to assist you. Don't miss the opportunity to experience the power of networking!