Greening and relationships

Deborah Froese
November 13, 2012
Mennonite Church Canada
two women smiling, looking at the camera
screen shot of a facebook page
Winnipeg, MAN.

While Mennonite Church Canada is striving to find greener ways of being the church and practicing good stewardship, innovations must be weighed against their effectiveness and their impact on relationships.

“Changes like the shift from a printed and mailed gift guide to an electronically distributed one are fairly straightforward,” says Dan Dyck, Director, Communications. “But how does the reduction of printed paper products affect reach? Does it connect with people in the same way? ”

And then there is the challenge of choosing between online technology for meetings and travel. Curious about how others strike a balance between the two, Dyck posted a query on the Mennonite Church Canada Facebook page: “If your work depends on strong relationships best developed in person, how do you balance the need to travel and meet with people against you or your organization's need/desire to ‘be green’?” The question inspired a number of responses.

“I try to incorporate holidays into travel that I have to do for school/work so that I'm not doing extra travel for holidays,” wrote Joanne Moyer, research scientist and member of the Mennonite Creation Care Network (MCCN). She said that through experimentation, MCCN decided that the task at hand should determine the approach. “So we have one face-to-face meeting a year, and several teleconferences in between. Depending on an organization's needs, the balance for them might be different.”

Brian Dyck works with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Manitoba. He said that he relies heavily on conference calls and tries to avoid air travel. At meetings, he wrote, “I get a chance to talk to others about this and hopefully that plants some seeds in people's minds. “ He also noted that MCC staff submit accounts of where and how they travel for work so that they can track MCC’s carbon footprint.

Randy P. Penner, an engineer with a private technology firm, chairs meetings and needs to meet with people in a variety of locations at the same time. “I don't necessarily mind using voice-only conference calls if we already have a working relationship. But if nobody has actually met in person, my preference would be to have at least one face to face or at least a video conference call so we can have some non-verbal interaction.”

Relationships are also the determining factor for Neil von Gunten, past Associate Director of Indigenous Relations (formerly Native Ministry) for Mennonite Church Canada. He wrote that until trust is rebuilt between indigenous communities and the church or other agencies—a trust eroded in years gone by— it is necessary to meet face to face.  

Dan Dyck says that Mennonite Church Canada relies as much as possible on conference calls and Skype for Canadian connections. And the national church is beginning to experiment with webinars. On Oct. 24, the national church hosted its second webinar called “Through an Anabaptist Lense” – a follow-up to the Global Leadership summit, a 2-day event for church and business leaders.

“When staff does need to travel to other parts of Canada, they try to double-up, and arrange those meetings in conjunction with other meetings, or with speaking invitations from congregations,” he says.

In the aforementioned Facebook conversation, Dyck noted that “You can't take a train to Africa, Asia, or Europe, and internet service and reliability is slim to none in some of the places where we have ministry.”

It’s about balancing efficiency with effectiveness, he added. “Efficiency may not equal effectiveness. Efficiency shows up in an organization's bottom line. Effectiveness, or lack of it, can take longer to show up. It's only when you discover that something you're doing is consistently not working that you take the time to look back and discover that an action of efficiency may have compromised effectiveness”

Photo Credits: 
Deborah Froese