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In late June, clergy should have received the following correspondence from the Office for Transition Ministry:

Version 2.0 of the OTM Portfolio will roll out the first week of July with many upgrades including requests from users, a newly enhanced search functionality, and three new Narrative questions.  Logging in to your account at www.otmportfolio.org will lead you to find:

  • The ability to add a new degree in education or position in work history with ease
  • The opportunity to review many of your recent Ministry Portfolio revisions and revert to any one of them yourself
  • An option to view a list of positions identified as ‘Currently Receiving Names’ on the home page of the website before even logging in
  • The ability to identify a worshipping community and search the database for ‘More Like This’
  • The ability to now create and organize lists of your search results
  • The opportunity to refine your gifts & skills according to the help text provided

Upon deployment of Version 2.0 you may want to log-in and answer the three new Narrative questions:

  • What is your personal practice of stewardship and how do you utilize it to influence your ministry in your worshipping community?
  • What is your experience of conflict involving the church? And what is your experience in addressing it?
  • What is your experience leading/addressing change in the church? When has it gone well? When has it gone poorly? And what did you learn?

The Board and Office for Transition Ministry want to make the experience of engaging with the Ministry Portfolio both smooth and satisfying. We are also striving to use this tool to elicit and communicate to the wider Episcopal Church the profound gifts and talents, and calls to ministry of our worshipping communities, clergy and lay leaders. Please know that you are invited to communicate directly with us about your experience with the Ministry Portfolio or ideas for future enhancements at: support@otmportfolio.org.

How do these changes impact clergy using the OTM Portfolio?  Here is a review of each of the changes outlined above.  The most significant change is the addition of three new narrative questions.  Clergy should fill those out asap.  Other changes don’t work as promised or may have unintended consequences.

The ability to add a new degree in education or position in work history with ease

There are new orange buttons on the Education/Continuing Education and Work History pages that make adding new information much easier.

The opportunity to review many of your recent Ministry Portfolio revisions and revert to any one of them yourself

There is a third tab at the top of the Update My Portfolio page entitled “Revisions” that brings up the history of all changes made to your OTM Portfolio.

The “Revisions” tab also appears on top of parish Community Portfolio pages, enabling clergy to view the editing process of parish profiles.  I am not sure that this is intentional, and I hope that search committees or DTMs cannot view the editing history of clergy profiles.

An option to view a list of positions identified as ‘Currently Receiving Names’ on the home page of the website before even logging in

This list is in “pdf” form and is not updated daily, so it is not very useful.  Clergy should continue to log in and go to the “Search Community Ministry Portfolios” section for up to date information.

The ability to identify a worshipping community and search the database for ‘More Like This’

This feature does not work.  On the Search Results page under each parish listing is an orange line “Show More Results Like This”.   A sample I clicked on for a rural Southern parish offering a salary of $65,000 with an asa of 100 yielded a list including parishes offering salaries from $15,000 to $140,000 from small rural to major urban settings.  Many of the parishes in the list were not currently searching for rectors.

The ability to now create and organize lists of your search results

When perusing the Search Results page, you can create a list of Community Portfolios for further investigation by clicking on “Add to list”.  You also have the option of creating multiple lists of you own definition.

The opportunity to refine your gifts & skills according to the help text provided

This refers to the boxes entitled “Primary Gifts/Skills Engaged:” found on the Work History & Skills page.  This feature does not work.  The text below the box instructs clergy to “Enter no more than four descriptions made up of one or two-words each.”  When I began typing a skill into the box, a list of supposedly similar skills used on parish portfolios popped up.  The words were not that similar, the phrases were longer than two words, and did not fit into the pop-up box.  Clergy should ignore the pop-up box for now and just enter four one or two word skills.

The “Primary Gifts/Skills Engaged:” box is designed to be compared to a similar list of desired skills on parish portfolios.  Given the problems with this feature, clergy and parish search committees cannot rely on the OTM system to generate meaningful matches.

Upon deployment of Version 2.0 you may want to log-in and answer the three new Narrative questions:

The Narrative section of the OTM Portfolio is probably the most popular and successful feature on the system. Search committees expect clergy to answer all the questions.  The three new questions were added to cover areas not covered in the original set of questions: stewardship, conflict management, and change.

One of the basic principles of Appreciative Inquiry is that questions shape our social construction of reality.  Are we asking the right questions to shape a better future for the church?  For example, by looking for conflict resolution skills, are we anticipating that conflict management will continue to be a central occupation of the church?  If that is the case, how are we ever going to reverse current declines?  Perhaps I’ll blog further on this topic and welcome your thoughts.

In sum, I hope that the TMO staff can quickly correct the problems noted above and wonder why OTM 2.0 was released without anyone detecting these issues.

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