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Opinion >  Column

Faith and Values: Time away from the office leads to a lesson in letting go

Spokane FāVS editor Tracy Simmons.   (Nataly Davies)
Spokane FāVS editor Tracy Simmons.  (Nataly Davies)

I just returned from a whirlwind excursion across Europe. For three weeks, I was there working, and I stayed an extra week for vacation.

I wrote about this trip in my last column, about how I was going to try and rest from some of my day-to-day duties while I was away.

I didn’t write about how that meant giving up control.

I don’t consider myself a controlling person, in the traditional sense. Meaning I don’t try to govern situations to an unhealthy extent, or control other people.

However, in a way, I do struggle with founder’s syndrome. A lot of publishers do. As the person who started SpokaneFāVS 10 years ago, I have a hard time letting others take the reins.

The website is my baby. I thought of it, built it and have high expectations for what it is, and what it can be. I gave up a lot for it to exist.

For a decade – seven days a week – I’ve edited almost every news article and column that’s been published on SpokaneFā and manually shared each of those pieces to social media. I’ve organized every Coffee Talk (and other events) we’ve hosted and have personally managed the countless other details that go into maintaining the website.

Because we currently don’t have funds to pay staff, I’ve always felt guilty asking for volunteers with the mundane stuff, so I have done it myself. However, that’s just an excuse to retain control.

I told myself that if I do everything myself, nothing will slip through the cracks and my vision for how things should go will remain.

How egotistical is that?

Especially when things are indeed already slipping through the cracks. As I get busier with my day job – teaching full time at WSU – FāVS suffers. I didn’t want to admit that.

By being prideful and controlling, I was actually hurting the project I love so deeply.

For FāVS to succeed, I need to let others take on leadership positions. Collective skill sets, ideas and values are needed for any nonprofit to make a difference.

So this past month, I delegated and trusted others to take over for me.

And guess what? Nothing went wrong. The website was updated daily and our signature Coffee Talk forum went off without a hitch – and even better, volunteers felt empowered.

I feel better too. In knowing others are capable and willing to assist in managing and improving SpokaneFāVS, a pressure has been released. Their commitment reminds me that I’m not the only one who loves FāVS and wants it to grow, and that means everything to me.

I learned a lesson I should have learned sooner: Let others help. The website isn’t mine, it’s the community’s.

In my career, I’ve met a lot of clergy who struggle with this too. They start a church or faith community or nonprofit and take on too much to make it work, unintentionally excluding others in the process.

A pastor doesn’t start a church for himself or herself, but for their flock. They need to listen to them.

I need to do the same. Our mission is to inform and build faith and nonfaith community through digital journalism and online and offline engagement opportunities. It really does take a village to do that. I’m grateful to have more than 40 writers on the FāVS team, a thoughtful board and now a social media intern. My hope is that we can all put our heads together and find new ways to make this a meaningful community project.

Tracy Simmons, a longtime religion reporter, is a Washington State University scholarly assistant professor and the editor of SpokaneFāVS, a website dedicated to covering faith, ethics and values in the Spokane region.

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