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AOTS Blog Entry November 2017

The National Association of United Church AOTS Men’s Clubs – it is a long title that we usually shorten to “AOTS”.  I think it is important to remember that the foundation for AOTS is the local club in a United Church Congregation or Pastoral Charge.  Clubs and their members unanimously speak positively about their wonderful experiences in fellowship and service together.  Our title “The National Association of …. Clubs” truly reflects our nature as a club-centered organization.  Ourfounders also recognized AOTS needed an organization to manage the administrative elements of a national service club. The National Council, along with a paid staff person, was designed to achieve that need through national projects, recognition protocols, and biennial conventions.

Change, change, change!  We know change is inevitable and AOTS is no different.  Clubs and club membership are declining rapidly.  Participation in national programs and activities is also on a steep decline.  In most cases, we have not found a model to reinvigorate our membership.  To address the trends, the National AOTS took a few steps over the last 10 years to refocus including:
• The Constitution and Bylaws were revised and updated.
• The National Executive was established with 11 volunteers providing national representation.
• The Camp Improvement Project was established as our sole national project.
• A “Women in AOTS bylaw was enacted to give Clubs membership flexibility while retaining their AOTS association.
• National dues were suspended.

Despite these changes, the National Executive continues to struggle with issues such as:
• Several visioning attempts did not reveal a new, sustainable model.
• Communication with Clubs is very difficult.  We are literally losing touch with most clubs.
• Participation in The Camp Improvement Project and Biennial meetings is very low.
We have concluded that the priority for most clubs is to carry on with their good work in their local club.  The national connection is less important and is not perceived to add much value.

In light of the background as I described it, we are proceeding on a path to “suspend” the activity of the AOTS National Executive.  It is important to note:  We are only suspending the National Executive and related activities; we are not closing the AOTS.  Clubs and Regional Events are free to continue, much as they do today.

What does this mean for the Executive?
• All functions of the National Executive will be suspended indefinitely.
• We are implementing a plan to wind-up all activities and financial assets of the National Executive.
• We hope to establish a static website as a reference for historical information and materials.
• We hope to complete the majority of this work in 2018.

What does this mean for Clubs?
• Clubs will be encouraged to continue with their current activities.
• Clubs don’t need to change anything in their local organization.
• Clubs will be free to use the AOTS name, logo and other materials.
• Clubs will no longer participate in national projects or events.

What does this mean for regional events such as the Central Region Round-up?
• Regional events will be encouraged to continue.
• Regional events will not have financial support from the National AOTS.

What if we need a National organization in the future?
• The Executive can be re-activated in the same or modified form if there is significant interest in the future. 

The current National Executive members are very concerned about the future of men’s ministry in the United Church.  We are particularly concerned about spiritual growth opportunities for younger men.  Do they need a small group (in person or on-line) to foster their spiritual growth? We recognize men’s ministry can take various forms.  We believe there is a need for a resource within the United Church to support men’s clubs, AOTS clubs, men’s fellowships, men’s ministries and other men’s organizations at the congregational, regional, or national level.  There is nothing available today to tie such organizations together in a way that facilitates communication and sharing.  Unfortunately, the National AOTS is not able to provide such a resource.

We acknowledge that suspending the National Executive is a significant change and not something we would dream of doing.  However, we believe it is a necessary step to free up resources and, hopefully, lead to more robust Men’s Ministry in the future.  We also hope Clubs will continue undaunted in their local activity that brings such joy and fulfillment to their members.  We trust you will support us, and pray for us as we go through this transition.

You are welcome to send me your comments and questions.

Yours As One That Serves,
John Cooke, National President