Are there plans (for either lds.org or LUWS 2.0) to incorporate more online communities to help lay church members grow into their callings?
At the last two stake leadership training meetings I've attended, the stake leaders have been trying to make the breakout sessions more idea sharing across units rather than simply providing top-down training from the stake. Thus, in a room full of executive secretaries, the Stake executive secretary spends some time training, but spends most of the time helping the other executive secretaries in the individual wards to share ideas and experiences that have been helpful to them in carrying out their callings. I know the same pattern has been carried out with the ward mission leaders with the idea that, although each ward has unique challenges that require stewardship-based inspiration from the Spirit, a lot of the issues we face, especially when growing into a new calling, have been dealt with by others. The results have been very helpful.
I've heard that one of the major improvements to be released in the new FamilySearch is the inclusion of forums that will allow experienced genealogists to provide guidance to those just learning family history in general or how to conduct research in specific localities. Such a resource will surely complement the more hierarchically-produced knowledge that the Family History department has made available on the familysearch.org website.
Similarly, although I've been very pleased to see the growing body of knowledge available on the Serving in the Church, section of lds.org, I believe this body of knowledge could be complemented by enabling a community-based approach to membership training. Thus, a new primary teacher could join an online community for primary teachers to get ideas for improving gospel instruction in his or her class. A membership clerk could learn tips and techniques from those with years of experience behind them. Emergency preparedness specialists, cub scout leaders, teachers, and other priesthood and auxiliary leaders could share ideas in a manner that preserves some of the insights that are frequently lost as members are released from one calling and another member is called to replace them. In business, they call these horizontal governance mechanisms--structures that enable cross unit collaboration.
Such functionality, might also be a means of motivating members to register for their ward website. Perhaps there might be some utility of keeping this collaboration on a stake level. I can see arguments for both keeping communities at a stake level and opening them up to members across geographic regions. Regardless, I see online communities as one way to meet President Hinckley's challenge to improve leadership training in the Church.
Such an effort would obviously need to be handled with care to distinguish between members ideas and suggestions and official church policy in the handbooks or instructions from local leaders. Such a feature would probably be best handled behind a secure sign in to prevent spammers and such, and to keep the "public face" of lds.org from turning into a garden of ideas of varying quality.
Does anybody see any problems or opportunities with such online communities among members of the Church? Perhaps these forums can serve as a testing ground for future community efforts in the Church. Any thoughts?