Design Task Force proposes to “form to transform”

November 04, 2014

Click here to listen to Rev. Tim Frasher describe the work of the Design Task Force

“What we’ve been trying to do is form the Conference structure so that it can transform,” Rev. Tim Frasher, chair of the Design Task Force (DTF).  That work, from the group established by the 2013 Annual Conference session to propose a staffing model supporting the Strategic Priorities, will be part of a series of information gathering and sharing sessions. (click here for the complete list of dates and locations of the sessions.)

History of the Design Task Force

“We met with the Bishop,” Frasher said, “The one thing that he wanted was for us to look at the Conference staffing and see if the staffing aligns with the Strategic Priorities (click here for the Priorities) we have adopted (at the 2013 Annual Conference session).  That has been driving us ever since.”

To get sufficient background “We searched through the old reports – the FACT report (click here for the FACT report), and other conference reviews.  We looked at what happened in the past – what worked and what didn’t work, what still needs to be worked on today,” Frasher added

The Design Task Force “had a hard time getting traction at the very beginning,” Frasher reported.  “We didn’t know exactly which direction we needed to go in.”  That had a significant impact on follow-up report to the next year’s Annual Conference session.  "At that point, it was too late to make any meaningful ground for the (2014) Annual Conference.”  Nevertheless, “During the pre-Conference time we put together information about what we’d like to accomplish in the next year (2015) and presented it to the Annual Conference (session).”

Rev. Frasher chronicled the most recent work of the DFT. The plan, “from Annual Conference until about the end of August was to meet as a group and to meet with at least three full committees face-to-face.  We ended up meeting with more than three full committees.  We met with most of the FOM’s, two of the senior Conference Superintendents, both Assistants to the Bishop, Scott Hibben, and the Bishop. In addition to that we had a lot of informal meetings.” The meeting schedule included phone calls, which run one to two hours, on June 25 and July 16, August 11, September 11, and October 16.

Frasher describes the work of the DTF as “labor intensive.”  He said the DTF “is putting a lot of hours into it, basically going over what people have said and figuring out…how do we design around the strategic priorities, which has been the hard part – figuring out what the Strategic Priorities are, how we, as a Task Force, are supposed to implement them or design around them since we’re not the implementation team.”

The DTF’s meetings have included “putting the plan together, going over the Disciplinary requirements, and figuring out what needs to happen so that it’s not taken down by judicial measures later on.”  The DTF is looking to “really see where God is taking us in this process, how it fits in with the Strategic Priorities, and aligning it to our task.”

Other people the DTF has spoken with to inform its discernment…

He confessed that “it seems like we’ve been one big think tank right now huddled up in a room…It might seem like we’ve been cloistered together and not talking with anybody, but we had to figure out the structure, we had to figure out what everybody was doing first, and now we’re ready to take it out and and really see where God leads us.”    That time, he continued, “was needed in order to figure out the system as it is.”

Members of the DTF have also heard from others beyond the Conference staff.  Frasher notes,  “A lot of people I have spoken to are within my parish…and with a pastor through electronic correspondence…Lanette (Plambeck, pastor at Atlantic UMC) has talked with a lot of people in her area.”

Information gathering sessions in November

He observed that while “we wanted to make it a grass roots kind of thing, we had to come with a plan that was (developed by) listening to the people who had been doing it and what they need and also finding out what measures are needed by the Book of Discipline…now we’re going to take it to the people and really figure out if what we’re saying is connecting with what they’re thinking.”

Information will be presented at the gathering sessions where the DTF “wants everybody’s voice to be heard.”  The DTF wants to learn from people if the design is “what you need.  Is this close to it?” The questions and concerns “will be taken together, along with a survey.”  The DTF wants to hear from “huge amounts of Laity” of the Conference.  The information will be synthesized and the DTF proposal will “be put together in a new format.”

The DTF document can be amended…

The proposed structure that the Design Task Force will be presenting “is not the first document that we’ve had.  We’ve had at least ten different ones that have been guiding our thoughts.”  Referring to the perspectives of the members of the DTF, Frasher noted, “I realized, right away, that we might have come in with our biases, but we had to, pretty much, chuck them out the door.  We’ve been really learning what’s been going on, what seems to have fruit…that fit in on with the Strategic Priorities.  What we’ve been trying to do is form the Conference structure so that it can transform – that’s been a motto of ours.”

He emphasized, “What we’re proposing is a draft.  We know that it’s always going to change based on how God is moving.”

Will the proposed structure allow for some flexibility or will it be detailed to a very particular degree that limits flexibility?

“There’s going to be a lot of flexibility.  We’re tried to not bind anybody’s hands.  It’s not our job to implement it.  It’s our job to design and dream of what it could look like so that it conforms to the Strategic Priorities so that they can really be lived out.”

In the proposed design the DTF has asked, “What is the primary part of the Strategic Priorities that they (the staffing positions) are covering?”

“In some sense (the positions) are set in stone,” Frasher reported, “but that’s what (the Design Task Force) was supposed to be doing…we really don’t want to deviate too much from that.”  Even so, Frasher said “there’s a little bit of wiggle room…what we’re going to be doing is to say, ‘this is what we’ve come up with, but it’s not set in stone.’

What’s next?

“We hope that by the middle of the winter time,” Rev. Frasher concluded, “we’ll have a final plan that will be ready for the pre-Conference sessions.”


The members of the Design Task Force are: Rev. Barrie Tritle, Betty Stone, Rev. Curtis DeVance, Joni Mardesen, Rev. Ken Ehrman, Rev. Lanette Plambeck, Lynn Calvert, Rev. Mike Morgan, Terry Montgomery, Rev. Tim Frasher, and Bishop Trimble