Town Hall meetings ‘designed for feedback’

November 05, 2014

Listen to Terry Montgomery, Iowa Conference Treasurer, talk about the upcoming Town Hall meetings, set to begin on November 11.

The first of a series of “town hall” meetings across the Iowa Conference will take place on Tuesday, November 11. (Click here for the schedule of the meetings.) According to Conference Treasurer, Terry Montgomery, “These sessions are going to be designed for feedback.” 

“These “town hall” meetings haven’t normally been on the calendar,” Montgomery said.  “I’m going to visit at least 16 places in November and December.  I have some things to present.”  He described the meetings as being “sessions (that) aren’t going to be me talking to people solely.  There will be opportunities for talking and listening to each other.  At the very first sessions I’ll guarantee that there will be Post-It Notes that we can write ideas on and put them on the board – if that continues to work, the Post-It Notes will stay for all 16 sessions!  If not, then we’ll find another way for sharing ideas.  There will be time for everyone to share ideas.” 

The meetings will take “a strategic look at our budgeting, and…the Design Task Force (proposal) for the Conference (staffing) structure…we’ll have initial reports on both.”  Montgomery added, “It’s appropriate to have initial reporting now because this is the Conference budget, this is the Conference staffing, and this is the organizational structure to support the Conference.  There needs to be a discussion, a sharing of initial thoughts, and, real honestly, feedback from the (people of the) Conference to make sure that we’re meeting the needs, wants, and desires of the (people of the) Conference…today and going forward for the next five or ten years.”

Insight from trends

As the Iowa Conference Treasurer, Terry Montgomery has looked at membership trends and financial trends and where the Iowa Conference is positioned in comparison to a number of other Conferences.  “There are a lot of wonderful things happening in the Conference right now,” he said, “and there always have been.  As we look at the stories and the service that the Conference gives we also need to look at some of the numbers…look at our apportionments, look at our membership trends and fully understand those.”  Offering a cautionary note he added, “We can’t continue to move ahead into the next decade assuming that there’s going to be unlimited funds and an endless supply of membership.  Instead, we might have to go looking for members, finding those new communities of faith, revitalizing our existing congregations, and make a concerted effort, as the Strategic Priorities call for, to grow the membership in that way.” 

The “town hall” sessions are intended to be informative and will also be listening sessions where the suggestions for the people at the particular sessions will be gathered and what’s expressed will have a significant impact on the report that will be presented to the 2015 Annual Conference session

Covering the State

“As you look at the schedule you will see that there’s been an effort to try to make it to every corner of the State,” Montgomery observed.  “We will be listening because we truly want input.”  The sessions will be first of several conversations.  “As the budgets are developed in February, and the pre-Conference manual is created,” he added, “We will come back out, and, again reach out across the State.”  Realizing the potential of hearing a variety of ideas he was realistic in his prediction, noting, “I doubt that there will be consensus on every item that’s presented.  I hope that when it’s re-presented, in March and April, you’ll see the evolution of the ideas, bring in all the collected ideas after the listening sessions.  I don’t think that we’ll see the same thing presented in March and April…I almost hope that we don’t because I want to make sure that we are listening and are responsive to what the Conference wants.”

The work of the Design Task Force (DTF) is another aspect of the “town hall” meetings.  “When we look at the Strategic Priorities, the third Priority talks about making sure that we have the structure and pieces in place to support the other Priorities.  One is specifically making sure that we have the organization in place to support it.”

“Organization is a huge topic” for the Design Task Force.  It has met over the course of the 16 months since the June 2013 Annual Conference session, “added a few members, and is putting out some ideas that they believe will help us live the Strategic Priorities in the future.” 

Sharing the work of the DTF in the “town hall” meetings, Montgomery believes, provides an advantage because “this isn’t going to be presented only at the Annual Conference (session).”  He also observed, “Many people discussed the thoughts of the Task Force, but that certainly wasn’t the whole Conference.”  The “town hall” meetings provide an opportunity “to take it out even more broadly.  The findings of the DTF will be brought forward in these meetings so that they can be further discussed, further thought about, and further developed.” 

Summing things up about the “town hall” meetings, Terry Montgomery said, “I hope that we’ll have good healthy discussions.”