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General Board Redesign Steering Committee

Input Process

by Christopher Bowman
(General Board Chairperson during Redesign)


A View of the Process

In the past few months, the Redesign Committee of the Church of the
Brethren General Board has heard several questions about the process used 
to gather input and insight in the  task which is before the board.

Question: "How did you come up with input for the Redesign process?" 
Question: "Are you claiming that you received a statistically valid
          sampling of Brethren opinion?"
Question: "Are you basing all your conclusion on responses from this Ad
          Hoc Committee?"

What we were trying to do:

We set up a communications network among 100+ selected laity and 100+
pastors for multiple reasons.

     We wanted to be informed about what people were thinking. District
executives were asked to help select these people to help us get geographic
diversity. After we received the initial list, we asked that a few specific
names be added to provide a more diverse theological spectrum, from
conservative to liberal. The group was never intended to be a statistically
valid sample.

     We wanted to keep people more widely informed by setting up a
communications channel in addition to denominational media. We have
consistently asked participants in our mail group to distribute the
information we were sending them as widely as possible. We know this has
always occurred, but we have also heard of people who have shared the
information widely in their congregations.

     We wanted people to feel part of the process by giving them a
significant way to participate. We did not want the redesign process to 
be perceived as operating in a closet.

How we interpreted the data

     Our interpretation of the comments we received has been as close to
being verbatim as we can possibly make it. We did not want to flavor the 
comments with our own interpretation. They do not necessarily reflect the 
thinking or opinions of the committee.

     Our reporting of the comments we received is intended to "close the
loop." We want people to understand that their comments are read and

     While most of the reporting has been handled by one member of the
committee, several members of the committee have reviewed the response
forms as a check to be sure they were not being slanted or misinterpreted.

What conclusions we are drawing
     Several over-arching concerns have emerged for the Redesign Committee
based on the feedback we received.  These were presented at the Annual
Conference insight session in a speach which can be read in the post titled
"Rationale for Redesign".

The input from the group of 200+ is only one piece of the entire input
process. Here are some of the additional points of input:

     We are regularly soliciting comments from the staff, both by mail and
in personal conversations.

     We talked to several hundred people, formally and informally at Annual

     We receive hundreds of pieces of unsolicited mail (faxes, e-mail, and
USPS) that are taken seriously.

     We are visiting each of the 23 districts where we have held sessions
involving several thousand people.

     We visited National Older Adult Conference and have had special
meetings with a number of groups, including youth and young adults.

All of this is being used by the committee in a discernment process to help
us listen to both the will of the church and the leading of the Holy Spirit.
We do not view this as a contest in which the options that seem to have the
most popular support "win." While open participation and the opinions of the
people of the church are important, discernment requires more than simply 
tallying votes.