Unite. Inspire. Empower. Celebrate. Educate.
Those adjectives describe what’s in store for members of the 2014 annual conference session, for which preparation is already well underway.
The theme of the next year’s annual conference, which will take place May 28-30 in St. Cloud, is “Unleashing Fearless, Spirit-Led Churches.”
The three-day annual event is a time for representatives of the Minnesota Annual Conference to worship and fellowship; receive reports, adopt goals and programs, and determine budgets; take stands on key issues; ordain clergy; and receive the bishop’s appointment of ordained ministers. But it also serves as a culmination and celebration of everything that the conference does and is, and it will feature some new elements in 2014:
- Renowned guest speaker: Rev. Adam Hamilton, the founding pastor of United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, will lead three teaching sessions. Hamilton’s church has grown from four people in 1990 to more than 18,000 adult members and average weekly worship attendance of more than 8,800 in 2012—and it was listed as the most influential mainline church in America in a 2005 survey of American pastors. Hamilton lectures across the United States on leadership, evangelism, and preaching—and he has authored 14 books on those topics and others.
- Meal packing: Early next year, the Minnesota Conference will officially launch an ambitious goal: packing 1 million meals through Feed My Starving Children between the beginning of 2014 and the end of annual conference session. Watch for more information early next year about how your church can get involved in the meal packing, which will benefit malnourished children across the globe. At annual conference session, there will be a designated meal-packing area where attendees will be able to sign up to volunteer in shifts. What better way to embrace the Minnesota Conference’s focus on missional outreach than by coming together at our biggest gathering of the year to serve those in need?
- Imagine No Malaria celebration: In the opening worship on the first day of the conference session, we’ll celebrate the completion of our Imagine No Malaria fundraising and the significant support demonstrated by Minnesota United Methodists across the state. Our conference has donated more than $2 million thus far, more than any other annual conference—and we aim to meet our $2.5 million pledged goal by next May. The celebration will continue with a festive lunch.
- Youth and young adult hosts: When members arrive at annual conference session, they will be greeted by a group of youth and young adults from the Minnesota Conference. Throughout the three-day event, that group will be there to serve attendees in a variety of ways and demonstrate the radical hospitality that the Minnesota Conference strives to embody. Prepare to see our connected, multi-generational church in action throughout the entire annual conference session.
- Live streaming: For the first time, Minnesota United Methodists who aren’t actually at annual conference session will be able to participate in some of the activities occurring in St. Cloud. Several events—including Bishop Ough’s episcopal address and Hamilton’s teaching sessions, will be live streamed to a handful of local churches that are designated videoconferencing host sites. Stay tuned for more information about times when live streaming will occur and site options so that you can choose the site nearest to you.
- Annual report in the form of a video: This year, the Minnesota Conference’s annual report won’t be in the form of a speech or a densely packed report; it will be presented through a video that uses personal stories to illustrate the progress that’s been made surrounding key initiatives and that calls attention to ways in which Minnesota United Methodists are adapting to a changing mission field. Conference members will also receive a printed report to take back to their home churches that recaps traction made in 2013.
“We want annual conference session to be an experience of being church at its best—bold, spirit-filled, fearless!” says Cindy Gregorson, the Minnesota Conference’s director of ministries. “We want everyone to go home telling the story of how God is using the people and churches of the United Methodist Church in Minnesota to do mighty things. Therefore, we are doing our best to plan annual conference session in such a way that people come with expectation and leave with excitement.”
In order to be able to provide this experience, registration fees for the 2014 annual conference session will increase for the first time in five years. The cost will be $250 for delegates; $75 for retirees, equalization members (individuals designated by each district to create a balance between clergy and lay attendees), and those visiting for the entire event; and $25 for single-day visitors. Those fees do include some meals, and scholarships will be available for retirees. To help offset the cost increase, attendees will have the option to stay at St. Cloud State University for about $25 a night rather than at a hotel.
Members of this year’s annual conference session will elect delegates for the 2016 General Conference and the 2016 North Central Jurisdiction Conference. In January, watch for information about how to nominate yourself online; everyone interested in serving as a delegate will be asked to provide information about their background and local church involvement and to respond to several open-ended questions about our denomination. Packets with responses will be available online before annual conference session.
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.