Home Equipping Leaders Courageous Conversations Helping Your Congregation Get Ready for General Conference 2024

Helping Your Congregation Get Ready for General Conference 2024

By Scott Hughes

NOTE: For resources and the latest updates about Discipleship Ministries at General Conference 2024, please click here.

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As the 2024 General Conference approaches, it's crucial for United Methodist congregations to prepare thoughtfully and prayerfully. This significant event, postponed due to COVID-19, is now set to occur April 23 – May 3, 2024. Here are some key ways your congregation can prepare for this pivotal gathering:


Commit to individual and communal prayer for the General Conference, the lay and clergy delegates, the volunteers, and for discernment. Use the updated Upper Room prayer guide specific to General Conference 2024 to guide your prayers.

Stay Informed and Understand the Process

Access information from reliable news services, such as the Daily Digest from the United Methodist News Service and ResourceUMC. The United Methodist News Service offers knowledgeable coverage of the complexities and developments within The United Methodist Church, ensuring accurate and current information.

General Conference, comprising 862 clergy and lay delegates from many parts of the globe, is the sole authoritative voice of The United Methodist Church. Its procedures can be intricate and nuanced in ways that are not always noted by outside news agencies.

Engage in Dialogue

Participate in town halls and discussions with your pastor, district, and General Conference delegations. These forums are invaluable for expressing concerns, asking questions, and hearing diverse perspectives.

Build Trust

Focus on cultivating trust within your congregation. Use this time to strengthen relationships among congregation members. Encourage dialogues on topics such as personal connections to United Methodism and moments of pride in the denomination. Consider book studies or discussion groups that explore themes of understanding and unity, such as Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind.

Here are some additional ways to build trust:

  • Establish a Safe Environment: It’s crucial to create an atmosphere where participants feel (neurologically) safe to express their perspectives. Being mindful of the physical environment and the use of Christian symbols can set the stage for meaningful dialogues.
  • Seek Common Ground and Acknowledge Differences: Before exploring areas of disagreement, find areas of agreement. When we begin by acknowledging common values, we can build relationships and bridge differences. As differences emerge, recognize and respect the diversity of opinions and experiences within the group.
  • Encourage Deep Listening and Empathy: Emphasize the importance of listening to understand, rather than to respond. Encourage participants to question their assumptions and set aside cynicism so they can better empathize with different viewpoints.
  • Focus on Active Listening: Encourage participants to restate what others have said before offering their perspectives. This method emphasizes attentive listening and ensures that all voices are heard and considered.
  • Structured Sharing: Set clear guidelines for sharing, such as using a microphone for clarity and imposing a time limit on responses to ensure equitable participation.
  • Facilitate Courageous Conversations: Use the Courageous Conversations framework to structure meaningful dialogues in your church. These tools are designed to promote structured learning experiences and understanding rather than debate, helping to foster a respectful and open environment.
  • Focus on Discipleship: Remember that the mission of making disciples continues, regardless of the General Conference outcomes. Resources such as Developing an Intentional Discipleship System: A Guide for Congregations can help maintain this focus.
  • Encourage Continued Giving: Emphasize the importance of ongoing congregational giving. Remind your community that their contributions support both local and global ministries, as well as the broader church's mission. Resources such as Engaging Your Community: A Guide to Seeing All the People offer insights into effective community engagement and ministry.

One additional encouragement is for churches to watch the livestream together and engage in dialogue about what they witness, so there will be a deeper understanding and communal reflections on the proceedings.

By approaching General Conference 2024 with prayer, education, open dialogue, and a focus on discipleship and giving, your congregation can navigate this significant event with faith, hope, and unity.

Scott Hughes is the Executive Director of Congregational Vitality & Intentional Discipleship, Elder in the North Georgia Conference, M.Div. Asbury Theological Seminary, D. Min. Southern Methodist University, co-host of the Small Groups in the Wesleyan Way podcast, creator of the Courageous Conversations project, and facilitator of the How to Start Small Groups teaching series.

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