Helping Your Congregation Get Ready for General Conference
By Scott Hughes
Pray – Be in prayer, as individuals and as a church community, for General Conference, delegates, and for discernment. Use The Upper Room prayer guide: Be Still and Know: 40 Days of Prayer for General Conference.
Get information from trusted news services. Sign up for the Daily Digest from the UM News Service. United Methodist News Service is the authorized organization that reports news regarding The United Methodist Church. Their staff understands the often-confusing procedures of The United Methodist Church and will provide the most accurate information. The United Methodist News Service has a chart of proposed plans about the structure of The United Methodist Church.
Learn the process of General Conference. General Conference is the only group that can speak on behalf of The United Methodist. It is made of delegates from around the world and involves many nuanced procedures. Learn more about General Conference from this article from David Teel, Director of Lay Leadership.
Participate in town halls and conversations with your Bishop and General Conference Delegations.
Build trust in your congregation. Now is not the time to be making decisions about the future of your local congregation’s denominational connection. No one can predict the outcome(s) of General Conference. Take this time to foster and deepen relationships with congregation members. Find intentional activities to foster dialogue across ideological perspectives. Possible discussion topics include: “Why are you United Methodists?” “When have you been proud to be United Methodists?” (Possible answers might include certain local ministries, UMCOR, Imagine No Malaria, connectionalism with the UMC in other parts of the globe). With church leaders or as a congregation, do a book study on The Anatomy of Peace or The Righteous Mind.
The North Georgia Conference has produced a six-week resource based on the teachings of Rev. Dr. Gary Mason whose work has included guiding individuals and communities to find healing and reconciliation in his home country of Ireland.
For additional suggestions, download and lead your congregation through Courageous Conversations. These tools help your congregation structure dialogues for learning instead of debating.
Maintain a focus on discipleship. Help your congregation be aware that regardless of what happens (or doesn’t) at General Conference, the ministry of making disciples and following God’s call for ministry for your church continues. (Resource: Developing an Intentional Discipleship System: A Guide for Congregations.)
Urge congregational giving to continue. Ministry and needs within the community will be ongoing long past General Conference. It is always good to remind our congregation that giving is directed to God and to ministry needs locally and globally. Our connectional responsibilities to the church across the globe depend on your ongoing gifts. The surrounding community in which your church is engaged is going to need your church. (Resource: Engaging Your Community: A Guide to Seeing All the People.)
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.