The first time I ever went to Annual Conference was 2 weeks before my first appointment as a United Methodist Pastor. I had no idea what was going on. Even the language confused me.
So, let me back up. Every year, every Annual Conference in the United Methodist church meets for Annual Conference (confusing, right?).
The Annual Meeting serves as a business meeting, rally cry and general big vision session for each group of United Methodists.
While some people think of conference as a drag or just a necessity, I love annual conference. Here are a few tips on how to survive Annual Conference.
1. Get the pre-conference report.
I did an informal poll on twitter to make sure this was a regular thing. Each conference puts them out for attendees. I recommend getting the report onto a digital device as a .pdf file. This will allow searching and easy reading when you actually need the pre-conference report.
2. Know the official and unofficial places.
My annual conference (Louisiana) meets at Centenary College every year. Most things are in the exact same places. I rarely have to look at my map anymore. It is nice to know where all the meetings are, where the book sale is and everything else.
There are also unofficial places. I know if I want to have a great breakfast, surrounded by great people, I stop in at the diner a block down the road. If I want to catch up with folks late at night, there are a couple of dependable places. I don’t have to check and see if my friends are there. I know if I show up I will be around other pastors and lay delegates.
3. Find a friend.
Annual Conference is a great time for connecting. You might have some old friends you want to reconnect with or to take the time and begin a relationship from someone who you don’t know. Annual Conference is the perfect time to catch up or start new relationships.
4. Find the #hashtag and participate in the conversation.
I doubt any Annual Conference is meeting without an official hashtag (if yours isn’t…make one up!). The hashtag is a great way to keep up with the running commentary as well as what other people are thinking. If no one is really using it, take it upon yourself to serve as the moderator and keep things rolling.
5. Prepare ahead for Sunday.
Nothing is worse than writing a sermon in a hotel room late at night during Annual Conference. Yep, I have done that before. Take an afternoon the week before you leave and get a great head start on your next sermon or ministry task. I find if I get around halfway finished I am able to enjoy Annual Conference and not hurrying back to my hotel room every night. I bring my notes and might sketch a few things out while I am there, but it is much easier knowing I am coming back to a nearly written sermon I can give a few hours of attention to and be done.
Annual Conference is a great event. I look forward to it every year, and each year I also get a little better at handling conference. I hope these tips helped you get through it too.
Do you have annual tips to surviving annual conference?