Making Room for Young People at Annual Conference | UMC YoungPeople
Connecting young people and their adult leaders to God, the church, and the world
March 2016

Making Room for Young People at Annual Conference

By Chris Wilterdink

Discipleship Ministries will be present at every Annual Conference meeting this year, staffing a display table filled with free resources. It is a really neat opportunity for staff from each division of Discipleship Ministries and the Upper Room to meet, network, and discuss needs with local church leaders. Young People’s Ministries will staff tables at 5 Annual Conference gatherings this year: Mountain Sky, New England, Memphis, Susquehanna, and Minnesota.

I volunteered for Minnesota because it was about the latest one in June I could find…General Conference will keep lots of us busy through May and early June! So I started my research on the event taking place June 21-23. When would I need to get there? Where should I stay? Who should I meet while there? Those kinds of questions. I visited the Minnesota Annual Conference website first and was pleased to find that the first two stories in their main slider had to do with young people! One story on Confirmation and one story on Creative Ways to Invite Young People to Annual Conference.

Intrigued further, I called the Minnesota Annual Conference office and connected with Gail. In conversation, Gail informed me that this is the first year that Minnesota’s conference is this late in June. It was moved away from Memorial Day weekend with the express goal of getting hundreds of people under the age of 40 to the Annual Conference gathering! This would be a significant growth over past years, when schedules made it difficult for youth and young adults still in school at the time of the meetings.

Often, our office hears about how difficult it can be to engage young people in the life of the church, serve on committees, or become load-bearing members of a church body. Also often, we suggest looking at the schedule of when committees, groups, or events take place to even see if they are accessible for young people’s schedules. Sometimes that has been considered, and sometimes not.

I want to applaud Minnesota, even before the meeting takes place for setting the goal of engaging young people more effectively at Annual Conference and taking action to make that goal happen. It is not easy to move the dates of an Annual Conference meeting, yet that is just what is happening in Minnesota this year. Good on ya Minnesota! I can’t wait to be there and see how your efforts to connect materialize!

Plus, if young people show up, and there are people that normally don’t interact with that age group, perhaps point them toward our blog post from January 2016 “How to Have a Courageous Conversation with a Young Adult” for some conversation tips!

Chris serves as Director of Young People’s Ministries for Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church. Chris has a BA in English Education, and an MS in Project Management, and over 15 years of local-church youth ministry experience. He is passionate about leadership and faith development in young people and helping ministry leaders understand their value in the lives of young people. A Stephen Minister, Chris is a native of Colorado living in Franklin, TN with his wife Emily, 2 children, and sausage-shaped beagle.