Before beginning, I need to give credit to Josh Hale as he made a similar post regarding the Texas Annual Conference (Read post here). His thoughts have helped to formalize some of my own thoughts in thinking about the Pen-Del 2010 Conference.
This is my third year attending annual conference- and I had the most fun this year out of any. This is likely due to being a little better connected to other pastors and laity who were there. There is a bit of a learning curve for navigating through the ins and outs of annual conference (like how to beat everyone to the cafeteria!)
1. Think Through our Worship Experiences: This was one of the biggest complainst I heard from other clergy. During our Celebration of Ministry, it was an hour or so of standing and sitting. There was no continuity. Rather than interspersing songs throughout the service- an extended opening and closing set would have flowed better.
Our Ordination Service is another matter. There is no better place to sing the hymns of the faith than with a gathering of clergy. They sing like they mean it (hopefully we do!)! Ordination was upstaged by songs that the clergy did not know. There was much murmering where I was sitting during the songs as we mumbled our way through the lines. Once the candidates were ordained, we were to sing a verse or two from a song- but because it was one that very few knew- we just started clapping again.
2. Laptop Bar: I have to give credit to Josh Hale for this one! I was thankful there was wifi in the Fitzgerald Center as it made it easier to check email and tweet during the conference. I had hoped to do some more posting about conference, but my laptop battery is not great. There was no where to charge or plug in your laptop in the Fitzgerald Center. Having a place to use the laptops and charge them would have been great for those of us who want to get information out- and who take notes and process that informaton electronically.
3. Has Anyone Heard of Twitter? I counted only 3 people regularly using the pdcon hashtag during conference. 2 clergy and one lay member(there were 2 others who used it once or twice, bringing the total up to 5). Really? 5 people who use Twitter during conference? Are we that far behind as a conference and in our churches in using social media to connect with our congregations and with each other? At Conference, Bishop Peggy Johnson said that churches need to utilze all the technological tools of the 21st century to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. It looks like we have a ways to go for that! Maybe for 2011, we can double or triple the number of clergy/laity using Twitter and other means to connect. (Thanks to Rick Vance for distributing the Pen-Del hastag...you can follow Rick at @pendelconferenc)
4. Young Clergy Gathering/Networking: My wife, Andrea, had to stay home for conference this year. So when it ended each night, I stood there wondering what I was going to do for the next three hours until I would fall asleep. There are not too many of us "young clergy" under 40 in the conference...but we should be connecting more than we are. I will personally take it upon myself to be more proactive in this area next year. It would have been great to go get something to eat some place after evening worship.
5. Modeling New Ministry Tools: Ok, so this is just a different name for Josh Hale's "Social Media Training Session." In light of the Bishop's pronouncment of how churches and leaders should use social media to spread the gospel, it would probably help many people to know what Twitter is and how to use it (especially in light of how few people use it in our conference). But we also have to have leaders who use it. I looked around twitter some and not one of our District Superintendents or Bishop uses Twitter from what I could research. Our conference facebook page hasn't had a post in almost a year! As for blogs...well, you probably get the picture.
6. Streaming Video: We already have cameras putting video up on the screens...couldn't we screen Conference for those back home who are interested in what goes on..whether business or worship. If we are concerned that no one will be interested...what does that say about what we do at Annual Conference?
I could probably bring up some other improvements for next year, but this is a good starting place. It will be 2011 next year and our Annual Conference still looks too much like 1985 (at best). As I hope to have a long ministry in the conference, I look forward to the changes that will take place in the future as we gather to worship, to support one another, and to do the business of the church.