You might be asking yourself why this North Texas Conference boy is writing a post on the Central Texas 2012 Annual Conference ... That's because my wife serves as Youth and Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for the CTCUMC. The CTC Annual Conference was this week and it was my pleasure to accompany Leanne and my boy Wesley to Waco for the festivities.
It's been an eye-opener experiencing the conference office as Leanne's husband. She works with a great staff in the Center Evangelism and Church Growth, so it was fun to hang out with them for a couple of days. As a minister's wife Leanne is often referred to as "Jarrod's Wife", like it or not. I actually had great fun this week being the Minister's Spouse as "Leanne's Husband", but also "Wesley's Dad". Poor Wesley also has to serve dual roles as mascot for the local church we serve as well as the CTC staff. He does a great job! I mean, with a name like Wesley, he's made for it.
I wasn't able to stay for the whole conference. But I did get to hear some exciting reports, and worship with some awesome youth delegates. Here's what I took away from CTAC2012:
Rocking Awesome Youth
Youth are rocking awesome in general, but when you're at an Annual Conference, the youth you meet aren't your typical Methodist Youth. They refer to themselves as the "Methodorks". At least some of them do. These are the highly motivated, total nerds for the UMC. Every district sent at least two youth, plus CCYM delegates. Leanne helped to coordinate meals for them and their hotel stay with the help of some particularly awesome chaperones. The fun thing about this group: you didn't have to give them wake-up calls to get them to the early meetings. Much like youth on mission, they were there because they wanted to be. They wanted to participate. They wanted to be heard. It's certainly motivated me to pay attention. These youth have things to say.
The Youth Address
As part of the report of the Center for Evangelism and Church Growth, it was Leanne's duty to introduce the CCYM President, Kevin, who delivered the Youth Address to the Annual Conference. Firstly, I sat very proud as Leanne introduced herself to the conference, having completed her first year in ministry with the CTC Youth and Young Adults. Then I sat as Kevin delivered a highly motivating message to the conference to the youth and adults present. The best moment, was towards the end.
First, he asked all of the youth to stand. The small number (in comparison to the whole conference) stood.
Then he asked all youth pastors, ministers, and workers to stand. A few more people stood.
Then he asked any and all people who work with youth in any way in the local church and communities to stand. A few more people did.
When they all stood, I would say it was 5-10% of the total people in the room.
Then he issued his challenge - "I would like to see all of you standing next year."
There was silence in the room. It was epic.
Leading Youth Worship
I lead a few songs later that evening as all of the youth representatives gathered (with some young adult reps) for a short service after dinner. Leanne volunteered me a little bit, and some youth approached me with a song or two. The CCYM President delivered a short, but coherent, message he'd written in about 30 minutes on his ipad in between dinner and the service. It was a great privilege to lead a few songs for these awesome young people, who know that Methodists are supposed to sing. Some of us forget that along the way.
Speaking of singing ... One of the bigger reasons for my attendance at the conference was to aid in leading a short presentation on Taize as opening worship for one of the sessions. The music leader chose the deep chorus, "Bless the Lord My Soul". One of the powerful things about Taize chant, is that when you truly participate in the singing it is a very effective style for centering yourself on prayer and worship. Unfortunately, there were a whole lot of important conversations going on that just couldn't be interrupted ...
I feel that I should touch on my home conference proceedings a little bit. I wasn't in attendance, but I did follow as much as I could from Waco, and have observed the fallout from the closing worship.
UMC Clergy and Theologian John Meunier asks the question, here, how do we judge episcopal effectiveness? My response is this, as somebody who works in ministry in the North Texas Annual Conference:
In the North Texas Conference, the episcopacy has no effect on my ministry, or, really, the faith community I serve. I know of no clear conference vision, and the conference staff is very hard to get a hold of, in general. There could be many reasons for both of these statements, I know. I serve at a top-30, faithfully giving church, who hasn't seen a conference staff person on our campus other then the person who handles conference insurance in the past year.
And I might be starting to be slightly biased towards the CTC, considering I know how great and hard working the staff is. But when most headlines after the NTC read "Bishop is going to fight like the devil to keep his job" or something similar, there's a big problem. "Fight like the devil"? Really? How can that be good? Our words matter. Numbers can tell part of a story, but words spoken can tell a whole lot too.
I'm praying for good people to the hard work to realize the Peaceful Kingdom in my home conference.