Fewer business sessions, expanded workshop times among changes
By Connie Faber
The observant veteran USMB convention goer may note that a number of changes have been made to the 2016 National Convention schedule. Attendees may also identify some of these adjustments as ones they suggested.
The abbreviated 2016 business sessions—two 90-minute sessions this biennium compared to three in 2014—and expanded workshop times are two changes made to the 2016 convention format based on feedback from delegates.
The 2016 National Convention will be held July 29-30 at The Westin Westminster located in north Denver, Colo. Early registration ends July 1.
Business sessions will be streamlined
“After each convention we ask participants to provide us with feedback about the content and atmosphere of the convention,” says Don Morris, USMB interim executive director. “The past two times (2012 and 2014) we had a lot of somewhat negative feedback about all the stage reports.”
Morris says, “Many people didn’t think spending all the time on oral reports was valuable. They said they would prefer to read written reports from agencies and to give more stage time to hearing good stories about what is happening with other churches.
“It's clear that people realize we need to do business, but sometimes it just seems to draw out too long,” Morris continues. “So we’ll see if we can shorten the time and still get done what we need to get done without compromising adequate processing.”
Although delegates won’t be hearing from representatives of various U.S. and binational MB ministries and inter-Mennonite agencies, they will receive printed reports in the delegate booklet. Convention planners are also offering ministry partners other options for sharing.
Morris says the convention format will include short informative videos provided by partner ministries. If a ministry partner sponsors a meal or refreshment break, that agency will have the opportunity to share briefly before or after the meal or break. Most ministry partners will provide display tables in the foyer and their representatives will be available to answer questions and provide information.
Details of new national ministry strategy will be announced
The USMB Future Story, the new national ministry strategy, will be introduced during the first of two business sessions Saturday and time will be given during both of the workshop sessions that afternoon for delegates to discuss the new vision for ministry with Leadership Board executive members. While details of this new national ministry strategy will not be made public prior to the convention, each local USMB church will receive a one-page summary of the national ministry strategy by July 1.
The full eight-page Future Story will be available at the convention. Morris emphasizes that this document represents a “fluid” picture that will involve transitional steps.
The business sessions will also include an announcement regarding the USMB National Director. The Board of Faith and Life will report on the status of U.S. and binational resolutions made from 1957 to the present. Delegates will review the USMB budget and elect new members of the USMB Leadership Board, Board of Faith and Life and various partner ministry boards.
Other convention highlights
The new convention format also allows for slightly longer workshop sessions.
“People have indicated that good workshops help make a convention worth their time,” says Morris. “We spent considerable time choosing meaningful and relevant workshops for this convention. We have several workshops that will delve into some of today’s hot topics.”
One such topic is the current global refugee crisis, a subject that speakers from Mennonite Central Committee and MB Mission will be addressing in workshops. “The refugee situation is something we will encounter more and more, and it has a lot of political implications right now,” says Morris. “How do we as Mennonite Brethren respond to refugees?”
Heard to speak twice
While the 2014 convention format included one keynote address, this year speaker Matt Heard will address the delegates twice.
“As we spoke with representatives of Outreach magazine’s speaker bureau, Matt Heard’s name kept coming up,” says Morris. “The content we were seeking—upbeat, meaningful and useful—was something they felt Matt would provide. He is fast becoming one of their top speakers, and they have many to choose from.”
Morris says Heard will be speaking from his book, Life With a Capital L, in which Heard explores 10 ways to transform everyday life into the extraordinary life God intended. “Matt wants to help us rediscover joy and connection with Jesus.”
The first events on the schedule for the 2016 National Convention are informal receptions Friday afternoon. Convention planners looked for ways to enhance opportunities for delegates to connect with one another, and the opening reception for all delegates was added for that purpose. An early afternoon reception is also planned for anyone working with children’s ministries.
The convention will conclude with the Saturday evening program that includes a communion service and highlights church planting. “We do church planting together, and we should also celebrate God’s good work together,” says Morris.
Pastors' Conference precedes convention
All USMB pastoral staff members, their spouses and families are invited to the Pastors’ Conference, held two days prior to the National Convention. A music team from Rock of Southwest, a USMB congregation in the Denver area, will lead worship times and Matt Heard will be the featured speaker.
“Heard will help our pastors and spouses gain more understanding about how pastors can enjoy lives that are alive, exciting and fulfilling,” says Morris. “Many pastors’ lives are filled with stress and busyness. Heard says he wants to help them see that ‘the pastoral life can be one that is empowered, equipped and inspired by the One who created us to live abundantly.’”
The Pastors’ Conference also includes workshops that deal with topics related to pastoral ministry. The schedule also includes formal and informal times—affinity groups, a dessert reception and free time—for pastoral staff and their families to connect with one another.
To register or learn more about both the National Convention and the Pastors’ Conference, visit www.usmb.org. Early registration ends July 1; the cutoff date for hotel registration is July 11.
Photo: Delegates to the 2012 National Convention said they would rather read written reports from various USMB ministries than hear verbal updates from ministry representatives.