Despite fewer numbers, young people still a focus at conference event

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Despite fewer numbers, young people still a focus at conference event

May 20, 2008     News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0855}

An e-Review Feature
By John Michael De Marco**
Although far fewer youth and young adults will be participating in the 2008 Florida Annual Conference Event than last year, conference leaders say they are still committed to hearing the voices of younger members in the midst of important decisions being made — decisions that impact all ages and ministries.

Members of a first-ever youth delegation vote during the 2007 Florida Annual Conference Event for lay delegates to the 2008 General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by Greg Moore. File photo #07-0589. Originally accompanied e-Review Florida UMNS #0685/June 9, 2007.

Key activities planned specifically for youth and young adults are also again part of the annual session’s agenda.

“We have a lot of students who just can’t get out of school, and a lot of our young adults are teachers, as well,” Kelly Minter said of the drop in young people participating in this year’s conference. “We don’t have as many activities as last year, but we have more ‘official’ activities. We’re trying to make them more intentional.”

Minter coordinates the Florida Conference Network of Ministries of Young People, which encompasses youth, young adults and adult workers in young person’s ministries. She wears that hat for the Florida Conference Connectional Ministries office, while also serving as youth minister at Ponte Vedra United Methodist Church. The network was formally approved at last year’s annual conference event with the goal of pulling together the conference’s fractioned pieces of youth and young adults ministries, which are generally for people ages 12 to 30.

“If you look around the conference, a lot of our young adult ministries don’t cut off at (age) 30,” Kelly Minter said. “It’s more of a like-mindedness rather than an age thing. We have some very hip 60-year-olds we wouldn’t turn away.”

A total of 22 youth and 41 young adults are currently registered to attend this year’s conference May 29-31 at the Lakeland Center. Those numbers are down significantly from the 100 or so who participated in last year’s event. The reduction is attributed to the combination of the event being held earlier than last year and public schools ending their sessions in early June.

Activities specifically for youth and young adults include a meet-and-greet lunch May 29, 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., including an orientation to the conference event and activities. The lunch is mandatory for youth and young adult members of the annual session, and separate lunches are planned for the two groups. Minter said there will be a “mock annual conference so they can see how things are going to work.”

There will also be a “Wii Scream for Ice Cream” party in the evening May 29 at Florida Southern College and a “Pirate Movie Night” May 30, with pizza provided by the Florida-Georgia Credit Union and an opportunity for those attending to learn the benefits of being part of a credit union.

Youth are also encouraged to attend the regular business sessions and other activities of the conference.

Youth attending the U2charist communion service during the 2007 Florida Annual Conference Event wear the ONE Campaign T-shirts they purchased right before the service started. The ONE Campaign and its efforts to mobilize people in the fight against global poverty and HIV/AIDS were highlighted during the service. Photo by Greg Moore. File photo #07-0596. Originally accompanied e-Review Florida UMNS #0686/June 13, 2007.

“The voice of youth and young adults in this conference hasn’t been heard,” Minter said. “We need younger clergy; we need younger people to step up and take responsibility of our church and be involved in things. Otherwise, you get a one-sided point of view, and nobody wants that. It will better help them to understand how they fit and what they do.”

Florida Conference members attending the 2006 session passed a resolution calling for specific time on the agenda for youth and young adults to address the conference. That led to presentations by younger members, similar to the episcopal and laity addresses and presentations by other conference leaders that take place at the conference, during the scheduled business agenda last year. There were also specific activities with younger members in mind, such as a U2charist service, which featured the music of the rock band U2, and Expressions ’07, an art festival type event that focused on how art and faith connect through music, visual art and film.

“Part of the great thing of being a United Methodist is once you are confirmed at the age of 12, you have all the rights as a member,” Minter said. “You can do anything. That’s huge. I feel that the young people have to embrace that, especially the delegation at conference, and be a part of that. People are so receptive to hearing the young people talk about their dreams, goals and what they want to see happen.”

The Network of Ministries of Young People will have a booth in the conference exhibit hall where young people can gather in a casual, relaxed atmosphere and meet other conference members. Florida Southern College is also offering special youth housing prices at $50 per youth, ages 12-18 or still in high school. Housing for youth chaperones is also $50, and meal tickets are available for both youth and adults.

More information about youth and young adult activities and housing at this year’s event are available by contacting Minter at or 407-694-2167.

Conference from the comfort of home

The “Living the United Methodist Way” 2008 Florida Annual Conference Event will be webcast live, beginning with opening worship May 29 at 2 p.m. Individuals would like to view the events via the webcast may go to on the Florida Conference Web site and click on the webcast link.

The entire conference session will be webcast, enabling those not able to attend the annual gathering at the Lakeland Center to see the activities and hear the important news taking place.

More information about the conference session, including a schedule of activities and reports being presented, is also available on the Web site.


*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a commissioned minister of the Florida Conference and a freelance writer, speaker and consultant based in Nashville, Tenn.

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