First time at Annual Conference?
Welcome to Annual Conference! We’re glad you will be attending the largest, annual gathering of the Church of the Brethren. Take some time to read and familiarize yourself about the history, scope, and events of our big meeting.
History, Time, and Location
The Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren has taken place for over 230 years. It is part business meeting and part family reunion where folks come together for worship, fellowship, and discerning the business that comes before the wider church. It takes place every summer, somewhere between the end of June to early July. It begins with opening worship on a Wednesday evening and concludes with closing worship on Sunday morning. The location varies in places around the U.S.
Leadership and Arrangements
Each year a moderator is elected to lead the Annual Conference. This person serves as the spiritual leader of the denomination and selects a theme and daily themes for the Conference. This person also presides over the business portion of the meeting. A moderator-elect (who will become the moderator for the next conference) and a Conference secretary together with the moderator comprise the officers of the Annual Conference.
There are also three elected persons who, along with the officers, make up a Program and Arrangements Committee. This committee guides and plans the overall programs and content of the Conference and selects the preachers and worship leadership. A team of volunteer coordinators from the district in which Annual Conference is held help carry out the various tasks and daily operations during Conference including registration, ticket sales, ushering, and age-group activities.
The Annual Conference employs a full-time director and assistant as well as a part-time coordinator to plan the logistics and tend to all the details and follow-up from Conference throughout the year.
Delegates and Non-Delegates
All persons attending Annual Conference are either delegates or non-delegates. Delegates are official representatives from congregations and districts, and are the only persons who can vote on items of business. Everyone else is a non-delegate.
Everyone attending Annual Conference must be registered, and registration begins in the early spring of each year at the end of February or beginning of March. Registration fees are the primary source of income to cover the costs of the Conference.
Non-delegate registration provides attendees with a Conference name badge and gives them access to the exhibit hall, insight sessions, and all other Conference events.
Delegate registration additionally includes a conference program booklet and gives delegates the right to vote on items of business. Each congregation may send one delegate for every 200 members. Congregations who send delegates also receive a copy of the Conference minutes when they are produced in the Fall.
Children through high school age youth also need to register as non-delegates but there is no cost for their registration. There are however, fees for the organized children’s age-group activities. (See Age Group Activities)
The Annual Conference Office will secure blocks of rooms at hotels close to the Conference venue at contracted rates lower than the hotel’s standard rate. All attendees must make their own reservations for hotel rooms through the registration process. Once a person registers for Annual Conference a confirmation email will be sent that will include a link directly to the hotel reservation site.
A Conference program booklet is produced each year. It includes general information about the Conference and theme, leadership, a detailed schedule, reports from denominational agencies, and information pertaining to the items of business coming before Conference that year, as well as a hymnal/song section. A booklet is included with each delegate registration and is mailed to them ahead of Conference. Non-delegates may purchase a copy of the booklet in advance and have it mailed to them for a postage fee, or pick it up onsite.
Coming together for worship is at the heart of Annual Conference. There are five worship services during Conference – one each evening and a closing service on the last morning. Preachers are selected from across the denomination as well as nationally known speakers, authors, and ministers. The Worship Planning Team includes a variety of worship styles throughout Conference.
A Conference choir is assembled each year and anyone may join. An anthem packet may be purchased ahead of time when you register, or you can just come to the first rehearsal and purchase it there. The music is yours to keep.
Worship services are open for anyone to attend whether they are registered for Annual Conference or not.
Items of business concerning the denomination may come to Annual Conference from congregations and districts through a query process, or may come directly from the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board or the boards of Annual Conference reportable agencies.
Standing Committee. A representation of delegates elected from all the districts called the Standing Committee meets just prior to Conference to preliminarily discuss and discern the business. They will then present each item to the full delegate body and give a recommendation on how the item should be considered.
Delegate Body. All the delegates sit together in assigned seating at round tables during the business meetings. This enables them to have discussion and hear the thoughts of other delegates on the business matters. There are also four, centralized microphones in the business hall where delegates as well as non-delegates can go to express their thoughts to the entire assembly. When it comes time for a vote, only the registered delegates in attendance can vote.
Non-Delegates. Registered non-delegates are welcome to attend and participate in the business sessions at Annual Conference. They may address the assembly at the centralized microphones, but only the registered delegates in attendance may vote.
Other areas of business at Annual Conference include hearing reports from agencies and organizations, approval of agency board members, and elections for various denominational offices.
Annual Conference also serves as a time where other denominational groups and organizations host their own meetings. These include the Brethren Ministers’ Association, Council of District Executives, Mission and Ministry Board, Brethren Benefit Trust Board of Trustees, Brethren Higher Education Association, and Fellowship of Brethren Genealogists to name a few.
New Attendee Orientation
The Conference leadership schedules a new attendee orientation session each year in the afternoon of the day that Conference begins. This time is led by the moderator-elect, Conference secretary, and Conference director and gives a comprehensive overview of the Conference as well as pertinent information of the year’s theme and logistics. First-time attendees of Annual Conference are strongly urged to attend this session.
These are 1-hour informational and equipping workshops on various topics presented by denominational ministry areas, agencies, and districts. They take place over lunch time and after worship in the evenings. Many are approved for CEU credit for ministers. Insight sessions are free to any attendee registered for Annual Conference.
Each Annual Conference there is an exhibit hall featuring displays from Church of the Brethren agencies, organizations, groups, partner-ministries, and other vendors. Those wishing to have an exhibit submit an application by November 1 of the previous year. All exhibits and exhibitors are approved by the Program and Arrangements Committee.
Meals are not included with conference registration. Each person is on their own for their meals at Annual Conference. There are options. A number of ministries and organizations sponsor catered meals for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. These are ticketed and are optional to the conference goer. However, these do often provide speakers, entertainment, or informational programs as well as group-minded fellowship around the tables. Information on these meals can be found on the Annual Conference website, and tickets can be purchased in advance during the registration process or onsite per availability.
Most every year the convention center will set up a cafeteria-style line with lunch and dinner options to purchase. Children’s selections are also available. Also in most cities there are nearby restaurants and food options in close proximity, as well as the restaurants located in the hotels.
Age Group Activities
With many families attending Annual Conference, there are age-group activities that are offered every day from Early Childcare Services to Senior High youth. Each age-group has a coordinator and a group of volunteers who plan, guide, and direct the activities each day. The activities are always varied and include things like in-room games, Bible study, speakers and presentations, music, outdoor exploration, inspirational and educational field trips, and just plain fun. While there is no conference fee for a child to attend Annual Conference, there is a fee for participating in the age-group activities. Children are encouraged to be signed up during the registration process, however they can join and be included when onsite for a higher, onsite fee.
As well as children and youth, there are also daily activities planned for young adults and single adults at Conference.
Witness to the Host City
Each year one or two local ministries or charities are chosen as an outreach for conference attendees as an Annual Conference witness to the city hosting the Conference. Giving options have frequently included bring/collecting items such as hygiene supplies for homeless shelters, school supplies for educational ministries, or clothing donations and infant supplies. Hands-on opportunities have also occurred with options of helping serve in food kitchens, doing city/river clean-ups, and packing supplies for local ministries.
There are a number of other events that take place at Annual Conference that offer education, inspiration, fellowship and entertainment. Things such as concerts, Bible-studies, ice cream socials, reunions, prayer gatherings, receptions, and more that round out the Annual Conference experience.
Frequently Asked Questions
For more information about Annual Conference, check our FAQ page.