by Terry M. Smith
Ever hear someone say, “Our church doesn’t feel close to the conference”? If so, listen carefully as to why. Denominations and local churches are imperfect; they can err. Reasons and issues can be discussed.
We can’t change Canadian geography. We are a small conference with large physical gaps between some church locations (a reality shared with other evangelical groups). However, electronic links offer new possibilities to be involved in seminars, committees, and meetings without travel.
Beyond that, how might we respond? Perhaps first by saying that the conference is wherever you are, as Tim Dyck says. The EMC is not the national office; it is the 64 churches. You are the conference, as he says.
In addition, we might suggest TIES to help a church become more connected.
- Some pastors say that “their” people were not raised in an Anabaptist church or don’t know how a conference works. If so, pastors, board chairs, and delegates can wisely Teach on these matters.
- All churches are to send delegates to the national ministerial and conference council meetings. Each region of churches has a representative on the EMC General Board. They give and receive counsel. They both hold the wider EMC accountable and encourage it. Each church and region is to Include itself.
- Churches are to use the materials provided by the EMC’s five boards on their behalf. These resources help Explore our life together.
- Churches do well to regularly invite national staff members for a worship service or other event, a discussion with leaders, or to share reports. Every church will benefit. National office staff members, by mutual decision of EMC churches, aid in understanding and assist in our work together. We are to Serve.
Building conference-local church ties isn’t magic. Much of it is basic to all denominations: TIES (Teach, Include, Explore, Serve). Teach. Include your church. Explore our educational materials. Invite national leaders to Serve. See, then, what links develop.