Rio Texas Delegate, Jay Brim, at the microphone via the General Conference live stream

Some Early (Tech) Takeaways from General Conference 2016

Therefor Go - The United Methodist Church 2016

I am going to get back to my series on the Gospel and Social Media. But first, I want to write about General Conference 2016. There are plenty of tweets, posts, and blogs about the legislative issues before the conference, but I want to talk about the tech.

United Methodist CommunicationsI want to give a big shout out (I am 44, can I still do that?) to United Methodist Communications. Running the technology for a conference this big, that happens only every four years in a different location is more stressful than even I can imagine. Often people fail to notice just how amazing all this technology is. The HD live stream, the simultaneous translations flowing throughout the convention hall, electronic voting devices, WiFi everywhere; it is a technological wonder that people don’t even think much about until it doesn’t work. Then they notice and send nasty glares and notes to the tech folks. Hang in there tech folks. I know your pain.

I want to focus on some of the amazing things they are doing and write about what churches can learn from this.

Live Stream

Rio Texas Delegate, Jay Brim, at the microphone via the General Conference live stream
Rio Texas Delegate, Jay Brim, at the microphone via the General Conference live stream

Thanks to some advances in technology, UMCOM has really upped their game on live streaming. It is reliable and beautiful. Multi-camera, high definition live streaming is complicated. There are a lot of moving parts. (Most of them don’t actually move but they have to miraculously all work together.)

To be able to watch the proceedings of this meeting in real time from anywhere in the world with a computer and broadband connection changes everything. I can’t wait to see the final statistics of how many United Methodists and friends tuned in to see something that, for so long, was reserved for a tiny percentage of the global United Methodist body. It is exciting to see that many people truly engaged in our process of creating and revising our shared rules for life together.

Church Takeaways

I think there is a big takeaway for churches here. I believe that every United Methodist church that can connect to broadband should begin live streaming their services. I know it sounds crazy to say “every United Methodist church.” However, the cost of the technology has come way down, and it has become easier for non-techies to get a live stream up and running.

We know that not everyone goes to church on Sunday morning anymore. I would love it if they started attending again. But things have changed. I went in depth on this topic in my previous post, Technology and Pastoral Care (Part II).

Why not use every means possible to keep people connected to the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Why not do everything we can to make sure 100% of the faithful are connected on Sunday mornings? Why not use this as an opportunity to flood the internet with the Good News of Jesus Christ?

Learn more about Live Streaming 

Online and Mobile Giving

This was displayed on the screens during the first offering collected at General Conference 2016
This was displayed on the screens during the first offering collected at General Conference 2016

There was an audible cheer when it was announced that the missional offerings at General Conference could be given via text, smartphone, tablet or computer. Maybe it was a sigh of relief when many delegates realized that they haven’t carried a checkbook for a while, and their wallets and purses were devoid of cash. That is the reality face now. Currency has changed before our eyes.

Church Takeaways

I am glad that the General Conference led the on this issue. I believe that every United Methodist Church should offer a way for people to give using a computer, tablet or smartphone. Not only are churches losing out on the generosity of Christians who are living in a cashless society, but we are also missing an opportunity to teach new generations about generosity and stewardship and denying them the transforming joy of becoming cheerful givers.

Learn more about Online Giving

Electronic Queue System

A tablet computer displaying the electronic queue portal for delegates
Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS Delegates will use tablet computers to ask to speak during the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore.

This post wouldn’t be complete without some word on the electronic queue system designed to give delegates an opportunity to electronically request an opportunity to speak from the floor. As I was writing about it, the post got long enough that I decided to handle this topic in a coming post. Check back soon for that post.




  1. Thanks for the update and yes–remember to give some love to your tech people who solve more problems in a service than you will ever know.

    One note about live streaming that I don’t see mentioned here or on the blog you linked to–the tech needs to be in place and tested, just as you said…AND you need to have the licenses if you’re going to stream anything that is copyrighted. A CCLI basic license does NOT cover streaming (rebroadcasting) music or prayers or other acts of worship that have been copyrighted. I’ve seen so much abuse of those laws (including the ones for video), and I don’t want our congregations on the wrong side of the law.

    • Cynthia, Thanks for the reminder. I will add that to our live stream info.

      If any of our Rio Texas churches need help figuring out their licensing, feel free to contact us in the Media Center.

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