This year's conference focused on reaching Youth & Young Adults, which is something we need since the average age of the UMC is around 57, much higher than the US average age (like 20+ years). The choice of the title of the conference was "Louder Than Before: Hearing New Voices." It was chosen because of the song, "Speaking Louder Than Before" by Jeremy Camp. (You can catch the music video below) It's a decent song, and has a great message.
As for our conference using the theme, I hope we didn't mess up the metaphor. I heard the phrase "Louder Than Before" a number of different times, by a number of different people speaking on stage. It struck me at one point that a person could walk away hearing the idea that all we need to do is be louder. I'm not sure that's all we need. It's not going to be enough to just raise our voices and keep saying the same things. It's not going to be enough to just do the same things bigger and use more resources. If anything, we actually need to learn to do new and different things that actually connect with Youth and Young Adults. We can yell and scream and make fools of ourselves until our throats are dry and we're out of energy and resources--just because we're "Louder" doesn't mean we'll be more effective.
I don't want to just be cynical. I don't think that's the message that was promoted at our Missouri Annual Conference. I think the teachings we heard we amazing and pointed us toward doing new and different things/strategies, so we can be more effective. I just want to point out that some people who maybe didn't pay attention very well and just heard the phrase "Louder Than Before" over and over again might walk away with the wrong impression. I pray that doesn't happen. If we really want to be heard, louder might not necessarily be better, but we do need to think more of who is listening and how they hear, and be willing to new and different things. Because it's obvious that what we're currently doing is not working.