Delegate Information

What is Annual Conference?

The Annual Conference is the central yearly gathering that connects all Free Methodist churches together within a defined conference region. Our Southern California conference, led by the conference superintendent, encompasses local FMC churches spanning from Santa Barbara to San Diego.

Annual Conference facilitates critical vision-alignment, spiritual discernment through conferencing, and key decisions that shape the direction of our regional movement for the coming year. It is where pastors and elected lay delegates from each local church gather as representatives to engage in:

Collective Worship: We praise God together for His work among our churches and communities. Times of prayer and reflection center us on Christ’s leading as we confer in discernment together.

Vision Alignment: We dialogue and discern to align our churches around common values and an overarching vision for advancing our shared mission field. Conference leadership casts fresh visions for cooperating.

Business Sessions: Ministry reports and matters affecting conference work are addressed through presentations, discussions and voting when formal decisions must be made.

Community Connections: The gathering fosters fellowship and relationships across churches, network building, and shared learning.

Innovation and Creativity: We make room for fresh models, ministry approaches and ideas to unfold through the day’s interactions and vision-casting.

It’s Good to Belong

Annual Conference represents who we are as a regional family of churches united under a common mission. It embodies the collective voice of Free Methodist members joined in covenant through our shared history. We assemble to guide the next phase of our movement by the Spirit’s wisdom through conferencing in discernment together.

The outcome of an Annual Conference goes beyond resolutions and votes. At its best, God uses these annual gatherings to align churches, leaders, and members around the Spirit’s guidance for advancing His Kingdom across Southern California together. The relationships built and visions discerned send us back into our local contexts to continue cooperating in our Kingdom work.

The Organizational Framework

The Free Methodist Church operates under a clear organizational structure that facilitates alignment, accountability and cooperation across multiple tiers:

Local Church

Each local church or society is led by an appointed pastor and governed by an elected local Board of Administration (LBOA).

Annual Conferences

(The Organization, not the Event)

At the next level up, groups of local churches band together within Annual Conferences (like our regional Southern California conference). Guided by a superintendent, supported by conference staff.

Boards and Committees

Within the Annual Conference structure, there are various boards and committees that handle specialized functions and facilitate decision-making (includes clergy and lay representatives):

Board of Administration (BOA)

Responsible for executive decisions between yearly conference gatherings.

Finance Committee

Oversees budgeting, investments, pensions, and provides guidance on stewardship.

Nominating Committee

Nominates lay candidates for key leadership roles elected at Annual Conference. Vets nominees.

Ministerial Education and Guidance Board

Guides standards and development for clergy. Handles matters of pastoral oversight and accountability.

Ministerial Appointments Committee

Appoints pastors to lead societies and oversees clergy transitions.

Kingdom Multiplication Group

Works on planting new churches and supporting struggling churches.


At the heart of the Annual Conference’s structure is the General Conference of the Free Methodist Church USA (FMCUSA). The General Conference convenes every 4 years to handle church-wide matters and set future direction. This body organizes the work into Annual Conferences, such as the Free Methodist Church Southern California (FMCSC). Each Conference is a tapestry woven from ordained ministers (Elders) and lay delegates elected by the societies. Currently three bishops provide ongoing leadership connecting multiple Annual Conferences.

Representing the Local Church – Delegates

Delegates serve a vital function as the conduit between their local church context and the broader Free Methodist conference community. Their role carries great importance in two key directions:

Voicing the Local to the Regional

As delegates you are elected to carry the unique voice and interests of your specific congregation into Annual Conference gatherings. Some key ways you represent your local body:

  • Raising needs, challenges, or opportunities your church faces for conference awareness & support
  • Contributing your church community’s perspectives into vision-shaping discussions
  • Casting well-informed votes on matters before the conference on your church’s behalf

Through these measures and more, you give your home church an avenue to influence greater denominational alignment and resourcing.

Bringing the Regional to the Local

Simultaneously, serving as delegates gives you the opportunity to gain deeper insight into the state of the conference and wider Free Methodist movement through firsthand experience at Annual Conference events. As delegates you can bring this broader awareness back to your leadership and members at the local level by:

  • Sharing wider trends, data, or initiatives coming from conference leadership
  • Aligning your church’s leadership around updated conference vision and priorities
  • Sparking new ministry innovations through exposure to what other FMC churches are pioneering

In doing so, you help contextualize where your church fits into the wider tapestry of Free Methodist mission across your conference area in this pivotal era.

How Are Delegates Apportioned?

The number of delegates allotted to each church is determined through an apportionment formula that considers:


Base Representation

Every church/society receives one delegate voice to start. This ensures all have a seat at the table.


Pastoral Representation

For every additional appointed elder at a church, societies qualify for one extra delegate as lay representation.


Membership Proportions

Larger churches have more delegate voices allotted proportional to their size:

  • An additional delegate voice for churches with over 100 adult members
  • Then for each additional 200 adult members, one more delegate voice may be elected

In this way, delegation remains reasonably proportional to the membership size of each church, while also honoring the base need for equitable representation across all societies regardless of size.

Who Can Serve as a Delegate

Delegates to Annual Conference are key lay members elected by their local Free Methodist church to represent their congregation. Here are the requirements to serve as a delegate:

  • Must be an official member of the local church they will represent
  • Gets nominated by their church leadership and affirmed through an election process
  • Cannot be ordained clergy since they serve specifically as lay representatives


Ideally, churches identify and select delegates who:

  • Regularly attend and are actively involved in their church
  • Exhibit spiritual maturity and wisdom
  • Understand the church’s ministry priorities and membership dynamics
  • Will dedicate time to prepare and actively participate in Annual Conference on the church’s behalf


The delegate role is crucial for giving every local congregation, regardless of size, an equal voice in the governance and direction of their conference area. As the chosen representative, the delegate carries the responsibility of voicing their church’s needs and interests during Annual Conference gatherings.

Reserve Delegates

In addition to delegates, each church selects “reserve” delegates who play a vital backup role:

Voting Participants
  • Reserves actively participate and vote in all conference elections
  • They receive the same credentials and materials as delegates
Alternates, If Needed
  • If a delegate cannot make it, a reserve represents the church instead
  • This ensures full church representation even with unexpected absences
Additional Connectors
  • Attending gives reserves wider church exposure
  • They bring back insights to enrich their local church

Reserve delegates help ensure robust participation and serve as alternate representatives when needed. Their involvement strengthens local churches.

Expectations and Responsibilities

As a delegate, your commitment to this vital role includes expectations and responsibilities before, during, and after Annual Conference:

Before Annual Conference

In advance of the conference, delegates should:

  • Review all provided materials about Annual Conference agenda, rules, proposals, and nominees
  • Seek clarity from church leaders on any positions to which they should give particular attention or consideration while preparing
  • Submit questions about Annual Conference matters to the conference superintendent in advance, as needed

During Annual Conference

During the annual conference event, delegates fulfill key functions by:

  • Attending all conference sessions, unless an emergency intervenes
  • Participating actively in discussions, sharing relevant perspectives and civilly debating views expressed
  • Voting on additional matters put forward for consideration based on the interests of their church

After Annual Conference

Following the annual conference gathering, delegates should plan to:

  • Provide a report to their church leaders and community covering key highlights, learnings, or updates
  • Offer thoughtful feedback to church leadership and the conference about their experience and suggestions
  • Notify church leaders and the conference superintendent if any barriers will prevent them from serving as delegate in the future

Fulfilling these responsibilities facilitates robust engagement before, during, and after the conference to ensure local churches stay meaningfully connected to the denomination.

Carrying the Conference Mission

As a delegate, you stand in a rich tradition tracing back to 1784 and John Wesley himself. The Annual Conference infrastructure created spaces for clergy and lay people to mutually confer, discern and guide the Methodist movement through seasons of growth and change.

While certain structural elements have evolved, delegates today carry forward this heritage of democratizing decisions essential to the life and mission of the church. Through respectful conferencing processes, we make space for the Holy Spirit to synthesize our collective wisdom.

Your engaged participation helps ensure your local church stays vitally connected to the unfolding work of our broader Free Methodist conference community. By lending your unique voice, and taking a step back to see the bigger picture, you help our Southern California delegation in discerning God’s direction for this region.

We pray the relationships built and visions forged at Annual Conference bear fruit long after. As we carry its momentum into our local churches, may our work as part of this Annual Conference gathering advance Kingdom dreams for redeeming lives, communities, and unjust social systems across our cities.

Let’s continue resourcing and inspiring one another as partners extending God’s love across Southern California together!