August 18, 2017

After a 10-month review of proposals to host the Missouri Annual Conference for 2019-2020, the Mission Council selected the plan submitted by the Springfield, Missouri. Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. The current contract runs through 2018. The renewal would extend this relationship another two years.
    
Missouri United Methodists have been attending Annual Conference in Springfield since 2006. Beginning in 2018, the Sessions team plans to conduct the Conference’s work within a three-day window rather than four days.
    
“We expect to trim some content in order to reduce a day from the schedule,” said Rev. Kim Jenne, Director of Connectional Ministries. “We are hopeful that the elimination of one day will reduce travel costs for local churches and increase participation of younger laity who may have to return to work on Monday.”
    
The process of site selection can be a complicated one. There are several moving parts to the Annual Conference Session. With 1,300 delegates from 790 local churches plus retired clergy, staff, exhibitors and guests, the event can swell to 1,600 participants for celebration, learning and business. The emphasis on peer-learning requires substantial breakout rooms for workshops and smaller learning experiences. In addition to the meeting space demands, the more difficult coordination involves the approximately 2,800 room nights used by conference attendees with a desired room rate range of $79–129 per night. The room rate alone can eliminate the possibility of some locations.
    
“We try to be creative in thinking about possible locations for the event,” explained Heather Birge, Executive Assistant for the Office of Connectional Ministries. “But each location manages their convention center space and hotel rooms differently. Some are willing to work across competitive hotel chains to guarantee room blocks. Others aren’t. It makes it difficult to compare apples to apples.”
    
In order to review proposals, the Sessions team determined a set of values important to the Annual Conference. Each proposal was evaluated against the following values: Accessibility, Flexibility, Community Witness and Impact, Cost and Hospitality. See page 21 for value criteria. After the Sessions team reviewed proposals, the top three proposals were sent to the Mission Council for final review and approval. Only the Mission Council can authorize the completion of contracts related to the annual event.
    
“There are a lot of considerations in making a decision on behalf of the Annual Conference,” said Jenne. “We went so far as to determine drive times from the furthest church from each location. All of that goes into consideration with the potential impact on the local church through cost and accessibility being major factors in the final decision.”
   
With the extension of the relationship through 2020, Jenne says that the Sessions team will revisit the conversation regarding location in 
late 2019.