Annual Conference Moves to Branson in 2022
Missouri United Methodists have been attending Annual Conference in Springfield since 2006. The Annual Conference Sessions team had been looking to move the event from Springfield for some time per the direction of Bishop Bob Farr.
“We have been disappointed with the decline of the University Plaza hotel property and their management of the convention center,” said Rev. Kim Jenne, Director of Connectional Ministries. “The Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau has been fantastic to work with, but they only have so much control over private property venues. The University Plaza Hotel & Convention Center no longer meets our expectations for our annual event.”
The process of site selection can be a complicated one. There are several moving parts to the Annual Conference Session. With 1,200-plus attendees including lay and clergy voting members, retired clergy, staff, exhibitors and guests, the event can swell to 1,400 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 $79–159 per night. The room rate alone can eliminate the possibility of some locations. Changes to the event, like the reduction of days and flexibility related to the setup of plenary events, have allowed proposals to come from a larger range of venues, especially since the last contract review process completed in 2017.
To review proposals, the Sessions team initially determine 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 sidebar for value criteria. After the Sessions team reviewed and scored proposals based on the values, the top three proposals were sent to the Cabinet for final review and approval (¶603.3).
“Branson is a more family-friendly town offering more options, outside of the business of annual conference, for fun and relaxation. As soon as the announcement of Branson as next year’s location was made I heard spouses saying things like, ‘we can turn this into a mini-vacation’,” said Rev. David Gilmore, Heartland District Superintendent.
The 2022 Annual Conference Session will be June 11-12, 2022 with an optional learning day on Friday, June 10. Workshop facilitators Suzanne and Joe Stabile, Cynthia Wilson, Leonard Sweet and Len Wilson have been booked for Friday’s learning. Since the Conference has not met wholly in person in two years, the Sessions team has great hopes that the weekend will be an opportunity for clergy and laity alike to spend time in Branson in fellowship.
“The convention center is modern, refreshing, and can host a large gathering and smaller breakout sessions,” said Rev. Adrienne Ewell, Sessions team member. “I look forward to staying at the Hilton and perhaps even extending my stay for a quick vacation.”
Updates for next year’s session will be posted as they are available at www.moacinfo.com.