North Carolina is loaded with Baptist folk who love missions and enjoy attending mission-related meetings. Three of the most popular are traditionally held in the spring of each year: the North Carolina Missions Conference sponsored by N.C. Baptist Men (NCBM), the Missions Extravaganza sponsored by Woman’s Missionary Union of N.C. (WMU-NC), and the annual General Assembly of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of N.C. (CBFNC).
There is a lot of cross-pollination between those groups, and many people like to attend at least two, if not all three of the meetings. Unfortunately, they will have tough choices to make in 2009: all three meetings are scheduled for the same weekend, March 20-21.
It’s not a conspiracy or a competition; it just happened. Planning big meetings is a difficult business, especially when the meetings are hosted by a local church that will have to provide lots of volunteers and go to a great deal of trouble to host the meeting. Thus, when asking a church to host a meeting, one has to respect the church to provide dates that are available. Since dates for Easter move around, it’s natural that available dates will also move around the calendar.
WMU-NC traditionally holds its Missions Extravaganza at LifeWay’s Ridgecrest Conference Center, where more than 1300 attended this year. Its bylaws require it to establish meting dates several years in advance, so it’s generally first on the calendar. But, persons who don’t attend the meeting or consult the WMU-NC website don’t automatically know what those dates are.
N.C. Baptist Men generally has the largest attendance (about 2100 this year), and generally alternates between Charlotte and Winston-Salem (and occasionally Raleigh) because those sites have churches that are large enough and enough hotel space to accommodate them. Even at that, they “sold out the house” this year at Calvary Baptist in Winston-Salem, and director Richard Brunson said about 1,000 would-be registrants had to be turned away.
Next year’s meeting was slated for Charlotte, where Hickory Grove Baptist is the largest church available. Hickory Grove had only two dates available, Brunson said, one of which was March 20-21. Not realizing that WMU-NC and CBFNC were planning to meet on the same dates, he said, he chose the one in which there was less going on in Charlotte, so more hotel rooms would be available. Brunson said the NCBM board does not vote on such arrangements, but leaves him leeway to make the decisions. By the time he learned of the conflict, he said, contracts had already been signed with musicians and several speakers for the meeting.
CBFNC, which had 1150 participants attend a meeting at Forest Hills Baptist in Raleigh this spring, also had limited dates to choose from when asking Snyder Memorial Baptist Church to accomodate its meeting in 2009. March 20-21 was most convenient for the church, which has a major role in leading a large “Operation Inasmuch” effort two weeks after that date. Coordinator Larry Hovis said CBFNC is looking at options for possibly changing the date by a week, but was not sure it could happen.
So, it appears that some folks will have tough choices to make next year (it may be toughest for us news types who like to attend them all). On the negative side, some people who like to attend multiple meetings will only be able to attend one.
But on the positive side, consider this: there will be an opportunity for Baptists to celebrate missions in across the state, from Ridgecrest in the west (WMU-NC) to Charlotte in the south (NCBM) to Fayetteville in the East (CBFNC).
The leaders of all three groups, by the way, have pledged to work harder at informing others of their plans and trying their best to avoid similar conflicts in the future. Better communication is always a good thing.