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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Faith-Based Schools

Many faith-based colleges and universities open their doors to groups wanting to meet or perform on their campuses. Here are a few outstanding examples of schools that offer these opportunities to the public.


Anderson University

Anderson, Indiana

Anderson University is a Christian liberal arts school with ties to the Church of God that opens its facilities to people of any faith. Last year, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson as among the best colleges in the Midwest. The school will soon begin a yearlong centennial celebration.

“We’re about 30 minutes northeast of Indianapolis and accessible by I-70 and I-69,” said Cheryl Shank, director of Anderson’s conference and performance events. “We draw a lot of groups from a five-state contiguous area and beyond.”

The university’s Office of Conference and Performance Events welcomes every kind of church, organization and conference to its attractive campus.

“Over the years, we’ve had a great number of faith-based groups,” said Shank. “Recently, we had conferences with Christ in Youth out of Joplin, Missouri; Word of Faith International Church from Southfield, Michigan; and American Heritage Girls from Cincinnati, Ohio.”

Throughout the year, additional groups come to Anderson and find the facilities to their liking. For instance, the Indianapolis Colts hold their summer football training camp there. The summer calendar is jammed with youth sports camps.

Reardon Auditorium seats 2,200 and conducts everything from conference opening sessions to theatrical and musical events. The 6,600-square-foot lobby, with a beautiful and unique light sculpture in it, can handle breakouts, exhibitions and receptions. The auditorium has modern communication technology. Byrum Hall, a theater, seats nearly 500. The student center is available for meals, and the school’s athletic fields and courts and its wellness center are open.

Anderson’s official meeting philosophy statement includes hope that visiting groups accomplish their goals and that the staff performs in a manner that bears “witness to our conferees and patrons of our belief in the Lord.”


Wheaton College

Wheaton, Illinois

Wheaton is an evangelical protestant Christian college located in a suburb 25 miles west of Chicago. At its core, Wheaton stands for Christ-centered diversity, with students coming from all 50 states and just as many countries and church denominations.

Planners find there are 150,000 square feet of meeting, exhibit and dining space on this leafy campus that boasts lots of lovely architecture. Its auditoriums seat 2,400 visitors, and there are various smart classrooms to use.

“We’re open to faith-based groups and all other kinds of groups,” said Jessica Burnside, assistant director of sales and marketing at Wheaton. “We are a one-stop shop and help organize the various aspects of any function, such as meeting space and residential accommodations. We have one of the top-rated food providers.”

The college hosts conferences primarily in May, June and July, with a limited number during the school year. Retreats, religious concerts and church services are common. Conferences for church pastors and separate ones for men and women are frequent. So, too, is the annual arrival of cheerleading, dance and sports camps, and youth groups.

“Our favorites are the really big youth groups we see mostly in the summer,” said Burnside. “We manage up to 2,000 students. We love the energy they bring to campus. It comes alive. They’re setting up and playing games, using the football field and basketball courts and just about every inch of campus.”

Another selling point for Wheaton College is that it is right at Chicago’s back door. “We are close to a world-class city,” said Burnside. “There is a train just a few minutes’ walk from our campus that will take you right into the heart of the city’s downtown.”


Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Louisville, Kentucky

Visiting, working and staying overnight at Southern Seminary is a unique experience. The seminary offers classic-style buildings, yet modern, high-tech amenities for meetings and conferences. It also has its own sleeping accommodations, known as Legacy Hotel and Conferences.

“Our 84-acre location is in the historic Crescent Hill residential neighborhood of Louisville,” said Sharilyn Unthank, sales manager at the seminary. “Having a hotel on the property is very unusual. We are the largest theological seminary in the country and one of six seminaries that are part of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

The Legacy Hotel does not provide accommodations to the general public, but is set aside for invitees and guests of the seminary, those affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and its affiliates or those who go there for other seminary-related business. The seminary also asks visitors to adhere to certain restrictions as listed in the Seminary Code of Conduct.

The seminary draws visitors mostly from Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and Virginia, but also from elsewhere around the country and the world. “We see everything from church groups to ministries, youth groups and camps to church and missionary retreats, and weddings — basically any group you can imagine,” said Unthank.

Legacy Hotel and Conferences has six conference rooms that together hold 200 attendees. There are also additional breakout spaces on campus that can be used, the largest being an auditorium that seats as many as 1,000 people. Spaces can be customized to meet people’s needs. The hotel also has several well-appointed executive rooms that can be used for any purpose.

The meeting spaces have modern, full-service audio and video resources. Southern Seminary has banquet facilities as well.

Dan Dickson

Dan has been a communicator all his professional life, first as an award-winning radio and TV news reporter for two decades and then as a communications director for several non-profits for another decade. He has contributed to The Group Travel Leader Inc. publications since 2007.