When Todd Morris speaks with faith-based meeting planners about the possibility of their groups coming to Charleston, W.Va., he knows how to connect with them.
That’s because, in addition to being sales manager for the CVB, Morris is pastor at Charleston’s Abney Street Church of God.
“We’re the buckle of the Bible Belt,” said Morris. “Many of the people those planners will encounter in our CVB and at our hotels speak their language. They’re church-going people. When group members start talking about their organization or activities, they don’t need to explain much. Our local people understand it already. Tell them [meeting planners] we’ll be with them before, during and after their conference.”
Charleston is one of many cities around the country that blend a culture of faith with an infrastructure fit for hosting meetings large and small. If you’re searching for a destination for your next faith-based event, consider one of these great places.
Charleston, West Virginia
Charleston hosts churches and organizations from every denomination, among them Aldersgate Renewal Ministries, the American Baptist Association, the Free Will Baptist Association, the United Methodist Church and the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“The West Virginia Ministries Church of God held its annual state youth conference in Charleston the last four years,” Morris said.
Among the meeting venues used by larger religious conventions is the Charleston Civic Center, with 80,000 square feet of meeting space; Municipal Auditorium, with 3,500 seats; and the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences, with a performance hall for 1,800. The University of Charleston also offers a variety of venues.
Being on the edge of the mountains, Charleston has after-meeting activities that aren’t typically found near cities, such as white-water rafting and mountain hiking.
Dubbed the “City of Churches,” Lynchburg, Va., also craves religious meetings and conferences.
“Lynchburg, Virginia, is a city that very much provides for and welcomes faith-based organizations and their travel groups,” said Becky Nix, director of Discover Lynchburg.
The city is home to religious icons Thomas Road Baptist Church, whose former pastor was famed televangelist and author Rev. Jerry Falwell, and Liberty University, whose motto is “Training Champions for Christ.”
“We’re centrally located in Virginia and on the East Coast and in the middle of internationally known sites only a 20- to 30-mile drive in any direction,” said Nix. “Instead of coming for just one thing in one place, we can host groups for one to four days because there’s the Blue Ridge Parkway; Appomattox, where the Civil War ended; and Thomas Jefferson’s home.”
A historic church tour called When the Saints Go Marching In covers a dozen architecturally and historically significant churches in downtown Lynchburg.
“We just need to know the size of your meeting so we can accommodate it, the number of attendees and the amount of breakout space needed,” said Courtney Hunter, Discover Lynchburg’s group sales manager. “We’ll find the right facility match. We branch out into group itineraries and things to keep people busy after their conference, like dinners or team-building activities.”