In the months leading up to RCMA 2009, attendees worried about January weather in the host city, Grand Rapids, Michigan. But a funny thing happened on the way to the conference: Grand Rapids had better weather than most of the United States during the week of the Religious Conference Management Association’s annual conference and exposition (January 27-30).

The Michigan city—and its civic champion Rich DeVos—enjoyed the last word on weather.

“The climate of our city is not determined by our weather,” said DeVos, the co-founder of Amway and the man for whom the Grand Rapids convention center is named. “Climate is controlled by the people who live and work here. Grand Rapids is a city of people who care about those who can’t take care of themselves.” DeVos delivered his message to attendees on Thursday night, and heads nodded in agreement. RCMA had experienced the warmth of Grand Rapids all week long.

Doug Small, president of the Grand Rapids and Kent County CVB, called RCMA “the Super Bowl of religious conferences,” and the event lived up to its billing, featuring a week packed with education, motivation, entertainment, and networking.

RCMA’s general-session speakers included the African continent’s top speaker, Stef du Plessis; skyjacking survivor Jackie Pflug; and humorists who delivered meaningful messages: Bobbi Staten and Bryan Townsend. Thursday morning’s general session—the “University of Expanded Knowledge”—was an interactive, high-energy opportunity for attendees to test their meeting-planning IQs.

Tutorials offered practical information on a wide range of topics, including: a session on green meetings led by one of the foremost authorities on the subject, Shawna McKinley; legal ramifications of Web 2.0; marketing; leadership; and more.

The New Shanghai Circus on Wednesday night highlighted the week’s entertainment. Tuesday evening’s opening reception at DeVos Place had a fun-filled carnival theme, and at Thursday night’s gala, a cast of gifted musicians brought the audience to its feet with renditions of great Broadway music.

RCMA’s Behind-the-Scenes Experiences gave meeting planners hands-on access to new media, with sessions at a production company, public relations firm, advertising agency, and newspaper. Non-media choices included convention-center management.

Here are other conference highlights:

  • RCMA bestowed its 2009 President’s Award on Jackie Walker, convention and meeting planner, Atlanta, Ga.
  • Four RCMA members were appointed to three-year terms to the RCMA Board of Directors: Obadiah Jenkins, convention planner, Church of Christ (Holiness) U.S.A., Jackson, Mississippi; Harry Schmidt, Christian Life College, Mount Prospect, Ill.; Walker; and Melvin Worthington, National Association of Free Will Baptists, Ayden, N.C. In addition, Lerry Fogle, conference executive director, Church of the Brethren, New Windsor, Md., was appointed to fill a two-year term, completing the term of the late Cookie Hernandez.
  • RCMA’s board of directors selected Kansas City, Mo., as the site for the 2012 conference. RCMA will be held in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2010, and Tampa, Fla., in 2011.
  • Click here for RCMA 2009 video highlights.