Have religious meetings ever been more important to the meetings industry than they are right now? Everywhere you turn, there's news that corporate and business meetings are being canceled.

Here are three examples:

  • After 231 years in operation, The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Marriott International Inc. intends to buy the 721-room resort, pending bankruptcy court approval and new labor agreements.

  • Las Vegas' drastic drop in meetings and conventions business over the last several months has forced the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to suspend a plan to expand and renovate the Las Vegas Convention Center. The LVCVA board of directors voted in mid-March to delay the $890 million project until mid-2010. The decision comes after the LVCVA reported that the city had seen more than 300 meetings and conventions canceled over a three-month period, leading to a loss of more than 100,000 visitors and an estimated $131 million in spending.

  • TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) recipients continue to be media and political targets. Even companies that are still operating successfully in the down economy are finding themselves being forced to cancel meetings, or at least to keep a low profile when holding events. For example, Brick Street Mutual Insurance Co. of Charleston, W.Va., canceled its annual agents' meeting this year based on perception issues, not financial duress.

As a result of the turmoil, convention centers, hotels, and resorts are under extreme pressure to find replacements for those meetings. Many are turning to religious meeting planners, making new efforts to renew or build their relationships.

So what should you be doing in this volatile market? I urge you to read Barbara Dunn's annual “State of the Industry” analysis of the market on page 47; it might be the most important piece you read this year about meeting planning. Barbara lays out how you should approach contracts, risk, and negotiations. Before you make your next meeting-planning decision, please read her column.

I also urge you to remember that people in your organizations and denominations who have been hurt by this economy need comfort and support. Those people need you and your meetings in a way they never have before.