To George E. McKain II, integrity means telling the truth and doing the best job that you can.

That's part of the reason he became a member of RCMA and a certified meeting professional.

“RCMA has integrity among religious people,” says McKain, the meeting planner for the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.

He joined RCMA in 1997, about a year after assuming his denomination's meeting planning duties. “My concept of life is ‘excellence without excuse.’ In order to give the church the cutting edge, I had to be the best wealth of knowledge I could be,” he says of pursuing his CMP.

An Early Start in Planning

But God had been preparing him, by placing opportunities for education along his life path. “It's really funny, because it started when I was in college,” McKain says. As president of the denomination's youth group, he and a colleague were called to help with the national mission convention. “From that day I started learning the mechanics of the back of the room.

“From there things started happening that got me prepared,” he says. He majored in business at Livingstone College, and had a one-year internship with the Department of Labor in New York. Then he accepted the call to the ministry and started seminary at Hood Theological Seminary in North Carolina. During that time, he served as an interim pastor at a Presbyterian church for nine months and later worked at Livingstone as director of admissions while pursuing his graduate studies.

Full-time ministry in Somerville, S.C., followed, with 15 years serving a congregation while assisting in starting three new churches.

In 1996, he was elected director of meeting planning for the church during its quadrennial general conference.

Immediately, he saw things that needed to be changed, and he reinvented in his position. The first task was re-establishing his role. The bishops had considered outsourcing the church's meeting planning, but determined at the “11th hour” that it wouldn't be feasible with the church's number and range of meetings. “I became a one-person team to resurrect what the body was determined to bury,” he recalls.

That included organizing records. Because meeting planning was so decentralized, every hotel or visitors bureau had a different contact name, phone number, and address for the church. Now his department has an office at the denominational headquarters in Charlotte, N.C., and solid contracts and RFPs, he says.

A Full Calendar

He continues to live in Somerville, however. Since 60 percent of his time is on the road, with site business, being away from the offices doesn't create a hardship.

He is kept busy with many meetings. The denomination of 1.32 million has seven major meetings annually and several regional and departmental meetings. Meetings range from the Board of Bishops in February, attended by 800 to 1,000 people, to larger summer conferences where as many as 10,000 gather. During the last weekend in April, McKain and 1,200 people attended the mission department's 125th anniversary celebration in Montgomery, Ala. “Things like that happen,” he says of gatherings.

Meetings are held throughout United States, as well as some international sites, mainly the United Kingdom and Bahamas. Tradition had it that meetings were held at host churches. With growth in meetings, that is changing. Church facilities are not prepared to handle the crowds. Now, “I do bidding out based on where I can find the best space and rates for the dates.”

He is able to do a lot of work at RCMA. “It's the best trade show expo that I've encountered as a religious meeting planner,” McKain says. “Rarely have I gone outside of RCMA contacts” for meeting needs, he says, noting that being together at RCMA “takes relationships to another level.”

GETTING TO KNOW

George E. McKain II

Born: Ridgewood, N.J.

College: Livingstone College, Salisbury, N.C.

Seminary: Hood Theological Seminary, Salisbury

Family: Married

Hobbies: Nonwork travel, time with family and friends, volunteering with United Negro College Fund and his college fraternity