In a rural farming town in southern Missouri, Verdell Jackson was a respected minister at the Pentecostal church. He was a self-taught theologian, and he and his wife worked hard to serve the needs of the parishioners and community. They prayed that their children would see the value of faith and commitment to service. They accomplished their mission. Both their sons, Thomas and David, grew up to be Pentecostal ministers and have committed their lives to service.

In His Father's Footsteps

“Negotiating the best rates for the church is a challenging process.”
Thomas Jackson

One of the Jackson boys, Thomas, accepted a call to the ministry at age 15.

“I felt a definite call to God on my life so strongly that I could not resist,” Jackson says. He made such an impression on the parishioners that at the age of 17, when his father decided to resign as pastor, the congregation requested that the younger Jackson step in and fill his shoes. Thomas served as church pastor for the next 11 years. During that time he asked his high school sweetheart, Sue, to marry him. She accepted, and within two years they had a son, Bradford; a daughter, Marcia, arrived three years later.

Moving On

In 1968, Jackson accepted the position of director of promotion and publications at the youth division of the United Pentecostal Church International in Hazelwood, Mo. Three years later he moved within the organization to the position of executive administrative assistant to the general superintendent. In this position, Jackson got his first taste of meeting planning, being responsible for the annual general conference of 15,000 to 18,000 attendees.

Meeting planning in those days was different from what it is today. “The contracts with convention and lodging facilities are more complex, and negotiating the best rates for the church is a challenging process,” Jackson says. Programs also are much more elaborate. Last year, for example, “the first evening's session included a 30-piece orchestra comprised of Pentecostal professional musicians from North America. It was a huge success.”

Back to UPCI

Jackson's career has included serving as pastor of a church in southern Illinois, a stint as president of Texas Bible College, and working as editor of Word Aflame Publications, the literary arm of the organization serving the Pentecostal schools in the United States and Canada.

In 1985, Jackson returned to his position as executive administrative assistant to the general superintendent at UPCI, and he has been serving in that job ever since. He is responsible for many things, but planning the group's annual meeting for 15,000 to 20,000 is a big part of what he does.

Traditionally, each year the meeting has been held in a city in the United States, but in 2003, for the first time the group will be gathering outside the United States, in Toronto. The meeting's primary purpose is the business of the church — election of officials and voting on bylaws. There always has been an evangelical aspect to it, however.

“Some of the best conferences have been those where there have been actual baptisms during the evening services, as a direct result of someone witnessing to them during the conference,” Jackson says.

Serving RCMA

Jackson, a 20-year RCMA member, was appointed in 2001 to the RCMA Board of Directors. “RCMA sessions and the encouragement of other Certified Meeting Professionals greatly influenced my decision to obtain the CMP designation in 1997 to better my meeting-planning skills.”

RCMA is “a great way to meet and converse with other meeting planners about sites they have previously used and problems they may or may not have experienced in a particular city.

“It's also very helpful to meet a lot of people from various convention bureaus and hotels and touch base regarding upcoming meetings we have already scheduled,” he says. “Since we plan at least five years in advance, it is always good to visit the exhibitors' area to discuss our upcoming meetings and renew friendships.”