When suppliers ask for my thoughts on the religious market, one thing I say is: Religious meetings always will be there. Good times, bad times, it doesn't matter — religious meetings continue to be held. If you stick with religious meetings in the good times, those meetings will be there when you really need them. Like right now.

In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, one sector of the meetings field — religious meetings — held strong while other market niches collapsed.

As a result, suppliers who didn't understand the importance of religious meetings “found religion” and strengthened their efforts to attract religious conferences to their destinations and facilities. Of course, the economy slowly gained strength, and some suppliers went away from the religious market.

Guess what? Times are tough again. And our exclusive survey of religious meeting planners (see pages 58-60) shows that — while planners have concerns about attendance levels for 2009 — their meetings will take place as scheduled.

In fact, 9 percent of the survey participants believe that meeting attendance will increase in 2009. One of those planners summed up why attendance will not drop: “People need our meetings.” That's the truth. Consider what happened this September.

In the immediate aftermath of the financial meltdown, religious leaders said attendance was up at lunchtime meetings in New York's financial district, with many more people in business attire than usual.

The Reverend Mark Bozzuti-Jones of Trinity Church Wall Street told reporters that people didn't know if their employers would survive from one day to the next.

“The economic financial crisis is a reminder that we cannot put our faith in riches, that we cannot put our faith in money,” Rev. Bozzuti-Jones said during the crisis in a lunchtime sermon, which he devoted to coping with the financial crisis.

So to those suppliers who have shown faith in religious meetings no matter what the business cycle — well done, and thank you. For those who have not always valued religious meetings but need these meetings now — you've learned an important lesson.

Religious meetings always will be there.