Ok, so you want to have a family friendly annual meeting. Here are some thoughts from a young husband that deigned to bring his wife and 22 month old son.
Here it goes.
First thing: High Chairs.
Seriously. If you want “young families” to be there, then be ready for them to bring their “young” children. I’m not talking just about the myriad of dinners happening at night, I’m also talking about the congregational area next to all the booths. If you don’t want the kids, then I’m thinking you don’t want the parents.
Along with the first, how about some Children’s Safety Seats in the shuttle busses. I know you aren’t going to do it. But, don’t try to market the shuttles if 1) they never really show up, and 2) they aren’t safe for our younger children. The state has rules regarding this, pretty strict rules if I remember. Rules that deal with weight, height, and all sorts of things.
Did I mention that the shuttle never seemed to show up on time? Yeah, it really was that bad, which leads to our third thing – Hotel Placement/Transportation.
If you are going to offer some special hotel deal to bring the young families in, then 1) have it right next to the Convention Center (not a mile away), or 2) Let people know that they will have to use their cars. #2 is the best option, in my opinion. That saves on the BGCT trying to invest in child safety seats.
Concerning Hotels in general – If a young family is taking you up on some special deal, it is probably because they are poor. They don’t get paid a bunch at their church, lucky to make over $30K. Their spouse has to work a job just to make ends meet. Don’t put them in a hotel where they are going to be blowing $25 on parking, and over $100 on two days worth of breakfast. It would have been better for us if you would have gotten us rooms at the local La Quinta, which has free parking and a continental breakfast. It would have been cheaper to pay for parking at the convention center than paying for breakfast at the mega-expensive downtown hotel. Oh, and the La Quinta usually has a little refrigerator, where young families can keep the drinks/goodies for their young children which they may use at night.
Now, if you want to prepare for young children…you know, those that come with young families…then perhaps looking at some sort of childcare would be appropriate. I’m thinking, you have one large hall set aside, and maybe ask a couple of local Baptist Student Ministries to man it. You may be able to borrow some child appropriate games/toys/etc. from some local congregations. Be ready to have something in this area to take care of babies through toddlers.
Next, have events for the older children. Practically every medium to larger church has some kind of video game in their youth department; borrow them! Have a game room set up for the younger kids, maybe some activities for them to take part in. Have some workshops that would interest teenagers. If nothing else, have a movie room where they can be for a couple of hours.
Also, have something for the spouses. That one booth for minister’s wives doesn’t count. Have specific workshops geared toward parenting, ones that deal with marital issues, finances…you know, things that really count. The dialogue on Calvinism is nice, but totally useless in the walk-a-day world. Also, remember that women are in ministry as well. The newer breed of husband desires to be greatly supportive of their wives, and very well may be attending the “spouses” workshops. We are beyond the “Minister’s Wives” stereotype.
Maybe this can give the committee charged with figuring this stuff out something to think about.