ST. LOUIS (BP) — Hotel reservations for the upcoming Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting are up 23 percent from last year’s total in Columbus, Ohio, leading some convention leaders to project an increased messenger total as well.
Some 13,275 hotel room nights in St. Louis have been reserved for the annual meeting while 4,923 messengers have been pre-registered online so far, the SBC Executive Committee reported. That’s up from 10,829 hotel room night reservations in 2015 and 3,267 pre-registered messengers.
The messenger pre-registration total to date marks a 51 percent increase over 2015.
Convention manager Bill Townes said he projects 6,000-7,000 messengers in St. Louis and 10,000-11,000 total attendees based on the hotel and pre-registration numbers. SBC registration secretary Jim Wells told Baptist Press he agrees with Townes’ assessment. Last year, 5,407 messengers attended the meeting in Columbus, Ohio, Wells reported.
Townes, who also serves as Executive Committee vice president for convention finance, told BP in written comments his projection “is just an educated estimate at this point.”
“Based on my best estimate at this point, I would suggest that the hotel reservations are a pretty good indicator of our anticipated increase in attendance. I think the pre-registered messenger count will fluctuate greatly on a daily basis and may be impacted by a number of factors,” Townes said.
Hotel advance registration closed May 18, but online messenger registration continues through the annual meeting. One noted change this year includes the requirement that each messenger, exhibitor and guest be registered and properly badged for entrance into the general sessions June 14-15. Messengers and guests can pre-register by going to www.sbcannualmeeting.net and selecting Messenger/Guest Pre-registration.
Last month, Executive Committee staff reported preschool child care registration for this year’s annual meeting reached capacity ahead of its May 6 deadline and had surpassed 2015 registration by more than 30 percent. See related story.
SBC President Ronnie Floyd told BP “Southern Baptists need to be encouraged” by the hints of an upward attendance trend.
“We have worked hard, not just in casting the vision, but creating a new convention format we believe is more streamlined, but also very focused in packaging an entire message to our Southern Baptist Convention and even beyond,” Floyd said in written comments.
“Our emphasis on ‘Great Awakening’ a year ago and this year on ‘Awaken America, Reach the World’ is resonating with our churches and beyond our Southern Baptist family,” Floyd said. “To anyone still considering or who should be reconsidering joining us for these two days, do it! God is at work. We want you involved with us in St. Louis.”
Floyd continued, “Congratulations to our Order of Business Committee and Executive Committee staff team. Together, God has used this team to forward this clear and compelling vision for Southern Baptists.”
The 4,852 registered messengers to attend the 2011 SBC annual meeting in Phoenix marked the lowest total since 1944. Since 2012, messenger registration has fluctuated between 5,103 and 7,874.
In a departure from data-gathering practices at previous SBC annual meetings, the number of overall attendees will be calculated in St. Louis in addition to the number of messengers from Southern Baptist churches.