When I attended the Northeast Jurisdictional Conference in 2008, I was amazed at the luxury we stayed in: it was a stark difference from the small country church that I grew up in. At some level there is always a struggle between local churches and the larger church surrounding apportionments (or ministry shares or taxes, however you want to name it). I have seen the good work that money can do with missions and advocacy, but the lodging at the Northeastern Jurisdictional (NEJ) Conference showed me poor stewardship was practiced with money shared in good faith. After 2008 I, along with others, shared our displeasure and requested that the committee consider a more affordable location, such as a college campus, where NEJ conferences had historically been held.
A friend and I were fortunate enough to be elected as delegates to the 2012 NEJ conference. When registering for the conference, we decided to refuse the expensive housing plan, and we brought a tent instead. Having to work Monday, we drove down late and spent the first night in the back of my pickup truck. After interviews on Tuesday, we set up our tent at the corner of the Civic Center and bedded down for the night with a sign outside asking folks if we could be better stewards. Several from our delegation offered floor space or to even pitch in for a room. There were others that offered support. We made it through the night without being bothered; this itself was something to be celebrated. We had anticipated being asked to leave and were prepared to do so. We were pleased that our tent and sign were present as everyone walked to the session on Wednesday morning, but when we checked on the tent at the first break, it had been removed. Civic Center staff stated that they had asked NEJ staffs if they would like the tent in place, and NEJ staff responded to have it removed. After speaking with the Civic Center staff, they were glad to return the tent (though it seemed like having to go to see the principal).
We hoped that delegates and visitors would see our tent and sign and be more aware of the need to spend our money more responsibly. If you would prefer to see your Jurisdictional Conference offer more reasonably-priced lodging options or have delegates stay on a college campus, I would encourage contacting the chair of the programs and arrangements committee of your jurisdiction.
Maybe if we offered options for delegates to stay at a more affordable hotel, a college campus, or at a campground, savings could be used to purchase more mosquito nets for sub-Saharan Africa, send more youth on mission trips, and live out our mission to transform the world.