Behind the Scenes:
Five Overlooked Facts About General Assembly
General Assembly is just two months away! Many commissioners experience GA without realizing the level of complexity the Administrative Committee handles for the PCA to coordinate our annual gathering.
A recent conversation with Mrs. Amanda Burton again highlighted the multi-faceted and long-term planning that precedes every General Assembly. As PCA Meeting Planner, Mrs. Burton navigates all the ins and outs of planning and “putting on” an Assembly and deals with five key facts that even the most faithful attendees might not realize about General Assembly, just in the one area of site selection.
1. It takes at least three years to plan a General Assembly.
The process begins when a possible site is identified – for example, when a presbytery or local churches contact the Administrative Committee (AC) to express interest in hosting an Assembly in their bounds or when AC staff learn of potential benefits available in some city. AC staff members will visit a prospective city to tour facilities and meet with local officials. After multiple site visits, a contract may be negotiated, a host committee formed, and more detailed planning begun.
2. Multiple cities compete to host a General Assembly.
A General Assembly typically brings 3,500 visitors to a city, including commissioners, exhibitors, and family members. Of course, cities are interested in hosting events of this size, which means they compete for our business. We are often considering at least three locations for each year, and we reject more proposals from cities than we accept. Two key factors in choosing a city are its affordability for commissioners and the interest and support from the local presbytery.
3. The General Assembly represents an economic impact of over $3M+ to a city.
When 3,500 people visit a city over a five-day period, they spend money on hotel rooms, restaurants, and local attractions. General Assembly represents 3,000 nights of hotel room reservations and approximately 40,000 meals purchased in local restaurants, not to mention cups of coffee! Putting it all together, an Assembly pumps over $3,000,000 into the local economy, thereby benefiting hotel staff, housekeepers, servers, baristas, and more. Though it is often overlooked, one way to bless hourly wage workers in the heart of your city is to host an Assembly.
4. A primary point of emphasis in negotiations is hotel room rates.
The Administrative Committee enters into a binding agreement with local officials once a site is selected. Many details are negotiated into the contract, from the dates of the event to availability of WiFi throughout the facility. However, a primary point of emphasis in negotiations is securing the lowest room rates possible for commissioners. In fact, local officials often offer to negotiate lower hotel room rates so the AC will choose their city. A goal of the Administrative Committee is always to minimize the expenses of commissioners as much as possible.
5. It takes an “army” of volunteers to pull off an Assembly.
The unsung heroes of any Assembly are the members of the local host committee. These are members from churches in the local presbytery who volunteer their time to coordinate various details from worship services to family activities. Most of the people who help you register, find a meeting room, and oversee children’s activities are volunteers (primarily from the host committee, but also from all over the PCA). Needless to say, our small AC staff could not cover alone all the bases for an event involving over 3,000 attendees! So the AC coordinates the efforts of scores of volunteers to make the Assembly welcoming and enjoyable. We are especially thankful for the host committee in St. Louis, who have been working tirelessly through a pandemic to make sure everyone who comes to GA this year will have a safe and enjoyable experience in their city.
It’s not too late to register for General Assembly in St. Louis. Looking forward, mark your calendars for future assemblies, where host committees in Birmingham and Memphis are already at work making preparations for our visit. We are thankful to God for the places He has provided for us to convene and prayerful for the business to be conducted. And if you are interested in finding out how your presbytery could host at General Assembly – get in touch! Email firstname.lastname@example.org.