Over the nearly two decades of Vineyard Missions hosting the Missions Leaders Meeting (MLM), we consistently hear praise for how refreshed and inspired the attendees leave when the week is over. Today we will go behind the scenes with the Vineyard Missions (VM) administrative team and see what it takes to host this event.
October 2017: The VM leadership team gathers for a debrief and review of the MLM which has just concluded. In this post-conference meeting, the strengths and weaknesses of the conferences are discussed among the larger leadership team. A planning committee is chosen for the following year, usually led by the Learning Community Team. The admin team is packing up and inventorying the last of the office supplies and hospitality table. Reservations are made with Glen Eyrie’s staff for the following year, same time, same place (for the past 11 years).
February 2018: After the holidays in the U.S. have had a chance to settle down, the planning committee goes to work eight months in advance of the MLM with a Zoom video call. Here there is prayerful discussion and talking discernment of ideas to see what theme develops for the October event.
This stage continues for the next couple of months as it becomes more clear who will be attending the next MLM. Save-the-date notices go out to the primary invitees: our international partnership leaders, missions pastors at our larger Vineyard churches, the leadership teams of both Vineyard Missions and Multiply Vineyard, and the key personnel that play specific roles in the event - people like intercessors, spiritual directors, coaches, worship team musicians, and administrative staff.
Time is given to observing who the Holy Spirit is raising up to be the main speakers and session facilitators and there is continued development of the themes God is highlighting in the planning committee. “It almost always has something to do with leadership development.” said Mark Walker, who headed the planning committee for 2018’s gathering.
May-June 2018: A general first draft has emerged, just in time to be re-written. The schedule of meetings is also re-assessed to exclude portions that have previously disrupted the flow of both morning and evening sessions.
June-August 2018: In the VM office setting by this time of year, it has become obvious that some of our key players will no longer be able to attend. Because of pregnancies, the team begins the search to find alternative worship leaders and a replacement administrative host. Guest lists are being produced for partnership leaders and missional leaders at this time. The back end of website development is taking place at a good pace - editing, beta testing, and practice registrations are submitted to work out any kinks.
The first level of invitation codes are released to the men and women who have invited to attend. Speakers and leaders are recruited and finalized. Then a second and third wave of attendees are invited, and it is a first-come, first-served registration process. About 180 attendees begin lining up their flights and submitting their arrival and departure times.
September 2018: Chris Costello, our primary Vineyard Missions event coordinator, and Christine Cottrell, part of the VM administrative staff, are hard at work in tracking all the data. (Christine works on her laptop from a hospital bed this year as she is being monitored and preparing to deliver twins.) They manage all the incoming data in a myriad of spreadsheets, tracking down and updating arrival days and times for speakers, attendees, and first-timers who usually arrive a day early for an orientation to the MLM and crash-course on Vineyard Partnership training on Monday from 9-4. Christine prayerfully completes the room assignments, with requested and compatible roommates and send those to the Glen Eyrie staff who are hard at work hiring extra staff for meal preparation and housekeeping. Then of course, there’s the additional signage to prepare for our break-out groups by country affiliation, prayer, spiritual direction, and coaching sessions.
Mid-September 2018: The freight train has begun to roll as office supplies, resources, and displays are shipped to Glen Eyrie from the VM office, Vineyard Resources, Multiply Vineyard, and some of our speakers. Last minute room adjustments are made. The shuttle data with flight times is written and later re-written as flights are delayed or canceled.
September 28-29, 2018: The administrative hosting team descends on Glen Eyrie, including a couple of prayer team members who will help with set-up. After a warm welcome, the team begins assembling the displays, the welcome booklets and letter, and the lanyard name tags. The Glen Eyrie staff deliver supplies to the right areas of Glen Eyrie’s spacious and lush campus, the VM office team is getting used to the altitude, the chilly temperatures, and the stairs, oh so many stairs!
Early on Saturday morning comes The Shopping Trip. The Walmart candy aisle is raided with two shopping carts and a list of previously loved chocolate treats, mints, and fruit-flavored candies to supply a hospitality table for all the attendees to treat themselves to some junk food after a long year of working hard around the world. Also included in The Shopping Trip are toiletry and medicinal items guests may have forgotten or not known they needed, as well as practical items such as hats/gloves/flashlights.
September 30, 2018: The office in the Glen Eyrie Castle goes into production, complete with a printer for additional signage, speaker handouts and notes, and spreadsheets to make sure nothing is missed. The shuttle drivers begin their routes between Glen Eyrie and COS airport, and the missional leaders from Vineyards across the U.S. begin to trickle onto the manicured grounds.
All that chocolate gets inventoried and set out over two tables of pure delight!
At the registration table after checking into their well-appointed rooms, attendees pick up their welcome hug greeting, name tags, and a majority of them receive on-the-spot prayer along with a schedule of when meals and sessions will start on Monday morning. A few after-9-PM arrivals receive their room keys at the main gate and enjoy their welcome greeting just before the classes begin after breakfast.
October 1, 2018: The shuttles are in full swing by late morning making round trips nearly every hour to deliver Vineyard missions leaders to Glen Eyrie. On-the spot prayer continues as they arrive, and new and old friends begin connecting over coffee, tea, and snacks in the Carriage House Courtyard. Back in the office, there are MC scripts to be written and announcements with slides to be organized according to priority.
The band arrives, unloads, sets up, and begins sound check.
By 6:00 PM nearly the entire guest list has arrived in time for a yummy dinner together around table-clothed round tables, and many laughs and stories are shared over the 90-minute meal time. The countdown on Facebook Live starts. Fresh coffee and bottles of water are available outside the main room--along with the fully stocked candy table.
Then the appointed time arrives, and at 7:30 with the first notes of worship, everything comes together. The people are rearing to worship, Facebook Live clicks into gear, and Jesus is glorified! Guests who need to remain unobserved on social media for safety reasons have been marked and sit in a designated area, and photographs/videographers have been alerted to their presence and off-limits status.
The admin team is available to run interference with any questions or difficulty that might arise for guests or leaders.
Some of the reasons, in our fully biased opinion, that we think the MLM is a stand-out meeting in the Vineyard are:
The semi-remote but simply stunning location, complete with the difficulty of cell-service that helps leaders disconnect from lives that are constantly being pulled on as pastors and leaders who work all over the globe;
The easy-to-work-with and flexible personalities inherent in leaders who work in missions;
The prayer teams, the spiritual directors, and coaches who volunteer their time to work with our leaders;
The chocolate table;
The hospitality items available to help our missional leaders feel loved without having to arrange for a lift into town;
All the coffee and delicious meals provided by Glen Eyrie;
The planning that goes into the loose, relational schedule that offers 90 minute meal times 3 times a day, 2 hours in the afternoon to meet by region, and afternoon free time for hiking, conversations, or naps;
Did I mention the chocolate table? It‘s restocked twice per day.
Throughout the eight-month planning process, this conference is fueled by prayer, the Holy Spirit, relationships, coffee, and chocolate. We wouldn’t have it any other way!
Kim Frolander, Vineyard Missions Blogger
Kim Frolander started attending Inverness Vineyard Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1994. She spent two years as a volunteer/missionary in Jerusalem, Israel, and upon coming home, she trained with Bubba Justice and led missions at IVC for 3.5 years. Now she uses her experience and degrees in research and writing, (formally known as English and History) for curating resources for Vineyard Missions. She has authored eight books and recently founded a non-profit ministry, the Ruth Israel Initiative.