Rather than move ahead with plans for Inspire 2024, the denomination's every-other-year ministry conference hosted since 2017, the Christian Reformed Church’s Council of Delegates decided instead to ask staff to study the feasibility of continuing it.
At its October meeting the Council heard that the evaluation of attendees to Inspire 2022, which took place Aug. 4-6 in Tinley Park, Ill., was positive. It also heard that attendance was much lower than previous Inspire gatherings and that revenue did not cover costs.
Of 422 people in attendance, 30 percent were speakers, denominational staff, and expo vendors. Only 292 were regular attendees. Inspire 2017 in Detroit, Mich., drew 800 people, Inspire 2019 in Windsor, Ont., drew 720 people.
Nate Van Denend, Classis Ontario Southwest, wondered if attendance was affected by continued travel restrictions this summer related to the COVID-19 pandemic. “I suspect that 2024 would be quite a bit different,” he said.
The first two Inspire events were underwritten by the Richard and Helen DeVos foundation, with the hope that momentum would carry future events forward without that funding. Kristen VanderBerg, CRC director of communications and marketing, noted that total costs of Inspire 2022 were about $142,000 with revenues near $115,000. Those costs don’t include staff time dedicated to planning and carrying out the event. VanderBerg noted that a team of 10 met monthly for almost two years. “In terms of staff time, there is a significant cost of all the salary of all those hours.”
The cost to send staff (paid for by individual ministries) came to an additional $93,000.
Jill Feikema, Classis Illiana, said her church brought 20 people to Inspire 2022, where they made incredibly diverse connections. “It was transformational,” she said. “I would not want to disengage in this way (of meeting) if we couldn’t continue something in that form even on a smaller basis.”
The Council asked staff to bring a report to its February 2023 meeting regarding the feasibility of Inspire 2024.