Case Study: Honolulu 2012
Event: The annual Honolulu Conference is the largest event put on by Hawaiian Island Ministries, an organization founded by Dan and Pam Chun in 1983 in order to bring well-known speakers, teachers and musicians to Hawaii. Honolulu 2012, held March 22-24, featured main conference sessions, breakout seminars, a worship concert and youth programs. “When the ministry started, people didn’t travel that much away from Hawaii,” says Mary Vinson, executive director and event planner for HIM. “Even today when kids go to college, for many of them, it’s the first time they leave the island.” The three-day event quickly outgrew Chun’s church, First Presbyterian Honolulu, and moved into a hotel, then a bigger hotel, and now it’s held annually at the Honolulu Convention Center. It attracts between 3,500 and 5,000 pastors, church leaders and youth from as many as 400 congregations across the Hawaiian Islands.
Off-Site Planner: Vinson moved back to the states—to Virginia—from Hawaii in 2005 and has continued to serve as executive director of the ministries remotely. “We do all of our meetings face-to-face on iChat,” she says. “I make sure I’m always available to my team. I kept the Hawaii 808 area code. They know they can call me at 5 p.m.
their time, which is 10 p.m. my time. I talk to them individually throughout the week, and every Monday we have a meeting, have prayer time, and we catch up on their personal lives and business.”
Volunteers: Many of the 200 volunteers who help run the event have served for as many as 20 years and have kids who now volunteer. “We have key volunteers who we call ‘angels,’ and there might be 30 of those who are there about 18 hours a day Thursday, Friday and Saturday,” she says. “They are in charge of everything—monitoring rooms, giving directions, moving equipment, doing room counts and a myriad of different things.”
Travel and Accommodations: The economy and the cost of hotels in Hawaii have made it difficult for some people who have to pay their own registration, transportation and housing to attend. “Hotels in Hawaii are expensive,” says Vinson. “I do a couple room blocks at a couple of different hotels at the cheapest rate I can find. Unlike the mainland, though, Hawaii hotels don’t hold HIM financially responsible for room block commitments. “I just make a commitment that I’m going to pay for so many rooms for my master list—I pay for speakers, staff, key volunteers—and then other people can get the lower rate by calling the hotel. Those rooms can be released a couple weeks before the conference for the hotel to use for their own purposes.”
Funding: Vinson’s biggest challenge is the rising cost of facility and equipment rental. A foundation has made it possible for HIM to purchase a lot of production equipment as long as other nonprofits can use it for free. Another foundation has funded the cost for a youth track at the conference, but that funding is running out.
Youth Track: Youth and adults attend the opening and closing plenary sessions together, but youth have their own plenary sessions the rest of the conference, a free concert on the second night and youth-only workshops, though they’re free to attend adult sessions. “The HIM youth track has become the largest youth gathering in Hawaii, and it gives us an opportunity to bring in some really great speakers and teachers that bring in solid teaching.” The youth workshops are based on Andy Stanley’s book, “The Seven Checkpoints: Seven Principles Every Teenager Needs to Know.”
Inspiration: “I’m passionate about what HIM does for youth,” Vinson says. “Big churches have resources to do the things they want to do—invite speakers and musicians in—but the majority of churches in America are small- to medium-sized and don’t have those resources. HIM conferences help them do whatever their area of ministry is. We bring them something of value that they can take away, and in the case of the youth, stick with them forever.”