Word is out! Barna’s annual list of America’s most Bible-minded cities was released in January, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, is back on top. After dropping behind its Alabama neighbors of Birmingham/Anniston/Tuscaloosa in 2015, the home of the famous choo choo has reclaimed its No. 1 spot on the list for 2016.
“[The title] really enhances Chattanooga’s image as a destination for faith-based meetings,” says Jennye Miller, who has spent the last two decades as director of religious accounts for Chattanooga CVB. “We’ve always been somewhat attractive to that market segment, but anytime you can add this to your resume, it really increases your exposure.”
Though the city is on the small side (population 173,000 in 2013), it’s long been popular with faith-based events thanks to large venues such as the convention center, McKenzie Arena, Tivoli Theatre, and Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium. In 2015, 15 percent of total meetings in Chattanooga were from the religious segment, generating a total of 10,368 room nights.
The Barna ranking reflects the broad sense of spirituality around the whole area, says Miller. “Groups are welcomed by the community, not only convention center staff and hotel staff,” she says. “It’s also a family-oriented city. Many faith-based meetings are attended by family and guests, so they are able to get out and enjoy it.”
Miller, who’s been with the CVB for the last 35 years, will retire March 1. Her religious market replacement, Lori Dodd Morrison, has big shoes to fill—and she’s already using the Barna ranking to her advantage. “I’ve started using it in my solicitations to planners as well on social media,” she says, particularly LinkedIn and Twitter.
Coming to Chattanooga in 2016.
Christian Adult Higher Education Association
Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation
Hearts at Home
International Congress of Churches & Ministers
International Network of Children’s Ministry
Southeast Conclave, Georgia Baptist Association