By Jim Nieman
As the world has battled the coronavirus the last several months, representatives of the International Conference On Missions have repeatedly been asked the same question about their annual gathering, “Are you meeting in person or online in November?”
The answer finally came this week. ICOM 2020 will be both.
The gathering that attracts thousands of missionaries and mission-focused individuals each year will take place Friday and Saturday, Nov. 20 and 21, at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis.
But (and this is important), some of the activities that draw the largest crowds—including main sessions and workshops—will take place exclusively online.
“The ICOM staff spent weeks in all-day meetings praying over each aspect of the conference and going over every little detail,” said Emily Drayne, director of operations. “This decision did not come easily, but God has opened doors for ICOM to reach immeasurably more people by hosting a virtual event! We are excited to see how he will work through ICOM 2020.”
ICOM is planning a safe and comfortable in-person event—one which will feature the popular, but scaled back, exhibit area where people are so accustomed to connecting with friends and mission agencies—while also providing a robust and comprehensive virtual event.
“We want to be respectful of all opinions about meeting in person or virtually,” ICOM organizers wrote of the upcoming two-day event (formerly scheduled for four days). “If you have any concerns about meeting in person, we encourage you to join us virtually! If you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 or of any illness, please join us virtually for ICOM. For those of you who want to enjoy the onsite conference, we would love to host you in Indianapolis!”
Here is a breakdown of what will be offered on-site:
• Exhibit Hall: Smaller than in past years, but still a place to connect with friends and exhibitors. One special feature, Pioneer Bible Translators will offer an experiential walk-through showcasing the Bibles that have been translated and the languages yet to be translated.
• ICOM Hub: This brand-new element will feature missionary and ministry interviews, debriefing of main-session speakers, and more.
• SICOM (Student ICOM): SICOM will partner with the Indiana Christian Youth Convention for a 12-hour, Saturday-only event (that will also be available to online viewers). Nathan Betts, of the RZIM Global Student Team, will speak about the importance of a biblical worldview. Carrollton is slated to perform from the stage in Indy.
Among ICOM’s virtual/online events, attractions, and activities:
• Pre-Conference Events (Friday only): See theICOM.org for details.
• Workshops: All workshops will take place virtually, with both prerecorded and live, interactive presentations. The schedule will include 3 workshop slots, each with 15 choices. Workshop videos also will be available.
• Main Sessions: All main sessions will be recorded and streamed through the virtual platform to help ensure safety; there will be no large seating areas. ICOM 2020 president Jeff Vines, lead pastor of ONE&ALL Church in California, and his team will lead the main sessions that will feature missionary speakers speaking remotely from around the globe. Sessions will be streamed Friday evening, Saturday morning, and Saturday evening. This year’s theme is “The Cross Before Me.”
• ICOM Hub: Mission and ministry leaders will be interviewed at the “Hub,” a new feature at this year’s gathering.
• Exhibitor Profiles: The virtual platform will enable online visitors to tour exhibitors’ websites, social media sites, and more.
• ICOM Kids: Six children’s sessions will help teach children (kindergartners through fifth-graders) about sharing the love of Christ locally and around the world.
• SICOM: Church youth leaders are encouraged to stream watch parties on Saturday during this 12-hour event.
• Ticketed Events:
–Women of Purpose ($10)—Megan Rawlings of The Bold Movement will encourage and inspire women to “be bold.”
–Refresh: Missionary Moments (2 sessions/$10 total)—Missionaries from around the world will share amazing stories as you enjoy your lunch and dinner.
–Bible Study Series with Jeff Vines (3 sessions/$15 total)—Incredible Bible teaching from ICOM’s president. (These could be a great tool to study with your small group.)
LEADING UP TO NOVEMBER
The decision to make this change to an on-site/virtual hybrid gathering has just been announced, so theICOM.org website is still being updated to reflect all of the changes. Regular attendees of ICOM are encouraged take part in the gathering again this year. New participants, of course, are always welcome.
“We would love for you to go to theICOM.org and join our prayer effort, Pray7:14, and commit to pray for ICOM each day leading up the conference,” Drayne said. “We know prayer is powerful and God will do amazing things through his church. ICOM will be reopening registration soon, and whether you’d be joining us virtually or in person, we’d love for you to register for ICOM 2020.”
Jim Nieman serves as managing editor of Christian Standard.