November 30, 2014
By Fred Koenig
I recently participated in the annual meeting of the United Methodist Association of Communicators. The meeting has workshops, presentations from United Methodist Communications, and opportunities to network with people from other Conferences. I’ve found the organization valuable, and have agreed to serve on their board.
One of the favorite things journalists like to do when they get together is give each other awards. Modest awards, mind you, these are certificates printed on a piece of 8 ½ by 11 paper, although it is a heavy paper, practically card-stock. This year the Missouri Conference received second place in the print magazine category (congratulations to first place Virginia Conference) and second place in the digital publication category (congratulations to first place North Georgia Conference). This meant that I had to pull down last year’s first place piece of paper that I had sticky-tacked to my wall, and replace it with a second place, a bitter-sweet experience. Hopefully, someday we will bring home the coveted Best of Class award, a small plastic trophy. That would mean wrestling it away from the national magazines like The Interpreter and New World Outlook, but I believe that we can do it.
When I meet with communicators from other United Methodist Conferences, there are four things they know about Missouri:
- Bishop Schnase
- Bob Farr
- Camping Changes
A lot of Bishops are not so well known outside of their own Conferences, but everyone knows Bishop Schnase. Most got to know him through The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, but now when I meet the communicators they are talking about The Seven Levers. I’m going to predict The Seven Levers won’t make the New York Times best seller list, but if you’re in a position where you need to understand and relate to changes occurring in the United Methodist Church at the Conference level, there has never been another book that is more relative.
Bob Farr is known for his teaching. When he’s not working on the Healthy Church Initiative, church planting and other issues relating to congregational excellence, he’s often sharing with other Conferences things he has learned from his experience here in Missouri.
Everyone knows about Ferguson, regardless of church connection. Thanks primarily to work of Rev. Willis Johnson, people also know the local United Methodist Church at the epicenter of the situation is doing what it can to seek justice and peace.
The changes in camping and retreat ministries is also being watched by other Conferences. The reason it is garnering so much attention is that it’s an atypically big change to occur in one year’s time. That speaks neither in favor nor against the change.
So the people who are paid to communicate know what’s going on. Contrast that level of knowledge with the average United Methodist. I asked a friend who is an active United Methodist in a rural church how his church had reacted to changes in camping ministry. He didn’t know what I was talking about. I gave him a quick run-down, and he was surprised to learn that the Conference owns four camping and retreat centers. I’ve heard from camp site directors who say they meet people who are United Methodist who don’t know about the camps. You could put that on me. Maybe I should give back my certificate. The problem is, I often meet United Methodists who don’t know that we have a Missouri Conference magazine, so featuring something in these pages doesn’t guarantee that everyone knows about it.
That’s where you come in. If you’re reading this online, share a link to it on Facebook, email a link to your friends, or include a link in your church’s newsletter. If you read the magazine on paper, pass it along to a friend after you’ve finished with it. There’s an amazing range of ministry the United Methodist Church is connected to, as well as outstanding ministries within local churches that other churches should know about. I try to bring you both in this publication, and I hope you will pass it along to others.