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A great teacher

This past Christmas morning Carol opened a gift and found a framed print of this photograph. It is one she made in August of 1988, but had never seen it before now.

During the years I worked at LifeWay, many assignments took me to Ridgecrest, North Carolina. My family made most trips with me, and for us it was far more than a conference center. Most days, squeezed between the assignments of the day and night, we went on hikes, explored the shops and eateries in Black Mountain, or relaxed together on campus. Ridgecrest plays a significant role in our family's history.

Jim and kids at RidgecrestAs I think back on the work done over those years, it's interesting that I was never the typical conference attendee. My job was to tell the visual story of particular events in the surroundings provided by Ridgecrest. My familiarity with this place runs deep. Much of my time there was spent in search of new ways to present a very familiar scene. The quest for the compelling perspective and moment made it forever challenging and exciting.

Between family and coverage time, the average week at Ridgecrest was always very full. And of course, when I returned to Nashville, the work wasn't quite finished. The photographs then had to be distributed and archived. When at last the assignment was complete, I was already looking forward to going back.

For over a hundred years, events have been held at Ridgecrest that have inspired and given a fresh vision. Our annual BCA workshop, April 9-14, will be here soon, and I hope you are making plans to attend. Program chairs Polly House and Shawn Hendricks have planned an excellent time together. From the moment we arrive we will be given the opportunity to see and consider fresh perspectives and ideas. Of course, it will be fun and at times very relaxing, but it will also be a time of real growth.

The photograph that Carol made was in the midst of many that I had taken while on assignment at Ridgecrest. It took 25 years for me to see it. It's an image that provides a true glimpse of our children. Justin, always solid as a rock, is calm and relaxed. Nathan, the adventurer, is ready to climb the next mountain, literally. And Erin is forever curious about the possibilities, and never afraid to ask.

So, why did it take so long for me to notice this image? Time is a great teacher.

POSTED: Jan 20, 2014 | Jim Veneman - jimveneman@gmail.com

BCA: Your link to professional camaraderie/encouragement

Even after reading through the manual and trying everything imaginable, my wife and I could not get the engine in our car to start. It was 10:30 p.m. We were in Memphis, not in Jackson where we belonged.

Reality set in, and I pushed the little red button across from my car's window and summoned a towing service. Next, I pushed the little blue button just beneath my review mirror and began a conversation with someone far, far away.

Before even saying hello, she asked, "Are you okay and in a safe place?" I'm sure she has helped out in circumstances far more dire than ours, but at that moment we were very grateful for her assistance.

After an evening and early morning involving a number of people, we were on our way home. All is well, and it started with an almost magical link to a person I'll probably never meet. She is without a doubt one that knows how to take care of the details.

Thinking back over my time in SBC communications, it's easy to recall a host of friends, each with a unique set of gifts. Some see the infinite number of details that must be managed in order to achieve a goal or meet a deadline successfully. Others are more visionary and have a unique ability to see the future's potential.

Through years of involvement in communication, whether many or few, each one of us has become a blend. Our job descriptions have expanded into areas we might not actually include on our list of personal gifts. In fact, we may have days or even weeks that we spend working in some pretty uncertain territory. Doing our jobs is quite often a real adventure.

One of the best things about my unseen assistant last night was how she called back several times during the evening to make sure the plan was working. When we finally reached the end of our surprise experience, she checked one last time to confirm that we were on the road again and that we were okay. Sound familiar?

We all have times when we need help or encouragement. It may be about something small, and a quick conversation is the perfect remedy. But there are times when we find ourselves in deep water, praying help will come. Weve all been there.

Just as the members of a local church are richly diverse, BCA is packed with a wide range of personalities and gifts. Some manage the big picture; others take care of the infinite details. The places we work are just as different. Some work in large offices with a fast-paced atmosphere; some may not see another person all day. This broad description of our BCA membership is near the heart of its strength.

Late last night when our car decided to take a 12-hour break, that mystery voice provided the on-the-spot help we needed. Among the benefits of BCA membership, encouragement and assistance are near the top.

If you've not yet renewed your membership, there's no better time than now. And, if you know of someone who would benefit from being a part of this diverse organization, encourage that person to join.

Just as I had the "link" in my car to my much-needed assistance, here is your link to discovering professional encouragement and camaraderie: http://baptistcommunicators.org/membership/join.cfm

POSTED: Oct 2, 2013 | Jim Veneman - jimveneman@gmail.com

The best seat

Top of the 5th - Cardinals 3, Cubs 1.

I'm watching the game via satellite, complete with veteran announcers, close ups from countless perspectives, ultra-slow motion at the drop of a hat, and informative stats covering an amazing array of details. This is really incredible!

Just a moment ago, Cardinal left fielder Matt Holladay hit a line drive, three-run homer. An instant replay from the pitcher's perspective showed the faces of those seated in the stands right behind home plate. At the moment his bat struck the ball, their eyes and mouths opened wide, followed immediately by their arms going straight up into the air. Yep, like me, they were Cardinal fans. With 450 miles between us, I was right there with them.

Online game coverage is already analyzing the impact of this home run on the rest of the game, reflecting on detailed history from every perspective you can imagine. I started writing only a few minutes ago, and the information provided in that short time is nothing less than amazing. It's almost like being there. It's almost better than being there! Almost.

Like you, I've covered a lot of moments, some huge, some small, but all important to someone. Finding the best perspective for the camera usually takes me to the heart of the activity. It's almost always the best seat in the house. It seems our jobs almost always take us straight to the very center of what's happening.

That sort of involvement is where the real stories are found. It's from the inside that we're able to see and learn the most relevant details that are important to our audiences.

BCA membership is like being on the sideline of the game or having a seat right behind home plate. It provides opportunities that come only to those with that sort of insider's perspective. From uniquely directed professional development to discovering friendships that may outlast your career, BCA is the place for a professional communicator. It's the place for you.

If you want to renew your membership - or possibly join us for the first time - here's the link: http://baptistcommunicators.org/membership/join.cfm

Now, back to the game.
Top of the 8th  Cards 4, Cubs 2.

POSTED: Aug 19, 2013 | Jim Veneman - jimveneman@gmail.com

Benefits of membershiphood

It's amazing how clearly your childhood self reflects who you really are. In a sea full of communicators, I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that - in some form or another - I've always had a thing for words and storytelling. So I guess I shouldn't be surprised I became a journalist.

In fact, on my first day at my first journalism job, my coworker waxed eloquently about an organization called "Baptist Communicators Association," affectionately known as "BCA."

Her words made me excited to join, so now I want to take a moment to pass that excitement on to you by describing some of the opportunities that await you on the other side of BCA membershiphood (I told you - I have a thing for words... I just didn't say it was a good thing!). Current members, I realize you know how great BCA is already, but keep reading because there is new information for you too!

Every year, BCA members gather for an annual conference, rich with professional development and networking opportunities. The conference also plays host to the annual BCA awards competition, allowing members to submit their work to be judged by experts in their fields and then be recognized by their peers for their stellar work.

But professional development is not limited to the annual conference. This year, there are opportunities to further your craft throughout the year via the Web. And the key is  the sooner you join (or renew), the more you will benefit from these professional development opportunities!

And then, of course, there is the community. BCA provides a wonderful group of friends who can identify with your passion for communication, as well as a network of people across the world who are ready to encourage, offer assistance, provide guidance or simply discuss strategies.

Those of you who are renewing your membership have experienced many of these aspects already, but I encourage you to renew quickly because change is a'comin' and youre going to love the new professional development just around the corner!

For those of you who are considering joining BCA for the first time, let me just set you at ease. Whether you are joining for the annual conference, awards competition, professional development, encouraging community or because the guy in the next cubical bribed you, it is an investment you will not regret!

Joining or renewing your membership couldn't be easier. Here's the link: http://baptistcommunicators.org/jobs/. Now rev up those fingers and fill out that form - we want you in our membershiphood!

Now it's time to go study my vocabulary...

POSTED: Jul 11, 2013 | Jessica Vanderpool, Assistant Editor/Officer Manager, Arkansas Baptist News - jessica@arkansasbaptist.org

Summer: The Photographs Await

Summer's change of pace is here. Although planning and preparation for future initiatives and assignments never end, many of the more weighty projects have just been completed. At last, we're able to turn our attention to those things we've looked forward to for a long, long time.

For some this may mean a fabulous, once-in-a-lifetime experience abroad, while for others it might be a simple, long-delayed trip to a spot only a short distance from home. Summer provides time for other things too, like backyard Bible clubs, VBS, mission trips and family gatherings. Regardless of how we spend our time, we are likely to have experiences that will become our stories in the fall.

In only a few days, our family will rendezvous in a location that most may not think of as a dream vacation spot. There are no fabulous vistas, cobblestone streets, beaches, malls, examples of classic architecture or hotel pools. We're headed for south Arkansas, a place where the heat and humidity compete every day for the highest number. Mosquitoes and ticks call it home. So do I.

Carol and I were raised in the small town of Fordyce. Over the years her Dad, Jack, converted a small dairy barn into a house, surrounded by farmland and forest. There are a couple of ponds, a barn, cows and a long gravel lane leading back to the house. Although their primary home was in town, Jack went to the farm every day to feed the cows and work on the house for as long as we can remember. Some in the family call it, "the house that Jack built."

Most of what we do next week will be of our own design. Without ready-made entertainment, we'll think up what happens next. Our meals will consist of family favorites, each prepared right there in the farm's kitchen. And hopefully, we'll have the chance to try several versions of homemade ice cream.

Currently there are no big plans, but at week's end I know we'll have stories to tell. We're about to have some great fun, and the photographs taken next week will be enjoyed for years.

I can almost see some of the pictures. There will be broad perspectives of the farm, cows grazing with the farmhouse in the distance, a freshly caught fish, board game winners, Frisbee golf, storytelling, late-night snack-making and laughter, lots of laughter.

BCA members will scatter all over the world this summer. Like me, some of you will stay close to home, while others will travel great distances. Regardless of where the summer takes you, make photographs along the way. Think about the visual stories you'd like to tell.

Provide a glimpse of where the story is taking place. Find a wide perspective that shows the character of the location, even if you're inside a building. These photographs give us the chance to go with you and to gain a better understanding of the overall story.

And as important as the place can be, people almost always provide the best storytelling images. Look for ways to show their relationships with each other within the environment. These moments can be truly magical, but they're not that easy to capture. Rather than being an active part of what is happening, as the photographer you may need to pull away to observe and anticipate what will happen next.

Another type of photograph that helps provide the feel of a place is detail. Like photographing a moment, noticing the details in an environment is very deliberate. Think about the best stories youve ever read. Very likely the details probably helped make the story memorable.

When it comes to visual storytelling, there are many considerations, but these are at least a start. When fall gets here, you'll not only have stories to tell, but to show.

Enjoy your travels this summer. Take plenty of photographs. And as for me, I'm just making sure to pack plenty of bug spray.

POSTED: Jun 27, 2013 | Jim Veneman - jimveneman@gmail.com

© 2013 Baptist Communicators Association