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Finding focus amid disaster

Adrenaline combined with lots of prayer for stamina is the only explanation I have for The Alabama Baptist's production of three 20- to 24-page newspapers in two weeks time, the first one in less than three days.

When the April 27 tornadoes ripped through our state, three of the four editorial staff members were in or headed to Atlanta for the BCA workshop. Our editor was at home but we couldn't communicate with him for hours because of widespread power outages.

However, before midnight we had a plan in place and coverage began early the next morning. I headed back to Birmingham, the staff writer already there headed to one of the disaster locations and the other staff members began working on coverage from Atlanta. The communications team from the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM) volunteered immediately to help us with coverage, as did Baptist Press and the Florida Baptist Witness. We also pulled in several correspondents.

We gave each person a specific assignment to cover and complete before handing him or her another assignment. We also asked each one to provide photos and video clips if possible. It was truly a team effort and took everyone working hard and staying focused.

Before midnight on April 29, we had stories and photos from across the state. And on April 30, we put together an entire 20-page paper in about 10 hours.

I'm not sure I remember May 1 (we supposedly took that day off to rest), but the team was back to work early on May 2 and pulled off another complex set of stories for the next issue. The third issue has much less coverage but still kept us busy chasing more detailed information.

The coverage has been an honor to be a part of and help direct. It has meant several all-nighters at the office and little sleep the other nights. I've only seen my husband a few hours since the day before the storms hit. But it has been worth it.

We've been able to get the news out quickly not only in the print edition but with added multimedia presentations in our online edition and with breaking news stories on our website. We've also tried to keep Facebook and Twitter moving with updates. The electronic and social media coverage side of this only worked because we predetermined they would be a priority even though the print deadline was breathing down our throats.

The SBOM staff also has had unprecedented coverage during this disaster through its social media and website. The amount of information flowing, as well as the video coverage, about disaster relief efforts and needs has allowed us to partner together to thoroughly keep the story fresh and alive.

Some things that helped us move into crisis coverage mode quickly:

  • Having experienced crisis coverage situations before.
  • Having listened to and learned from others who have had to deal with crisis situations.
  • Having experienced and dedicated reporters across the state on call for last-minute assignments.
  • Having equipment needed readily accessible.
  • Having a disaster relief badge because you have already been trained in disaster relief. Also having a working knowledge of disaster relief so you are not worrying the officials in the heat of the crisis with basic questions you should already be able to answer yourself.

Some things I learned that would have improved our efficiency:

  • Keep all essential personnel's contact information in your phone.
  • Keep disaster relief-appropriate clothing and shoes in your vehicle.
  • Keep your priorities in line.

I did well pushing away anything and everything that was not disaster relief related. I'm not even sure what all got ignored. I was definitely focused on the coverage.

Where I failed was acknowledging that the destruction in my hometown impacted me more than I realized. I should have made my way home to check on my family early in the process and worked my way back into coverage from there.

Instead I waited two days to go and only when I took over the coverage of that area of the state.

My family was safe, but the town was devastated. My home church was destroyed, and friends and neighbors lost their lives. It tore at my heart, but because I didn't go there first, my focus was not as sharp as it could have been.

Still, we were all able to pull our own weight and produce immediate coverage detailing Baptists' response to the third most destructive disaster on U.S. soil in modern times. It has truly been inspiring to experience the teamwork among Baptist communicators to share this tragic yet hopeful story.

POSTED: May 16, 2011 | Jennifer Rash, Executive Editor, The Alabama Baptist - jrash@thealabamabaptist.org


Collect and gather resources through Storify

With so many Southern Baptists taking to social media, it's natural for their comments to range from not just anecdotal but into the realm of denominational polity. As dialogue grows, a tool to gather quotes and context through sites such a YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, and personal blogs is Storify.

I first came across Storify late last year and was intrigued by it's possibilities in covering Southern Baptist news. It's no secret that online SBC-related discussions pick up steam as the annual meeting in June approaches, culminating in a flurry of feedback during the gathering. Many of those online users are sticking with the medium, though. This leads to a pretty consistent stream of thoughts from Southern Baptists nationally, and specifically, in your state or focus of coverage.

Still getting used to it myself, I used the service last week to Storify comments on Twitter from SBC pastors and leaders in chronicling the reaction to Osama bin Laden's death. One bit of coaching I'd give is if you don't have a Twitter list set up for Southern Baptists and/or those from your state, do that now. If I didn't have those two in place I'd have lost a great amount of time looking through tweets and digging out those I needed.

(By the way, we're looking for BCA members on Twitter. If you're up and tweeting let us know. I'll be putting you here.)

To see more of the tools put to use, look at this Storify of Newsday's report when President Obama visited Ground Zero last week. I can see church groups - especially smart-phone savvy youth - Twitpicking and videoing their own contributions on mission trips that can later be pieced together for installation onto a church website or minister's blog. Storify pieces can be embedded into self-hosted Wordpress blogs, Tumblr, and Posterous.

As more people use social media to offer their insights they become contributors, even if unknowingly. Storify appears to be a great tool in collecting that feedback and packaging it.

POSTED: May 9, 2011 | Scott Barkley, Production Editor, The Christian Index - sbarkley@christianindex.org


Home, Sweet Home. Or is it?

Let's begin with a little review and a clarification. In the last installment I dwelt heavily on the need for getting "real world" experience rather than trying to cut to the head of the line in the denomination without adequate experience. I know some in my profession who had a natural, God-given ability to be very articulate and who have gone far without much initial training. They truly had the gift of communication or an eye for design or photography and worked very hard to learn their craft.

But I will quickly add that those individuals are the exception and if everyone were so gifted we would not be having this discussion. Being a "self-made man" worked great on the frontier in the early days of our nation. But from what I have observed, most instances of being a "self-made man" in today's world are no more than testimonies to the horrors of unskilled labor.

Now for this discussion, let's talk about something that has never been very popular: delayed gratification.

"Delaying gratification is the process of scheduling the pain and pleasure in life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with. It is the only decent way to live."

If that sounds a little "text bookish," it is - it came right out of one of the most influential books I have ever read (Baptist Disclaimer: Of course, next to the Bible and anything by C.S. Lewis). I may not agree with everything Scott Peck wrote in "The Road Less Traveled" but he's dead-on with a lot of his observations of human nature.

Let's take a brief review of where we are in this discussion. If this is your first introduction to my blog, please go back and start at the very beginning or you will not understand the foundation I have been laying.

In a nutshell, we have been talking about how to advance on the career ladder through a process of working for a variety of employers. Experience is the greatest strength on any resume, and a variety of experiences will equip you to handle most situations that life throws at you. If you have not prepared yourself for that dream job down the road, you can't blame anyone but the person in the mirror if that job gets handed off to someone else who has prepared for that golden day.

Here's how the professional life-cycle works. You use your early years building up experience from which you will draw on the rest of your career. When you do, you progress through several jobs, receiving nice raises along the way, and then when you get into your mid-40s you note something extremely strange beginning to occur - the job offers become fewer and farther between and the raises become marginal. You have reached your top earning potential and employers are beginning to look beyond you to those younger, leaner, hungrier folks who will work for substantially less.

It's too late to wish you had laid the foundation for advancement.

That's another reason to get as much experience as possible under your belt while you are young. As you age your expenses continue to increase but your salary begins to stagnate or barely keep pace with inflation. You need to be sure you have positioned yourself to be content in a salary range that will carry you from your 50s to your retirement years. If God has called you to be a career staff writer/web designer/graphic artist, be the best one you can be. But it can get rather difficult to raise a family or provide for your future as a single adult on a salary that is low on the ladder. The good salary you have in your 30s will not carry you very far in your 50s.

Now to the point of this entry.

As you exit college saddled with heavy student loans you are tempted to take on even greater debt to keep up with unrealistic expectations of society. You want a new car. You want a nice apartment. And soon you want a mortgage.

Whoa, Nellie, as my grandfather used to say when stopping his beast of burden at the end of plowing a garden row.

A car is a necessity, but it doesn't need to be new. A place to live is a necessity but it doesnt have to include a mortgage. And, an apartment will do just fine for your first 10 years.

That's shocking in today's "gotta-have-it-now" world because college grads are being sold on the idea of the need to stop throwing their money away on rent and start building up equity. That's OK if you plan to remain in your town for most of your career due to family or other connections. But it flies in the face of logic if you plan to relocate several times to build your resume with a variety of professional experiences.

Ask yourself this hard question: "Why do I want to buy a home?"

The stock reasons young people (under the age of 30) are given is that a mortgage is necessary to a.) build up equity and get a tax deduction and b.) stop throwing away money on rent. Those are both good reasons&but not while you're building your career and need to be mobile. I would not encourage anyone to tie himself or herself down to homeownership until they are at least 30 years of age and have two or three employers on their resume.

Of course, if you live in a major city with a lot of employers in your job market that allow unlimited advancement, you can chuck that advice. But if you are in a small town it would be better to first exhaust all of your local options and then move to a couple of larger cities to continue your on-the-job training. If you're aspiring to end up in Baptist agency life due to the variety of career options, you will find yourself on the Nashville/Atlanta (Alpharetta)/Richmond circuit and state convention offices around the nation. It's difficult to move every few years when you have a mortgage.

That's why developers have come to your "rescue."

When you are young it's extremely difficult to come up with the down payment for a home; in fact, it's the single greatest obstacle to making that first purchase. Sensing this, a few years ago shrewd developers began building townhouses, condos, and zero-lot line homes (otherwise known as duplexes) at half the cost of a traditional single-family home aimed squarely at your demographic. You were their new "people group" and they were your evangelists.

They effectively flooded the market with more affordable housing so everyone could enjoy the American Dream decades earlier than their parents. But "affordable housing" in this instance does not always mean the same as a sound investment that builds equity - the primary reason for purchasing a "home" in the first place.

Single-family homes are far better investments than condos or town homes. I've never known anyone who purchased a condo or town home who came out with a profit in six years or less...the average time frame for when Americans relocate. Those items are two of life's largest purchases - superceded only by the purchase of a new automobile - that depreciate the minute you purchase them. (Disclaimer: I am talking about what is occurring in much of the nation's housing market, not in areas such at New York City or San Francisco where condos and town homes have established themselves as good investments.)

The vast majority of young home purchasers these days are being taken advantage of by professionals who want to sell them a domicile. What the sales agents don't tell you is that you will need to stay in the property at least five years for it to appreciate enough just to pay their commission when it comes time to trade up. And many times that means there is little equity left over for you to use for a down payment.

When the young person realizes they cannot afford a single-family home - which should cost no more than 2-3 times the amount of their gross income (before withholding), they are directed to a more affordable alternative such as a condo or town home. And that's where the problems begin. The individual making $50,000 soon discovers he or she cannot purchase much of a house for $150,000 - but as soon as they are directed to a new condo/town home for $135,000 or less there is no turning back.

What they don't realize is that appreciation is very slow, mostly due to the tremendous overbuilding in the market. The new owner realizes, too late, that few people want to purchase their five-year-old property when the builder down the road is offering a new, similar new product for $5,000 less with new paint, carpets, and spectacular landscaping. They learn that they can never compete in a resell market when they have developers subsidizing the purchase and attracting new buyers with enticing incentives - similar to those used to lure them in just a few years earlier.

A home purchase is a similar problem with a slightly different twist. While it is a far better investment, it still takes time to unload your property if you need to move on short notice. And in the early years of your career, let's face it: you live on short notice. As I write this I am thinking of a friend in an adjoining state who has been trying to sell her house for a year, forfeiting one lucrative career move as a result.

If God opens a window for you to relocate to another city to continue your career, you could easily find that you have to turn the offer down because you cant be there in two or three weeks...and you can't afford both a mortgage payment and apartment rent in your new locale. That is the great danger to your career and why I advise against taking on such debt. A home is a wonderful investment if you can afford to put down roots; it can be your worst nightmare and a real albatross when you need to move on. And if God should call you to the mission field as an appointed career missionary, that frequently means being totally 100 percent debt free.

Regardless of what you have been told, home prices do not always go up. They will not always cost more tomorrow than they do today, as many homeowners are learning in the fallout of the sub-prime housing market.

Purchasing a home too early in your career falls into the same category as spending your summers at the beach working on a great tan...regardless of the warnings of skin cancer that occur later in life. Did I do both? You betcha! Would I do it again? Not on your life, in spite of the peer acceptance that maintains both are acceptable and expected.

Poor financial decisions, like sun-damaged skin, can wreck havoc later in life. Thousands of dollars lost in poor home purchase decisions are not available later for upgrading to a nicer home.

Now I will close on one very conflicting note. I don't expect many, if any of my readers, to take my comments seriously. I can't say I am a role model on following every one of these points in my earlier days. But I did follow some of them and they have paid off handsomely.

However, our national economy largely charges ahead and is entirely dependent on the foolish mistakes of youth - my early years included - which stimulate the economy. As a nation we would be in dire straits, indeed, if we saved more, lived within our means, and reined in our emotional purchases. Buying perfectly good used cars instead of new vehicles would destroy Detroit. While our government preaches the virtue of saving more, it knows it would drag our economy into recession. Of course, there is no real danger in that occurring. So go ahead, change your lifestyle and be one of the few in your group to build a secure future.

POSTED: Feb 1, 2008 | Joe Westbury, Managing Editor, The Christian Index - jwestbury@christianindex.org


Rungs on the career ladder; when to rest, when to move up (Second installment)

Today we will continue with the career path discussion and explore ways to build a successful employment record. Then the next entry will move into an overview of personal finances that includes a discussion on why to delay making that first home purchase, and end with a discussion of why it's important to begin your retirement program today...and not when you reach your mid-30s.

Now, let's begin at the beginning with what I feel to be a very important door through which we need to walk:

You must learn to embrace one of the hardest truths that young people have to learn: life is not fair - especially in denominational life. In advancement or daily office politics, do not expect to be treated with what you perceive to be fairness. Inequity happens. Sometimes there is a good reason and sometimes not.

Many times management has to make decisions it would prefer not to make because of reasons far above your pay grade to understand. But in most instances the decisions are fair in the big picture to which you have no access. It's incredibly easy for youth...and I mean those under 30...to be quickly offended in the workplace and to feel self-righteous.

Maybe I'm telling on myself, but I remember that in my younger days I had pretty strong opinions of how I thought my workplace should operate (though I kept my thoughts largely to myself). I felt that I had a very good grasp of what was right and what was wrong; life was very black and very white and there was little room for shades of gray.

That's important to remember because sometimes when life...or promotions...don't go our way we get so worked up we decide to leave our employer to "show them" as an act of personal revenge. That's rarely a good move.

Abuse should never be tolerated and sometimes you may have a good reason to move on. So be it. But be cautious when you think the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Sometimes you think you are seeing sweet, tender Kentucky Bluegrass only to discover it's really AstroTurf. Every job has its share of "crud" (a great word from the 60s) and many times you're just changing the name on the "crud" when you jump to another job.

Be sure to think through the reasons for why you want to change employers. Maybe you feel mistreated and taken for granted. Sometimes feeling taken for granted is mistaken for not having enough experience to be taken seriously. Your experience is what you use to barter for promotions and advancement. A lack of it takes the trump card out of your hand and places it in the hand of your employer.

While all of us believe we are worth our weight in gold, most of us in our early years are only worth our weight in bronze. Perhaps the best time to decide to leave an employer is when you have thoroughly mastered your job to the point where it becomes predictable and is no longer a challenge. You can try to negotiate for more money, but that rarely works because your job is listed at a particular level (maybe just above entry level) on the pay grade and the salary cannot be increased.

That's how companies operate and it's not an entirely bad concept. Employers have certain jobs that are rated fairly low on the ladder and they save money by hiring inexperienced individuals (like yourself) to fill those positions. While they might like to keep you, you may grow beyond their ability to afford you and match what others may be willing to pay for your skills.

But when you do make that all-important move, be sure to negotiate for as much salary as you can get on the front end. It's tricky business but don't tell yourself that you can come in low and get bumped up later. It doesn't happen. You may think you're good, but you're not that good.

Never, ever, leave your employer in a huff. Don't get mad and quit, especially if you are being goaded by fellow workers who think you have been mistreated. Don't jump off that cliff unless they are willing to hold your hand and go down with you. Chances are they prefer to watch from a relatively safe distance and vicariously watch you "get back" at their shared employer, only to see you also jump to your financial ruin. That's what is known as the Law of Unintended Consequences.

It's incredibly easy to get caught up in below-the-radar office politics and get a buzz from the drama in someone else's life. I have seen this happen on a few occasions and have yet to see any of those still employed take up a collection to help pay the former employee's mortgage or buy milk and bread for his/her children. Those former friends evaporate like the dew on a hot summer morning. It can get very cold very fast outside the company where you have invested several years of your life.

Always leave your employer with a good taste in their mouth and a good memory of your work because they will be the one you use on your resume down the road. Burned bridges are very difficult to walk across. Remember that relationships are all-important in career advancement and even though you may have differences of opinions on how your workplace operated, you still need the goodwill of your former employer to help you locate gainful employment.

Be cautious with what you say in that exit interview because some employers really don't want to hear what they say they want to hear. It's sorta like your wife asking you if she is as attractive at age 50 as she was at age 25. I once worked for a highly respected Christian organization that conducted a very serious study into why company morale was low and getting lower. The result of the study was brilliant: after several months of crunching the data and feedback they announced that staff had a bad attitude and needed to develop a more positive outlook. Imagine that.

After you leave an employer your relationship does not necessarily end, and that's why it's important for them to continue thinking good thoughts about you long after you are gone. There was a day when employers could give very accurate and detailed information on a former employee's work ethic. Now, due to lawsuits, that information is severely restricted and sometimes is limited to simply the time frame of your employment. But don't take too much comfort in trashing your employer because you think his/her hands are tied from doing any damage to your career.

While former employers are somewhat limited on the kind of information they can share, there is one question - asked in a sort of code - that can be used to evaluate your work ethic and has the potential to sink your ship. That question is "If you had it to do over again, would you rehire this individual?" A prolonged reflective pause and a "no" or a "maybe" is all it takes to raise a red flag in the mind of the supervisor you are wanting to impress. An even longer pregnant pause can mean you are dead in the water and the former employer wouldn't touch you with a ten-foot pole.

You earn your salary between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. and your raise after 5 p.m. That statement doesn't mean that you are a slave to overtime for which you will not be compensated; it means you are willing to go the extra mile when your employer's proverbial ox is suddenly in the ditch at 4:30 p.m. and it will take two hours to pull it out. If you remain behind to help with the pulling, your value to the company will increase exponentionally.

These days everyone is concerned about job security. About 35 years ago Pete Bird, the hardheaded city editor at The Jackson Sun newspaper where I was working fresh out of Union University, shared some valuable insight with me after deadline one day. He knew my job as copy boy was the lowest rung of the ladder and I wanted to be considered for a reporter's position whenever one opened up. Gosh, I needed to move up the food chain as quickly as possible in those years and I also wanted to avoid being laid off if the economy slowed.

Here's what Pete told me over a cup of coffee: The surest way to avoid being the first to be terminated is to make yourself so valuable that management cannot conceive of existing without you. Many times these staff reductions are made in a total vacuum and you don't even know when the evaluations are occurring. By the time the grapevine gets wind of impending downsizing the decisions have already been made and it's too late to put your best foot forward.

By following Pete's advice, you are basically building a force field around you and the all-seeing eye of Human Resources is deflected, instead, onto the person of less commitment and motivation.

To paraphrase a biblical admonition from Amos 6:1, "Woe unto them who are at ease in Zion." That poor worker bee sitting in the cubicle next to you never saw what hit him. The fly swatter just came out of the blue and did its work.

Now let's touch on something I mentioned in the previous post, which brushes up against the temptation to take a shortcut to the top.

A few times a year I get a phone call from someone who genuinely senses a call to enter Christian journalism and asks how they can get a job. The vast majority of the time they mean well but have no experience. I share with them the need for professional training in journalism (preferably a major degree) and then urge them to get some secular experience by working at a newspaper or related kind of publication to learn the discipline of the profession - specifically developing a tight writing style and working under the tyranny of the deadline. Only then, I maintain, should they seek the sweet succor of the denomination.

Unfortunately they want to go straight into denominational life with no training or having paid their dues. They own a computer and have a couple of opinions, so they view themselves as a writer. They innocently expect their High Calling to suffice for an absence of years of practical experience. I don't look kindly on hiring someone as a staff writer, regardless of how low on the ladder they may be, if they don't know what an inverted pyramid style of writing is and never heard of the legendary "Five W's and the H."

After a lengthy conversation I begin to sense that the individual believes I am asking too much. I don't think I am taking scripture out of context when I say that even Christ, in Luke 16, talked about the foolishness of building a tower without first counting the cost. While His ultimate lesson was about the cost of discipleship, we in the communications discipline should follow His lead in expecting ourselves and our peers to maintain the highest professional standards. Anything less than preparing yourself for your profession, regardless if it is to be a pastor or copy writer, requires commitment and discipline. If we are ultimately working for Christ, we need to give Him our very best.

If you want to pastor a church, you go to seminary. If you want to be a writer, or photographer, or designer, you go to college and receive the necessary training. It's that simple.

Be sure you don't follow such an easy path with promise of great reward. If you are just graduating, get that all-important "fifth year of college" I discussed in the previous entry. If you are already in the job market, choose employment opportunities that will give you the foundation you need to be your very best...even if, on occasion, the career move is lateral. Lateral is OK if it rounds out your resume and gives you experience you can't get any other way.

When you have solid experience under your belt you are holding a key that will unlock doors much faster than if you took short cuts with lesser experience.

Your career can either be a game of chance - relying on the generosity of employers willing to take a chance on you with a lack of skills (and their consequently offering a much lower compensation package) or a well-executed path with advancement carefully chosen.

Just because you're a Christian doesn't mean that you should not be willing to pay your dues like those in the secular marketplace. You will always be rewarded based on your skill set, and that is the way it should be. There is no short cut to the top, just a series of detours that result in a dead end when someone more qualified enters the competition. You can be sitting on top of the world until your worse nightmare walks through the door and joins your agency - someone with half your age and double the experience. It's your choice.

Career shortcuts are rarely advantageous in the long haul. As individuals with lesser skills creep up the career ladder and find themselves in management they frequently discover they are supervising employees with far better skills who earned their advancement the hard way - by performance. I could (but won't) give you the names of some denominational co-workers who played the political advancement card to the hilt, only to have it backfire on them with a vengeance. They were great folks; they just didn't do their homework. They spent years calling their employer's bluff until someone more qualified came into the picture.

How did it happen? When they were downsized or their job outsourced they suddenly found themselves outside of the warm denominational cocoon in which they had made a very comfortable life. They woke up one day in their 50s with a three-month severance package and discovered they did not have any job skills that they could use in the real world. With no skills, they were virtually unemployable. They may have been department heads or vice presidents, but without real-world skills no one wanted them. It is a situation that is entirely preventable.

To some degree the denomination shares in the tragedy by offering employment to such individuals in the first place and giving them a false sense of professional security. But that is rarely acknowledged and is of little comfort when an individual finds himself or herself suddenly unemployed with no "real world" skills.

While it is a fact of life that some individuals advance up the ladder with marginal job skills, why settle for such a move in your own career path? Ultimately the more skilled you are, the better the chance for advancement.

The field is crowed as it is with incompetence; why settle for being just another member of the pack?

Want to know more about how to succeed on the career ladder? Register today for the BCA workshop in Phoenix where you can pick the minds of veterans like myself. We love giving our opinions. Just be kind and tell us that we look as good today as you imagine we looked when we were your age.

POSTED: Jan 24, 2008 | Joe Westbury, Managing Editor, The Christian Index - jwestbury@christianindex.org


Rungs on the career ladder; when to rest, when to move up (First installment)

That great American philosopher Yogi Berra once stated a universal truth when he said, "If you don't know where you're going, you might wind up someplace else."

In this and the following entry I'd like to give my two cents worth of how some of the younger BCA members, or even students just about to graduate and enter the job market, should look at their careers in the early stages. Disclaimer: This advice is for those interested in laying the foundation for a career track that will move them up the professional ladder, accumulating a variety of experience along the way. If you are content to remain with your current employer for 10 or 15 years due to family or other ties to your community, that is absolutely acceptable.

Here is my premise for these observations: life is full of opportunities as the Lord opens doors for advancement. You need to be as best prepared as possible to offer Him your dead-level best when those opportunities present themselves. There are exceptions to every rule and I will not be addressing those exceptions or this would become as long as a Wikipedia entry.

If other BCA members want to add their two-cents, I heartily encourage the dialogue. This installment on career advancement will be divided into two parts due to the breath of material that I feel must be covered. Now let's get down to brass tacks as the word count is building fast.

The most important observation I can make is this: consider your first job out of college (or your first job in your career path, if you wandered around for a while) to be a fifth year of college. You won't make the big bucks because, to be honest, you don't have much to offer your employer. But your employer is giving you something that money and a college degree cannot give - "real world" experience and that all-important first reference on your resume.

I don't want to be misunderstood and appear to be cruel on this next point, but if you're not changing employers...and fine-tuning your career path...every five to seven years you're selling both yourself and the Kingdom short.

That statement works against everything I tell my young staff because I want to keep them as long as possible because turnover is expensive. In addition, it took a lot of interviewing for me to weed them out from among other candidates and I have spent a great deal of time mentoring them and building a team that I want to keep in place. But I also know that for their own good, they need to move on if they want to progress up the career path and develop the skills necessary to impact the Kingdom.

Now let's chase a rabbit that we'll catch in a future installment on how to deal with financial matters.

If you're young in your career where you need to change employers every few years - and only, I stress, after you have gotten your feet firmly on the ground and mastered your current job - you are in no place to be buying and selling real estate. Put off purchasing that first house until you are at least 30 years of age. I know that is a lot to ask, but house prices do not always go up, regardless of what realtors tell you. I am making a point here between single-family homes and condos/town homes, which are vastly different animals. Young people, in my opinion, have no business purchasing any real estate in their early years...and especially not a condo or town home because of the illusion of building equity.

It is very difficult to sell a house these days, and far more difficult to sell a condo/town home if you need to relocate in a month or less. If you want a condo or town home, wait until much later in your career when you are settled and are not concerned with having to sell quickly when a career opportunity arrives. They can be wonderful at that stage in your life and the lack of maintenance is a dream.

Like the slogan for the old bread company, these are your formative years. They are the years of laying a solid professional foundation upon which to build your career. They are the years of delayed gratification and keeping a strong reign on your personal debt. Truer words were never spoken than those in Proverbs where we are told that it's the little foxes that spoil the grapes. Before you start throwing rocks at me for making such a tough statement, hold off until you read that installment where I lay a more broad rationalization for delaying a home purchase. Delayed gratification will pay off in spades down the road, I promise.

Now let's get back on track. Here's something that may sound a little contradictory, but bear with me. While I mentioned that you need to be changing employers every five to seven years, don't jump ship too soon or it will backfire on you. Those who move too quickly...an average of every two or three years...eventually find it difficult to get any employment because they have earned a reputation of not sticking with a job. While an employer knows he/she will not keep a good worker forever, neither does he want to be a doormat or just another rung on the career ladder.

As with many things in life, moderation is key.

If you can, locate a mentor - preferably inside your company - and learn as much from him/her as possible. Listen, with notepad in hand, and learn from their wisdom and as you hit some potholes in your career. They will be able to give you sound counsel as you evaluate career moves, seek additional education if necessary, and help you file off some of your rough edges.

Mentors can be tough taskmasters at times but you need to remember that they are pushing you to give your best. Learning discipline and how to work smart may be one of the most difficult lessons you will ever learn, but it will help you to develop the muscles to work circles around your peers down the road - and possibly result in your being first in line for a promotion.

Once you have a fairly good feel for your career path, note when the kind of job you would like to have becomes available, and who gets hired. This is easy to do through reading Baptist Press stories when new hires are announced denomination-wide. In my 20s when I felt I would like to work for a state paper (something that didn't occur until my late 40s) I began to read the resumes closely of those who were named to those positions and noted their ages. That gave me considerable insight into the training I needed to be acquiring. It also meant I needed to move between several states and agencies to gain that experience.

Now, sometimes the new employee didn't have any experience and it was a political appointment. There are times and places for such appointments but you can't base your career on that happening to you so don't build your career around a game of chance. Sometimes it was because the agency was struggling financially and couldn't afford the best candidate so had to settle for Number 2 or Number 3 on their list.

My point is this: do your homework, spend your time gaining insight into the lives of those who were promoted due to the years they spent serving in the trenches. Read their resume as outlined in the news story and model your own career path in a similar fashion. In these early years you need to be having as many different professional experiences as possible.

There's also another more effective way of gaining that same information: by becoming involved in BCA and attending the workshops. Face time and networking is all-important and there is no better way to meet the movers and shakers in the denomination's communications ministries than at the workshops. You'll be able to pick the brains of potential employers over dinner or a cup of coffee and gain precious insight into how they moved up the ladder and honed their skills for Kingdom work.

I would encourage you to go to the BCA workshop website right now and make your reservation for the Phoenix meeting. That's more than just an unabashed commercial to boost attendance; it's an endorsement of an event that I know will boost your spiritual and professional growth. I'll be there and will be happy to buy you a cup of coffee and answer any questions you might have; I know my peers will do the same.

OK, that's it for this installment. Check back by Friday for the next set of comments on this same topic. After that we will move into personal finances/making that first home purchase, and end with a discussion of why it's important to begin your retirement program today...and not when you reach your mid-30s.

POSTED: Jan 23, 2008 | Joe Westbury, Managing Editor, The Christian Index - jwestbury@christianindex.org


Will stress or money cause your next job jump?

Think most departing employees are leaving for more money? Think again.

According to a recent survey, stress, not money, is the primary factor for employees who change jobs.

According to a story in the Vancouver Sun, consulting firm Watson Wyatt found most employers thought money was the top consideration for someone considering quitting his or her job.

But when the same survey was given to employees, they cited stress as the No. 1 reason they might leave.

"It may be stress difficulty with a colleague, with the work environment or their immediate boss," said Liz Wright, a Watson Wyatt spokeswoman.

The survey found that employers ranked stress near the bottom of their list of factors that would cause employees to terminate their jobs.

Meanwhile, employees ranked money last on their list. After stress, they said they were more likely to leave a job due to:

  • A lack of balance between work and a personal life.
  • Lack of promotional opportunities.
  • Lack of confidence in their bosses. Last on their list was money.

A psychologist noted that employees should learn how to balance life and work, but added several ideas companies should consider for reducing stress in their workplace:

  • Employee assistant programs.
  • More flexible scheduling.
  • Maternity and paternity leave.
  • Better training for management.

POSTED: Dec 18, 2007 | David Winfrey, Proposal Writer, SHPS - dmmwinfrey@gmail.com


A bold new step for BCA

I wish you all could have been with us for the recent officers' meeting in Nashville. Not only did we plan for a spectacular workshop in April and handle the usual activities required to keep an organization like BCA moving. We also brainstormed about how BCA can use 21st century tools to serve members.

BCA is best known for its annual spring workshop, which combines education and networking to inspire and prepare members for the varied communication roles they fill. One of our challenges has been to continue that networking and encouragement throughout the year.

That effort got a major boost last year, thanks to Cam Tracy with the launching of this new Web site. But while it is an excellent took for spreading information, we didn't yet have a strong tool to facilitate conversation among members. The flow of information could be one sided, from BCA to the members. Now, with the help of new technology, I think weve finally found a way to connect members and start dialogues about our work that can spread around the country and beyond.

If you haven't joined Facebook, please do so. Then search for "Baptist Communicators" and ask to join the Facebook group. Because it is a closed group, available only to members, you won't have to worry about who will be sending you messages.

One of the reasons I'm excited about this is because it finally gives us a way to talk about our work with other communicators who share the same passion for our messages and our audiences. A lot of BCA members work in small shops and wear a variety of hats. (Let's see, there's spokesperson, photographer, video specialist, web master, writer. Need I continue?) This networking tool will allow us to bounce ideas, share resources we've found and discuss the topics that are important to us.

The exciting part of this during our officers' meeting was the way new leaders were using Facebook and other software, applications and Web sites as a springboard to further the mission of BCA. I believe the future of BCA is strong because of the forward thinking leadership represented in that room. I hope you will do your part and get involved with Facebook and any other resources we use to connect you with your peers.

This is your organization. It only works if you take part. Go to Facebook and check it out.

POSTED: Nov 6, 2007 | David Winfrey, Proposal Writer, SHPS - dmmwinfrey@gmail.com


Don't be a plastic communicator; tell someone about BCA today

We all use it. It's in our kitchen cabinets and sits in our refrigerators right now. Our mothers swore by it. What is it? TUPPERWARE® - of course! Patented in 1938, the company's product was not welcomed in stores at first and the company was criticized because many consumers didn't know how to work the lids. The company pulled the product from store shelves and resorted to home demonstrations and word-of-mouth to boost sales. By the mid-1950s a phenomenon had been created. According to their web site, the Tupperware® company now does $1.2 billion in sales each year and a product demonstration starts somewhere in the world every two seconds.

Like Tupperware®, BCA depends on our associates to hold in-office gatherings to spread the word about our association and its benefits. The greatest benefit new members experience is a network of over 200 individual communication resources that come in the form of co-members.

We're confident that once individuals experience the annual workshops and begin utilizing the BCA-network, they'll understand what a difference BCA can be to their communications ministry.

"To me, BCA is a constant reminder that I'm not alone. I'm part of a circle of friends and co-laborers walking along the same pathway, who constantly provide me encouragement, insight and strength," said Doug Rogers, Communications Coordinator for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. "Whether it's through face-to-face contact at the annual workshop or quick emails and phone calls through the year, such opportunities for interaction have had worth to me beyond measure. I know I am a more effective communicator because of BCA."

Don't let your membership spoil by never sharing the benefits of our association with a colleague. Become a member who takes pride in preserving Baptist communications. Tell someone about BCA today. How to Join

POSTED: Nov 5, 2007 | Keith Beene, Administrative Coordinator, Baptist Communicators Association - bca.office@comcast.net


Friend Me!

The Baptist Communicators Association now has a Facebook group!

Let me dispose of a couple of questions:

  1. What is Facebook? In their own words, "Facebook is a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them. People use Facebook to keep up with friends, upload an unlimited number of photos, share links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet." Get all the details here: http://www.facebook.com/about.php
  2. I have a Facebook profile. Where do I find the group? How do I join? You can find the group here: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2589875227 or by searching for "Baptist Communicators Association." Once you are there, click "Join this group." Since this group is open only to BCA members, one of the group administrators will verify your membership and then approve your request to join the group. Once you are in, be sure to introduce yourself!
  3. I don't have a Facebook profile. Join now at http://www.facebook.com/
  4. Why should I join the BCA group? It's a great place to get to know your fellow BCA members, share ideas, and steal ideas.

Join the BCA Facebook group today. But don't stop there -- participate! Post to the discussion threads, or start a thread of your own. Some ideas:

  • post your latest design projects, and get feedback
  • ditto for video projects
  • beta test a new Web site
  • share some powerful photos from a recent mission trip
  • share an insight you've had
  • request prayer

I've had a profile on Facebook for a few months, and I've been amazed and the personal and professional development opportunities. I'm a member of a couple of different professional groups, and I've gleaned great ideas from some of the leaders in my particular area of interest.

The possibilities are endless for the BCA group. Join today!

POSTED: Sep 28, 2007 | Brenda Rick Smith, Electronic Media Specialist, Kentucky Baptist Convention - brenda.smith@kybaptist.org


Gooooooo Team!

I took my son to a minor league baseball game the other day. It was his first real baseball experience. When we arrived, he wanted to walk around the stadium and see everything. "Where do we buy the ICEEs?" he asked. "Can we get one of those big, foam fingers?"

We found our seats as the public address announcer read the starting line-ups. "Wow Dad. You can see everything from here!" he said. It didn't take long for the home team to score the first runs of the game. Erik did a celebration dance in his seat. Whenever one of the opposing players struck out, he transformed into a mini-umpire shouting "Yer out!" while jerking his thumb in the air.

I'm a life-long baseball fan, but this game was special. Seeing the game from my son's perspective made it brand new again. We talked about what various abbreviations on the scoreboard meant and he couldn't believe we could put peanut shells on the ground under our seats. "Is this really okay with Mom?" he asked.

During the game, I noticed a few people who weren't there for baseball. A man two rows in front of us talked on his cell phone through several innings. A woman nearby kept her nose buried in a crossword puzzle.

Sometimes as communicators we forget what the game is all about and telling the story just isn't fun anymore. Dont turn into someone who just sits through the game. Become an active participant in the Baptist communications community by interacting with other communications professionals like yourself and by sharing your expertise.

If you're new to BCA, it's ok to look around the "stadium." There's plenty to see here. One of the biggest benefits you'll enjoy is learning from others. Like my son, be willing to ask questions. One of our officers or myself is happy to help you understand those tricky BCA "abbreviations."

If you're a BCA veteran, you can add much to our organization. Remember, the "history" of the game is just as important as the current superstar. Maybe you'd like to mentor some of our rookies. We're always looking for links to add to the resources page. Or maybe you can write a "how-to" article that we can place on the site?

Whatever your position on our team, BCA is here to help you knock the ball out of the park. Play Ball!

POSTED: Jul 26, 2007 | Keith Beene, Administrative Coordinator, Baptist Communicators Association - bca.office@comcast.net


Walking The Red Carpet

It's a relief when you receive that "Congratulations! You're a winner..." e-mail from Keith Beene the end of March. You don't know what you won, but you know you will get to walk up in front of everyone and accept that certificate. Pretty cool.

Even better -- you get to tell your boss that you won. I don't know how it is where you work, but in our department having something that shows your work has been recognized by an outside entity means something.

Once you know you're a winner, it's time to start subtly asking around your office to see who else got the coveted e-mail from Keith. That is, unless you work in our office, where we shamelessly yell, "I won something!" to the whole department!

So, those who get to go to BCA pack something nice to wear for the awards banquet and hope for the best. Granted, we don't do the red carpet thing, but I bet most of us check out what everyone is wearing. You practice your gushing & Jesse, great tie! Lisa, your pedicure is perfect! Sue Ellen, your wrap is stunning! Great shoes, Brooke!

This year, it was extra exciting for us at LifeWay. Everyone in our office who submitted an entry won something. That makes the celebration even better ... not to mention so much less awkward! Kelly, Kent and I hardly let our awards cool off before we were up in my room calling our co-workers to tell them the great news.

When Stacey Hamby asked me to write a short piece on winning, I thought, "Is there any way to do that without sounding arrogantly self-promoting?" Well, no! So, here goes... deep breath... I love winning!

I do. I love to win.

I completely understand that with human judges there is a certain level of arbitrariness. In fact, what I thought was my best work was awarded - how do I put this - nothing. But, someone does receive the best scores in each category, and honestly, I'm glad it was I in mine! Yeah, there it is, my friends. I'm thrilled that I won a Burkhalter Award.

POSTED: May 8, 2007 | Polly House, Freelance Writer/Editor, - polly.house.bca@gmail.com


4 Things We Need From You

If you attended BCA's annual workshop in Mobile, there are 4 things this organization and your fellow Baptist communicators need from you:

  1. Talk back. Fill out the evaluation form for the Mobile workshop. Tell us what you liked most from the program Doug Rogers and his Alabama team put together. Let Elizabeth Young and her team in Arizona know what you want to see next year. Every year, workshop organizers try to develop the right mix of inspiration and education. If you're really ambitious, give us at least one idea for workshop topics on the technical skills as well as the broader issues we face as communicators.
  2. Stalk someone. Chances are, you made some new friends in Mobile. But if you don't talk to them until the next workshop, what good did it do you? Every month, for the next year, why not call or e-mail someone you met through BCA? Talk about life. Talk about work. Talk about projects. Ask for ideas or for a peer review of a piece you're working on. Expand your circle of influence, and it will benefit your work and your psyche.
  3. Get published. Not in a publication, but on this BCA Web site. Cam Tracy at Union University had done a great job of building a site that's designed to help BCA be a professional development organization throughout the year. But it won't reach its full potential if you don't share what you know.
  4. Pull a pre-emptive strike. If you have return to work from Mobile and have never shared what you learned, your boss has no idea that your membership in BCA is worthwhile. Please, before the day is done, write a one-page memo outlining two or three things you learned at the Mobile workshop that will improve your performance at your current job. Then, when the Phoenix workshop comes around next year, you already will have laid the groundwork for getting approval to go.

POSTED: Apr 26, 2007 | David Winfrey, Proposal Writer, SHPS - dmmwinfrey@gmail.com


Learning to say 'No,' part 3

Do you ever find yourself taking on more than you can handle?

Do you feel sometimes like you're saying 'yes' to other people's requests but not leaving time for your own interests?

Have you agreed to a project, only to find yourself immersed in it later, saying to yourself, "What am I doing here? I don't even like basket weaving."

My wife and I joke that I have "the responsibility gene." Somebody asks me to do something, and my first impulse is to jump up, agree to take part and help be responsible for whatever is needed.

Responsibility isn't bad. One guy says that's what keeps the planes in the air. But unchecked, and the tug of responsibility can lead to basket weaving and other unfulfilling pursuits. That's why I really resonated with Mark 1 when a speaker pointed out an important truth.

Jesus was at the beginning of his public ministry. He had performed some of his first healing miracles in Capernaum. He'd also driven out some demons and was really beginning to draw a crowd.

But right after all this attention, Mark 1:35-37 reads:

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: "Everyone is looking for you!" (Today's New International Version)

Now if Simon came looking most of us and shouted, "Hey, everybody's looking for you!" our first impulse would be to say, "Oh, sorry, I'll be right there."

But not Jesus. Verses 38 and 39 read:

Jesus replied, "Let us go somewhere else - to the nearby villages - so I can preach there also. That is why I have come." So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.

With everybody looking to find Jesus so He can heal them and teach them and drive out their demons, Jesus basically responds, "That's OK, let's go someplace else."

See, Jesus knew something very important that we need to realize as well: The need is not the same thing as the call. Often Christians equate a request with God's calling. Maybe it is, but if it doesn't match the gifts God has given you, or a very specific direction God is sending you, maybe it isn't.

Jesus spent enough time with God in prayer to understand God's distinct call on His life. And as a result, amid the pressing needs of others, Jesus was still able to stay focused on that call and act in response to that call, even if it meant disappointing others.

Understanding God's call on your life requires two distinct knowledges.

First, how has God gifted and equipped you for service? Often your call can match those gifts.

Second, what is God saying to you? Jesus got away so he could hear God's voice. When we do the same, we might get the sense that God is asking us to do something very specific. If not, then spending time with God can help us evaluate our current direction and remind us that God loves us just as we are, not because of anything we do.

I wish I could tell you that if you spend some time in prayer and Bible reading each morning that your life will slow down and your schedule will be bliss. But it probably won't.

What time with God can do is give you a sense of what God expects of you. And given that knowledge, maybe it will be easier to say no the next time youre asked to help with basket weaving.

POSTED: Mar 20, 2007 | David Winfrey, Proposal Writer, SHPS - dmmwinfrey@gmail.com


New Glasses, Same World

For people who need them, eye glasses are the most constant, consistent identifying article they wear.

I've worn glasses since sixth grade and keep them bed side at night because I cannot find the floor without them.

Unlike a shirt you change every week, jeans you wash every month, or styles you change each season, you wear your glasses every day. Same glasses. They go with everything. With every shirt, coat, tie, speedo, or oxfords, you wear the same glasses.

Finding the right glasses hurts more than watching a fat girl in a bikini shop. You look for a frame to match your personality, to set you apart - but not too far. And they're expensive, especially the progressive trifocals some of...um...ya'll must wear.

Then, you don the glasses, walk proudly into the world expecting to turn every head with admiring glances and&no one notices.

You think you've changed your entire presentation and personality. You're chic instead of dowdy. You're hip, not hopeless. You're cool, with it, trendy, higher on the speed dial. And no one notices.

Not that this happened to me. When I got new glasses recently, three people out of the first couple hundred who know me intimately noticed almost right away. At least the quizzical look on their faces indicated they thought something was different. Haircut? Clean shirt?

Meanwhile, from my side of the glasses, you all look the same.

You're aging. My grass still needs to be cut. The neighbor is still a stranger. My desk is still cluttered. Your dog still pauses too long in my yard.

I guess the world doesn't change because we look through a different lens. It's just there, deteriorating patiently, hoping Christians like me one day become less concerned for the lenses through which we see the world, and more concerned for the world we see.

POSTED: Mar 15, 2007 | Norman Jameson, , - normanjameson@gmail.com


Learning to say 'No,' part 2: Determine what's important

I was in grad school for maybe five months when I was relating something from class to my wife, Mary Marcia.

I don't recall what I was saying, but I won't soon forget her turning to me and asking, "Why do you seem to have time for everything except me?"

That night, thankfully, the conversation took a different turn. With 40 hours of work, two nights of class, endless studying and a few other projects, I had been taking Mary Marcia for granted, and it needed to stop.

M&M wasn't asking me to quit grad school and she didn't expect me to resign my job at the Western Recorder newspaper. What she did expect me to do was to show her (not just tell her) that she was as important as those other two commitments.

What about you?

Are you finding too few hours in your day for everything you are asked to do? Maybe the pressure is internal, not external. Does your own professional drive leave you little time for leisure, church, or relationships?

You're not alone. Today's busy culture provides endless time-eating opportunities that can leave you tired, burned out and frustrated, if you let them.

Some refer to it as sacrificing the important on the altar of the urgent.

One of the best things you can do is decide what handful of things are most important to you and guard them tenaciously against anything else seeking your attention.

That means you're going to have to politely tell some folks no.

But first you should sit alone or with your spouse and decide what are the most important pursuits in your life and which ones to trim away.

Jesus gave us a terrific example of this, one we'll look at in a future blog entry. But first back to my story.

After talking with Mary Marcia, we decided that one way I could show her my commitment while in grad school was to have a date every week. Sometimes it was as simple as eating dinner out before getting back to studies. But that weekly ritual reminded me what was truly important and showed her that she wasn't being overlooked amid the other host of activities.

Today, I can count on one hand the time commitments Im saying "yes" to. They are (in no particular order): family, work, church, BCA and the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate.

What's on your list?

POSTED: Mar 6, 2007 | David Winfrey, Proposal Writer, SHPS - dmmwinfrey@gmail.com


Interactive Booth Guidelines

To encourage our state convention teams to have interactive exhibits at the annual meeting, I initiated three years ago the Director's Cup, awarded for the top interactive booth. After a very subjective judging lap around the exhibit hall, my finger in the air and my ear to the ground (don't try THAT yoga pose at home) I award the traveling cup at the next staff meeting. Frankly, it's become coveted by those who treat seriously their design and staffing efforts.

This year, when the church planting team won for the second time, someone from an...ahem...non-winning team, asked me to put into words what it is that I saw in the winner, as a learning experience for the also rans.

I did, and it might be helpful to pass among your teams that prepare for exhibits at various meetings you hold.

Keep in mind, my top operating principal is interactivity. Here's a couple things in this highly subjective competition that stand out.

  1. Those who cover the booth are on their feet. Their physical stance invites passers-by to stop and it welcomes questions.
  2. Staff members are not huddling, talking to themselves, creating an atmosphere that says a visitor is "interrupting" if they ask a question.
  3. They offer a giveaway significant enough to merit a person's signing up for a chance to win.
  4. They require and record personal information when signing up for the giveaway.
  5. Signing up requires much MORE than filling in a form. The booth/signup/registration is interactive. Vital information about church planting is posted at various, prominent places around the booth. The signup requires the registrant to answer four questions about church planting. The answers are posted, easy to find, or, one of the engaging cover persons happily provides the answers.
  6. So, the visitor goes away with some knowledge about church planting and having been engaged personally by a church planting staff member. They leave infused with some small measure of the enthusiasm church planting team feels for their mission.
  7. While we spend lots of time and money designing attractive, magnetic exhibits, remember that it is the personal, engaging, enthusiastic presence of the people in the booth that provides the best visitor experience.
  8. They give me money.

POSTED: Jan 29, 2007 | Norman Jameson, , - normanjameson@gmail.com


A Message from Wilmer C. Fields

It is an honor, always an eye-opener, and a great pleasure for me to continue a long 48-year treasured connection with BPRA/BCA through the annual awards competition. My partnership in the group began in 1959, when BPRA was five years old. I resonated with this bunch from the start. I was completely in the dark, and blindsided at the 1986 meeting in the mountains at Glorieta, NM, when Stan Hastey made the announcement that the group had secretly voted to name the awards program after me. I think I swallowed my bubble gum!

It is a delight to sense the creativity and professionalism revealed in the entries every year. What an excellent way for members to mark your own growth, by being judged among the best of the best. And so very many, striving for superior workmanship! My connection with this skillful, productive new generation of dedicated people makes me feel like a lion in a den of Daniels. I hope 2007 is your best year! For one and all.

POSTED: Jan 24, 2007 | Wilmer C. Fields, Retired, SBC Executive Committee - wilcfields@comcast.net


Learning to say "NO"

This week, I joined the "CRACKBERRYS" of the world by purchasing a PDA.

My handy-dandy personal digital assistant can ...

  • Send e-mails about BCA business to Keith Beene in Nashville.
  • Hold digital photos of Jake after trying to feed him rice cereal and mashed sweet potatoes.
  • Store all my friends - and contacts - phone numbers and e-mail addresses.
  • Keep my personal and office calendars from scheduling me in two places at the same time.
  • Remember my wife's birthday (while reminding me not to mention how many).
  • Transport documents between work and home.
  • List of all the tasks I have at work and all the chores I have at home.
  • Call my wife to tell her I've missed the bus because I was too distracted playing with my PDA.

Whether I become an addict is yet to be determined. What already is evident is that my faithful paper-based "organizer" is no match for the multitude of meetings I have to keep up with.

Time management specialists will tell you to keep only one calendar with all your appointments. That explains why I was losing the battle trying to keep straight a paper-based organizer and the Microsoft Outlook calendar on my work computer. I never remembered to combine the things I'd said "Yes" to at work with the other things I'd said "Yes" to at home and elsewhere.

Now every day my PDA will "synchronize" my appointments from work, home, church, BCA, a non-profit board and the commitments I make to friends and others, assuming I don't misplace it.

One thing it won't do, however, is tell me when to say enough is enough.

I have to decide to quit trying to pack more into my day and instead remember to leave time for Mary Marcia and Jake, as well as the time to recharge my batteries with rest, reading and casual pursuits.

I was in my first year of grad school when a professor gave me some of the best advice of the whole program: "You need to decide now what you're going to say "No" to, because you can't do it all."

She was right, and it helped me set boundaries for my two years of study, focusing almost exclusively on work, school and family.

Now I'm finding that I need to rediscover that ability to say "No."

Maybe you're finding yourself in the same boat. If so, join me for my next few blogs, as I'm going explore a few ideas on how to get ones schedule under control.

POSTED: Jan 23, 2007 | David Winfrey, Proposal Writer, SHPS - dmmwinfrey@gmail.com


We're Playing on WC's Court

When I received W.C. Fields' Christmas letter this year I remarked again what a great writer he's become since he retired!

Or, maybe it's just the life experiences he's accumulating since he laid down the 9 to 5 and picked up a credit card for frequent traveler miles. It's hard to write poorly about exciting experiences!

How about you? Are you excited about the work/life/experiences you accumulated in 2006? It is time to put them together and enter them in the W.C. Fields Awards Competition.

I'm looking to reviewing them and seeing the winners on display in Mobile.

Funny thing about life experiences though. Even if your recounting of them doesn't win an award from your peers, every one is a treasure. Send in your stuff. Make it the stuff of dreams.

We're in a rare and wonderful position of participating in an awards competition named for a giant in our field who lives among us still.

When my oldest son was playing college basketball only two coaches in the country were coaching teams in facilities named for them: Dean Smith (whose school you all know) and John Kress at the College of Charleston.

We're playing on WC's court. And it's a privilege I hope to enjoy for a long time.

POSTED: Jan 22, 2007 | Norman Jameson, , - normanjameson@gmail.com


Attention BCA'ers: It's time to play ball!!

The 2007 Wilmer C. Fields Awards Competition is now underway. You can download the Call for Entries here. The theme for the competition this year is "Field of Dreams." With apologies to Kevin Costner, we are hoping that if we hold a competition, you will come! This year there are some new categories for podcasting, adjustments within existing categories, as well as some enhancements in how to prepare and submit news writing, feature writing, and photography entries. The entry fee is the same as last year: $40 per entry. The deadline for postmarking your entries is January 31. We are setting up the judging to be complete by the second week in March. Send me an email or give me a call if you have any questions about the competition. I look forward to seeing everyone at the BCA conference in beautiful Mobile, Ala., April 11-14!

POSTED: Jan 5, 2007 | Brent Thompson, Associate Director of Communications, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary - bthompson@swbts.edu


Words by Palmer Hartsough & James H. Fillmore, Sr. 1896

One of my favorite things about Christmas is the music. Sure, when stores start playing Christmas songs before Halloween, you can get a little tired of Rudolph before December 25. But still, Christmas wouldn't be the same without the familiar songs and carols we've come to know and love. They give us a sense of tradition, familiarity and comfort.

But then January hits and they all go away. But never fear, because there is a hymn that is just perfect for starting January. Perhaps you might even think of it as your own New Year's carol. That's what the hymn, "I Am Resolved" has become for me. I'm not much for making New Year's resolutions, but consider the challenge set forth by the hymn's writer, Palmer Hartsough: "I am resolved no longer to linger, charmed by the world's delight; things that are higher, things that are nobler, these have allured my sight."

Sounds like the Apostle Paul could have written that hymn, doesn't it? Remember his challenge to the church at Philippi? "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things" (Phil. 4:8, NAS). Its a good reminder, as we start the new year, of how easy it is to be distracted by the things of this world, and how important it is to set our minds on the things of God.

That's good advice for all of us spiritually, but it's also good advice for BCA members as we look ahead to the 2007 workshop. In just a little over a month, you'll have the opportunity to begin registering for the Mobile workshop April 11-14. I encourage you not to "linger" but to "hasten" to get your registration in early when the time comes. Watch for more information on the Web site and by email and snail mail during January about the workshop program and the registration process. (There might even be some incentives for those who register right away!).

In the mean time, happy new year!

POSTED: Jan 2, 2007 | Doug Rogers, Communications Coordinator, Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions - drogers@alsbom.org


Calling all church communicators

When I started working in Baptist journalism a decade ago, it never even entered my mind that I'd end up in church communications. In fact, 10 years ago, I'm not even sure the words church and communications were put together in the same sentence. But, today, it's a different story. Churches are waking up to the fact they need people with expertise in writing, graphics, websites and printing, and I know there are church communicators out there, but we're rarely connected with each other. So, I'm interested to know where they are. Will you take a moment and answer these questions for me?

  1. Does your church have a communications staff person(s)?
  2. If yes, paid or volunteer?
  3. What is your church's average worship attendance?

But I'd like to take it a step farther than just statistics. In BCA, we've got a gem of a resource to offer church communicators - resources, training and, most importantly, the opportunity to connect with others like us. Serving on the church level often can lend itself to being something of a "lone ranger." So, this year, we want to invite more church communicators to participate in the workshop. There are a few of us already, but we know there are others out there. I know they are just waiting to find out how they can get help for their ministry. (I know because I am one.) I was blessed to be a part of BCA already when I began serving on a church staff. But there are many others who are just waiting for someone to call and say, "Here is something great for you."

Why don't you be that person? Think about why you like BCA and then think about the person at your church who handles communications. Wouldn't he or she benefit from the same fellowship and training you receive during the workshop? You bet! In fact, I feel so strongly that BCA will benefit church communicators, too, that if you'll send me the name of the communications person at your church and the phone number, I will call him/her and offer a personal invitation. I'm happy to do it. I love to talk with others who serve in the same position... we "get" each other. You can email me at stacey@pleasantvalley.org. Or, you can give him/her my contact information.

If it wasn't for BCA and the connections I have been able to make locally with other church communicators, it would have been much more difficult for me to navigate my three years in church communications. So help us reach out to other church communicators... they deserve the same opportunity.

Stacey Hamby - BCA Communications VP
Director of Communications
Pleasant Valley Baptist Church
Liberty, Missouri
816-781-5959

POSTED: Dec 11, 2006 | Stacey Hamby, Director of Communications, Pleasant Valley Baptist Church - shamby@pleasantvalley.org


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