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Norman Jameson NORMAN JAMESON, MEMBER

normanjameson@gmail.com

Viewing with alarm no more

When I was associate editor of the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger 1984-87, editor Dick McCartney would wander into my office occasionally trolling for an editorial idea. He would ask, What should I view with alarm this week?

It was always funny because as every talk show shock jock, headline writer and book hawker knows, the clanging jangle of alarm sells. Nobody reads a story that says the mail was delivered without event, or that 15,000 flights took off and landed safely, or that 25 million children attended school, ate peanut butter sandwiches and learned their ABCs without incident today.

His question also nodded to the unfounded accusation that he or the newspaper was alarmist.

We covered tough stories there, too: the former Baptist college student and church volunteer on death row after being convicted of multiple murders in Geronimo; the association throwing out a church for calling a man as pastor who had been divorced; one of our pastors on the national stage who declared what prayers God did or did not hear.

Dick was glad for me to write the stories and he handled the calls that came in afterward. The controversies of the SBC were leaking into the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and, contrary to popular belief, editors do not thrive on controversy. One day he called me into his office to tell me he always had a personal commitment to continue in a job only as long as it was still fun.

The joy was gone and he was returning to Texas to the Radio and Television Commission  an old SBC agency created when an optimistic denomination thought it had the money and will to offer a positive influence on programming on that most powerful and pervasive communications tool.

Weve since given up on both the agency and the idea.

He told me to warn me that he wouldnt be there to buffer the calls anymore, so be careful, he said. We had a nice party for him, and for me a few months later.

Dick retired to Gentry, Ark., the area where he grew up and served on the board of John Brown University. We talked a few times but never enough because I was always so encouraged in our conversations and whatever happy chemicals are released from laughter were always boosted by our talk.

An email March 9 with his name in the subject line was immediately foreboding. Dick was gone, in the twinkling of an eye. Dick, 81, had risen from bed and gone to shower. When he didnt come to breakfast in a timely manner, his wife Barbara found him on the bathroom floor, already gone.

Already gone. Like the two decades since we worked together. Like the last chance to tell him how much I appreciated when he showed up at my office door completely out of the blue when I was a seminary student and asked me to join his staff.

My wife was pregnant with our third child. Income and outgo passed in the night but seemed otherwise unrelated. And he showed up from 200 miles away and asked me to lunch. I was clueless, but my boss knew immediately what Dick was after.

His invitation came as if from the lips of an angel. There is no as if for Dick now. The songs he raises, he lifts with the angels.

POSTED: Mar 20, 2009


Dear Church describes disillusioned generation

Churches discouraged by a generation disillusioned with the church could take heart in the words of its loving critic Sarah Cunningham.

Cunningham, the twentysomething author of "Dear Church: An Introduction to a Disillusioned Generation," told members of the national Baptist Communicators Association in April that "I know personally the church is not going to die in our generation." She knows this "not just from personal experience," but also from the promise of Matt. 16:18, which says in part, "the gates of Hades will not overcome" the church.

At the same time, she listed some warnings from research among her generation, most of whom she admits are turned off by organized religion, and are dropping out of "the church" even if they are not leaving "the faith."

She said church leaders should see this disillusionment as an opportunity rather than a crisis. Instead of the paralyzed hand wringing that often accompanies crisis, we should grab the opportunity to innovate and connect.

To connect with twentysomethings, this young author says some very important things. These are not just her opinions, but come from wide research among her peers.

Respect and embrace diversity. While you may think "diversity" is all about race, it is much broader. It includes diverse opinions, ways of doing things and ways of seeing the world. It includes the ability to work easily with and appreciate others who hold opposite views.

Seeking to involve the next generation does not mean gaining their support of what you are doing. It means supporting their ideas, too.

Twentysomethings expect authenticity. They like reality TV with "raw presentation of the truth." Authenticity means letting your feelings show. Don't be flashing a commercial smile in the pulpit when you're telling a story of pain.

Allow God to be mysterious. "Conversion is more than a 'repeat after me' prayer," she said. Keep stories personal and real.

Young people embrace change more easily than their parents, but you still need to "Tell them what's coming." It's alright to admit transition won't be easy. They are not after "easy" and in fact, we demand too little of them.

They like Rom. 5:3-5 that says "we rejoice in our sufferings" because they know suffering for Christ brings fruit.

Twentysomethings are leading billion dollar companies. They are at the root of much innovation and lead the charge toward unlimited possibilities of the future. Embrace, challenge, affirm, trust and expect more of them and you may just retain that generation for the Church.

POSTED: May 9, 2008


Who knows you by name?

Kathryn Carson heard her name called seven times during the awards banquet for the national Baptist Communicators Association in Phoenix April 18.

The first time you hear your name is mostly relief because no one wants to get shut out during the event that recognizes the best work of the year by association members.

But Kathryn, lead graphics designer for the Baptist State Convention the past three years, heard her name called repeatedly during the event, gracefully walking forward to receive a certificate each time, with increasing admiration from her peers.

We love to be called by name, don't we? With an outgoing personality and inclusive style, my college roommate must have been the inspiration for the movie character Austin Powers. Students shouted his name across campus and he would wave and reply, "Hey, there you are."

When Austin Powers, "man of mystery," said, "There you are" to a stranger, the stranger asked, "Do I know you?"

"No," Powers replied, "but there you are." Knowing someone's name was not an Austin Powers priority because he is totally ego centric.

It means a lot to call a person by name. It is the first step to knowing them. Calling their name says you value them as more than a presence, a title, a responsibility, or by the label someone else sews onto them.

During Operation Inasmuch April 19 members of Zion Baptist Church in Cleveland County, N.C. were setting a memorial patio into place at Christine's House, a residential facility for girls from abusive or dysfunctional homes. The patio consisted of memorial bricks etched with the name of a donor or a person the donor wanted to honor.

Our name is important. Jacob wanted to know his wrestling opponent. In some cultures parents believe the name they bless a child with determines the child's life direction.

In Exodus 33:17 the Lord said he would do what Moses asked, "because I am pleased with you and I know you by name."

Jesus said in John 10 that sheep recognize their shepherd's voice when he calls them by name which enables him to lead them.

The ability to remember names is a real blessing. We may excuse ourselves as simply being unable to remember names, but knowing the blessing it is to be called by name, it is a good idea to work at remembering. One way to remember is to repeat the name quickly in context after you learn it.

Participants at BCA last week will remember Kathryn Carson's name a long time.

POSTED: Apr 27, 2008


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


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


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


Should I Give My Kids an Allowance?

Like most dads I wrestled with the allowance questions—should I give my kids an allowance?

If so, do I use it to teach them how to handle money, or as “payment” for a set of responsibilities? Is an allowance best used as a teaching tool, or as some kind of earned “salary” which can be withheld for poor performance in their assigned tasks?

Sue Ellen and I wavered and caved. We provided allowance, strictly as spending money. We didn’t give enough to budget for clothes or big items. But when the ice cream truck came through the neighborhood, the kids ran for their own piggybanks, not ours.

If these questions lurk for you just beyond a few more birthday cakes, consider these insights from my own experience.

An allowance sends the message that your child has no responsibility for the daily work it takes his family to move with some efficiency from breakfast to bedtime day after day. An allowance says that any work the child does merits payment. Instead of simply being expected to help with age appropriate tasks—thereby learning responsibility and gaining a sense of accomplishment—a child with allowance learns that all work around the house is the parents’ responsibility and they are just paying the child to bear some of the burden.

All family members are volunteers in the great challenge of family life.

Similarly, Baptist Communicators Association is a volunteer group. No one gets an allowance and moving this family from one annual meeting to another—with lots of professional development and communications in between—becomes the lot of family members.

Your officers have assumed a little more responsibility but this family becomes what every member puts into it. I volunteer to cut the grass and trim the shrubs, but we need someone to take out the trash, do the laundry and cook.

Doug Rogers and his team are planning a powerful “Mobilizing Your Ministry” meeting in Mobile next April. Stay in touch with the developing program on this site. Budget to attend. Prepare a killer contest entry.

Cam Tracy’s goal with this site is that our family become very interactive. Share questions, ideas, job leads, innovations here.

I’m not going to give you an allowance, but if you’re real good, I’ll buy you an ice cream in Mobile.

POSTED: Sep 5, 2006


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