Some people check the water level of the proverbial pool before they jump in. But you all know that I’m not ‘some people.’
I’m a co-chair of my Annual Conference’s Communications team, and frequently contribute to our online and print media communication. This qualifies me to become, as I did this year, a member of the United Methodist Association of Communicators, and be entered in contests for communications-related things (winning both the local church website best in class award for Trinity’s website and the local level non-fiction best in class for this blog– wow!), and attend the annual meeting. So I did these things, and this week, I spent time in Nashville TN at the United Methodist Association of Communicators’ annual meeting.
But, as with so much of what I do, I didn’t really know what the heck I was doing.
The UMAC people are the real deal; they are professional communicators—journalists, bloggers, photographers, videographers, technology gurus, and people with advanced degrees in something or other that I didn’t study. They approach crafting messages for internal and external audiences with a technical, precise, methodology. They feel justifiably frustrated when church folks—particularly clergy, who tend to pride themselves on being good communicators in their own minds—don’t respect or listen to the expertise of the professional communicator. And when they get together, they tend to, um, vent about that a little bit.
I can’t tell you how many people, upon hearing that I’m an elder and a pastor rather than a Conference-level employee, cocked their eyebrows at me and said, “wow, you’re so brave to come here!”
That would be because I didn’t know what the heck I was doing.
I sat through a workshop on “Writing Worth Reading,” which only served to point out that (here’s a surprise for you readers out there!) I don’t write at all as if I were writing for a newspaper or a public proclamation. I tend to write as if I were expressing an opinion, making an attempt at a persuasive argument, or crafting a sermon. And here’s the thing: I don’t want to change the way I write to be a better journalist. I’m perfectly happy being a lousy journalist and a better preacher. I don’t know that I needed to be laughed at by proxy because of it, but I can take it. Largely, I don’t know what the heck I’m doing.
Then I attended a workshop on Podcasting, and heard a lot about the technical aspects of how to put together a podcast, but not a lot about why we might do it or what content might be valuable and interesting. And no one there could answer my question about how to clean up my podcast’s feed so that you can actually find it in iTunes. So at least here, I’m not the only one who doesn’t totally know what I’m doing. Sometimes, technology is actually a pain in the butt for everyone. Big surprise.
And then I participated in the “ReThink Church” workshop, where I had a lot of ideas and several bones to pick with the concept of the ReThink campaign. The workshop focused more on the research, ad buys, trainings, and impact community (love this portion!) aspects of the campaign, and not discussing concept. So of course, I found a few people with whom I could discuss content. At great length.
I began to see the issue here. The off-the-chart big picture thinker is trying to bend her brain into focusing on the details, specifics, and methods. Maybe it’s not so much that I don’t know what I am doing as that what I am doing is from a completely different perspective than what the communicators are doing. That’s kind of why we need each other.
All that said, I had a great time. I did learn a lot about the methods and techniques of professional communication, and have an even greater respect for what communicators do. I used twitter more than I ever have, and I think I might actually have the beginnings of some understanding of how it can be used for me more effectively.
Of course networking, on and offline, in and out of official gatherings, is always the most important part. I met wonderful people, some of whom I knew virtually, and some who were new friends. I got excited about a couple of ministerial possibilities that interest me, and saw some parts of Nashville that surprised me (did you know this city has a full-scale replica of the Greek Parthenon, and at least one bar advertising ‘nude karaoke’? Yea, I didn’t know that either. I went in to only one of those places, and there were some nudes inside, but they were cast in plaster).
So thanks to friends and contacts and colleagues, new and old, virtual and in person, lay people, communicators, and clergy who stumbled in by accident like I did. I learned a lot, got some great ideas, and had tons of fun getting to know you. I might even know a little bit more about what the heck I’m doing from time to time.
[I look forward to watching the video of the Social Media Round Table that I missed this morning and reflecting on that, but tonight I’m just too darn tired!]