James Lee, Visual Arts Manager, sits with his daughter Amy at the 2018 UMAC Awards Banquet in Philadelphia where he was presented with the First Place award for Best in Class podcast. Photo by Julie Lee

GNJ Co-Hosts Communicators Conference, Podcast Recognized as Denominational Leader

April 5, 2018 | | News

PHILADELPHIA – In March, A United Methodist Association of Communicators (UMAC) Conference was held in Philadelphia with Greater New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania Conferences serving as hosts to over 140 communicators from around the U.S. and the world. The annual conference focuses on issues affecting all conferences, agencies and churches within the denomination and shares best practices and models for communicating the Good News.

Bishop Schol sat on a panel to discuss communicating the messages of The Way Forward, and Rev. Hector Burgos, Director of Connectional Ministries, participated on a panel focused on advocacy communication, sharing his learnings from MARCHA.

Chris Heckert from Haddonfield UMC was asked to lead a workshop on communications audits and Paul Barnett, a Princeton Theological student and GNJ intern was asked to share his work on podcasting for the local church school scheduled for Haddonfield. Unfortunately, that event had to be cancelled for the snow storm.

In addition to GNJ leaders, UMAC conference attendees attended sessions with Adam Weber, Pastor of Embrace Church in Sioux Falls, SD, Len Wilson, United Methodist storyteller and strategist, and Dan Krause, the General Secretary of United Methodist Communications. Kennetha Bigham-Tsai, Chair of the Connectional Table and Maidstone Mulenga, Director of Communications for the United Methodist Council of Bishops, lent insight and perspective on communicating the church’s Way Forward, especially as the 2019 special session of General Conference takes place in less than a year.

Attendees spent time at the historical Tindley Temple on Broad Street, learning about the church’s history and hearing from a panel discussing the denomination’s history and how to lead in changing times. The panel featured Rev. Robert L. Johnson, pastor at Tindley, Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, General Secretary of the General Board of Church and Society, Fred Day, General Secretary of Archives and History, and Bishop John Schol.

Outside of United Methodist communications, attendees learned best practices and insights from other local organizations. Ed Cambron, Executive Vice President of the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts shared Kimmel’s work toward building an audience, realizing they had four different segments to reach: workhorses, old school connoisseurs, adventurous intellectuals and casual followers. It was this last audience, Cambron said, where growth can occur. Matt Smith, Social Media Specialist for Visit Philly, and spoke about radical hospitality he calls “surprise and delight”. Specifically, Visit Philly’s social media campaign leading up to the Super Bowl asked Philadelphia ex-patriots what they missed most about their city. They received many, many replies—so they sent out care packages to homesick Philadelphians with items including Wawa iced tea, Tasty Kakes, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and cheese steaks.

Other speakers included Bishop Peggy Johnson, Rev. Robin M. Hynicka, Rev. Dr. Mark Tyler of Mother Bethel AME. Carolyn Conover, Director of Communications, co-hosted the awards with John Coleman, Director of Communications for Eastern Pennsylvania Conference. Conover, who was awarded last year’s Communicator of the Year, took the stage with Coleman after a short, comical GNJ-produced video was streamed featuring GNJ staff pretending to “try out” for the role of awards host.

The communications team at GNJ brought home six awards for excellence, including a Best in Class Award for the Uncovered Dish Christian Leadership Podcast.

“If you haven’t been listening to this podcast, you should catch up now,” said Bishop John Schol. “The people of Greater New Jersey continue to shine as they put their best work forward for God.”

This award recognizes The Uncovered Dish as leading the denomination with the quality of its production and the messages it shares. Communicators and leaders from across the denomination are listening in regularly. .

“The podcast was always a side passion project for us, and we’re blessed that it’s being recognized at the denominational level,” said James Lee, Manager of Visual Arts and podcast founder. He added, “Several conferences and organizations have since contacted us about helping them start their own podcasts, and we’ve been happy to share our experiences with them and coach them through the process. We keep asking ourselves how we can improve our podcast even more.”

Other Communications awards included The Relay’s ‘Apostles in our Midst’ series and Page 3 resourcing, the 2017 IGNITE “Fired Up” Highlights video, Stop Doing Ministry Alone Laity Academy Video, and the Water & Roots campaign. Also our vital mission partner, United Methodist Communities received awards for their postcard invitations and blog.

The 2019 UMAC gathering will take place in St. Louis, Missouri, Feb. 21-22, right before the special session of General Conference as well as after, on Feb. 27, for a half day postmortem as those communicating the church’s story navigate the changes to come.

In July, 2018, James Lee will take over as Pastor of Wesley UMC in South Plainfield. GNJ is seeking to fill the position of Media Production Manager who will produce video content and manage the media production studio for GNJ and its vital mission partners. This position elevates the communication of GNJ by creating high quality, innovative and dynamic media that grows understanding and inspires engagement to recruit and equip transformational leaders to make disciples and grow vital congregations to transform the world. For a full job description and to apply, click here.