Print Piece Task Force
The Desert Southwest Conference Communications Commission is currently attempting to introduce a printed publications to the Conference. As a part of this process, a Print Piece Task Force was created. Their proposal is below.
In Support of a Printed Communications Budget
At the end of 2005 Printed Communications were discontinued in the Desert Southwest Conference (DSC). This action was the result of an in-depth study of the communications needs in the DSC, and the goal of this action was to try to focus on electronic communications. There was strong support of this refocusing across the Conference, but there were still many lingering concerns for those without a means of connecting electronically being left out of the loop. Throughout 2006 and 2007 electronic communications have excelled in the Conference even winning national awards and recognition; however, the lingering concerns about who is being left out of the connection have remained. To address these concerns, the Conference Commission on Communications assembled a task force based on a recommendation from the Program Cabinet. The Print Piece Task Force consists of Joel Huffman, the former Treasurer of the DSC; Max McQueen, the Director of Singles Ministry in the DSC with years of Newspaper experience; Rev. Tom Wick, retired pastor of the DSC and Web Empowered Church trainer; Rev. Stewart Lewis, Pastor of Velda Rose UMC and part of the Board of Ordained Ministry; and Greg Beihl, a member of the Communications Commission with years of printed communications experience. Steve Hustedt, Conference Director of Communications, served as staff liaison.
The move to fully electronic communications has certainly saved a lot of money. What was once a $35,000 budget has been reduced to $1,000. However, there are costs that have occurred beyond dollars. No matter how strong the Conference makes electronic communications, without printed communications there will be people, especially in the local church, who are unable to connect to the other local churches, their district, their conference, or the United Methodist Church as a whole (people who donít own computers, donít use computers, or donít use computers for an information source). Often the groups of people who are unable or unwilling to connect through electronic means are seen out of context. It is generally assumed that this is an age/generational issue, or that if we can just put a better electronic communication together, we can persuade people to start connecting through electronic means. The reality is quite different.
The most recent findings are that 3 out of 4 people have internet access, but this leaves 25% of the people wishing to connect to the ministries of the Conference out of the loop. It may be a surprise to some that these people without access to electronic communications are not all older or retired. In fact, many older Americans do have internet and computer access because they have the time and money to pursue it. The real dividing line between those with access to electronic communications and those without is money. The less wealth an individual has, the less likely it is that they are able to get to a computer and get online. This has frightening implications. By saving money through the elimination of printed communications, we are literally ignoring the lowest income group in and outside of our churches. This is a group that likely needs to feel connected more than any other, and, therefore, this becomes a real issue of Social Justice. This realization also limits what we can do to fund printed communications. If we charge a subscription fee, for instance, we are once again leaving out the individuals of the lowest income level.
Furthermore, by focusing only on electronic communications we are ignoring an important opportunity for ministry. If a person of lower income visits one of our churches and asks what being a United Methodist is all about are we going to tell them to go visit the Conference Website? If anyone visits our church, regardless of income, and asks us what it means to be United Methodist will we tell them to go get online because that is where all our stories of ministry are? Is that being a welcoming church? We, as the Print Piece Task Force, believe that we have to add to our communications strategy and let out our nets out into new waters.
As Christians and specifically as United Methodists, we are charged with sharing our faith stories and our stories of ministry, but we, the people of the Desert Southwest Conference, are missing the opportunity to share these stories with large groups of people by only making them available in electronic format. The work that has been done to improve our electronic communications is admirable and very exciting. As a task force we believe this work must continue to grow and excel, but we also believe that more has to be done.
In looking at possible solutions to the question of printed communications, we were careful to look only at solutions that would complement and enhance electronic communications, strengthening our communications structure throughout the Conference. We quickly realized that printed communications can never be timely or exceptionally interactive. That is now the realm of electronic communications. Where printed communications still can excel is in featuring, displaying, and truly sharing the ministries of our Conference with each other and with a spiritually hungry world.
We believe that the best means to achieve all these goals is through a quarterly magazine. Doing the magazine quarterly will allow a significant cost savings in postage, while timely information can still be distributed by electronic and other means. Better yet; through creative scheduling, the support of the local church communicator that are already being assembled, and the support of conference leadership; the Communications department can produce a quarterly magazine without needing to add staff or independent contractors. This means that the only costs are printing and mailing 4 times a year. With this model, we can have a high quality, 4 color, slick-stock ministry magazine for significantly less than it once cost to produce a monthly newsletter. The bid we have received is around $20,000 a year for printing and mailing. We believe this is money we should be proud to spend.
The Print Piece Task Force:
Joel Huffman Max McQueen Tom Wick Stewart Lewis Greg Beihl