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  • Baptist Beacon

Baptist communicators meet for networking & learning

RIVERSIDE, CA (BP) – Kimber Huff once was in Russia engaging in church planting in the nation's fourth-largest city, Yekaterinburg, with an estimated 1.4 million people.

The Baptist Communicators Association's annual workshop provided much-valued networking for individuals like Kimber Huff, communications coordinator for the Baptist Convention of New England. (Photo by Marc Ira Hooks)

Today, Huff is in Northborough, Mass., writing and editing articles for the Baptist Convention of New England and its 360 churches.

She also designs and updates the BCNE website and blog, creates posts for social media, keeps the convention's smartphone app updated, manages the monthly e-newsletter, and helps develop promotional materials to educate Baptists across six Northeast states about missions and ministries supported by the Cooperative Program and BCNE missions offering.

The BCNE's lone communications worker had a few days of much-valued networking at the Baptist Communicators Association's annual workshop in Riverside, Calif., in mid-April.

And Huff won three of the 200-plus awards in the BCA's multimedia competition -- including first place in a brochure category and third place among various website and video categories.

"Being in an area of the country with less Southern Baptist resources, it's been fantastic to participate in the training and, even more importantly, to make personal connections with others who are in Baptist communications," said Huff, who was attending her second BCA workshop following last year's gathering in Washington, D.C.

"It's a real encouragement to learn from their experience, to be challenged in my own thinking, and to be able to bounce ideas off of people who really get what I do."

Terry Barone, communications team leader for the California Southern Baptist Convention and a former BCA president who joined the organization in 1980, described BCA as "a tremendous blessing in my life."

"The most important aspect of membership is getting to know other members on a personal, spiritual and professional level," Barone said. "Professional development through workshops and keynote speakers can't be diminished, but many times the most productive time is sharing a meal with a group of members and discussing the challenges each face and possible solutions based on their experiences in other Baptist organizations. Some of my closest friendships have been forged as a result of BCA."

Among the breakout sessions during this year's workshop were "Reporting when Sensitivity Counts," "Telling Your Story in Social Media," "Dealing with Hot-Button Issues," "Journalism Is Not Dead," "Making a Compelling Image in Today's Marketplace," "So You Want to Write a Book" and "How to Communicate to Your Church So They Keep Coming Back."

Mary Ann Pearson, in a session titled "Building Collaborative Teams with Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X'ers and Baby Boomers," described her research into the generations' general characteristics and offered advice for embracing their diversity.

Pearson, professor of communication at California Baptist University in Riverside, suggested that organizations experiment with mixed-age teams along with "reverse mentioning," such as Baby Boomers who tend to prefer in-person meetings learning from Millennials who live in a social media environment, and vice versa.

"When individuals work together, they can double their strength and get much more done as a team," Pearson said. "They also can reap the value of having worked in unison, thus creating harmony instead of disorder."

Also during this year's meeting, Bob Terry and Leland Webb were named as BCA lifetime members.

Terry is the retired editor and president of The Alabama Baptist newsjournal whose career spanned 50 years with the Alabama, Missouri and Kentucky state Baptist newspapers. Webb is the retired editor of The Commission magazine formerly published by the International Mission Board, which won multiple awards and, at times, competed with National Geographic for various media honors. Webb was The Commission's editor during 15 of his 30 years with the magazine.

Reflecting the range of the 60-plus participants at BCA's April 11-13 workshop:

-- Several were media entrepreneurs from, Innovative Faith Resources and Dogwood Solutions who work with various state conventions and Baptist associations, as well as SBC entities, in creating video, website, podcast and other resources. was founded by Doug Keesey and Paul Wynn 13 years ago after they had worked for the North American Mission Board. Innovative Faith Resources, represented at BCA by Brandon Pickett, Ishmael LaBiosa, Bobby Puffenberger and Sarah Ramalho, was founded in 2011 with ties to the SBC of Virginia state convention. Dogwood Media Solutions officially began in January of this year when Harris Media Solutions led by Brian Harris, formerly of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, merged with Dogwood Design led by Thomas Jones.

Keesey, who sports a Santa-like beard with mild-mannered joviality, arrived in California a day early to go to the Hollywood costume shop Adele's for a "continental robe" addition to the Santa suit he wears as a professional Santa from the first weekend in November until Christmas, handling about 40 events the past four years.

-- Shawn Elledge, art director for the North American Mission Board, in leading a session on creativity in annual campaigns, mentioned with fondness the PBS artist Bob Ross, who died in 1995 but is still seen via YouTube and DVD.

What was so special about Bob Ross? "Hard to say," Elledge reflected, "maybe his perfectly quaffed Afro, his gentle smile or the melodic mild-mannered statements he is known for like 'every tree needs a friend' and 'there are no mistakes, only happy little accidents.' ... But it's probably because of what he could do in less than half an hour starting with an empty canvas and ending with a tranquil scene of God's creation. He ended every episode by looking into the camera, giving a little wave to the viewer, saying, 'Happy painting and God bless.'"

Elledge and NAMB's creative team garnered one of the BCA competition's eight grand prizes for a video titled "First Baptist Church Sutherland Springs: One year after the shooting."

-- Trennis Henderson, who is traveling in an RV with his wife Pam as national correspondents for Woman's Missionary Union, told friends of venturing to an "RV Entrepreneur Summit" at an Alabama state park in March. Other RVers had a tad of puzzlement, Henderson said, when he spoke of focusing on missions as compared to entrepreneurship. In the BCA competition, Henderson won first place in a category for feature articles under 750 words: "God's Love from a Diaper Bag" about a ministry to single mothers, unemployed families and others in eastern Kentucky.

"Similar to a BCA gathering -- except targeted specifically for RVers -- the summit provided workshops, networking and informal fellowship time," Henderson said. "It has been helpful and encouraging to enjoy both [BCA and RV] settings in recent weeks as we combine our missions calling and an RV lifestyle in our freelance partnership with WMU."

-- Nick Burt, assistant director of communications for the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, recounted around a table his work as a college intern for the 2015 film "War Room" by the Kendrick Brothers. Among his roles as a production assistant, or PA, he worked with extras, at one point making sure that 300-400 extras wore the same clothing and sat in the same place over three days of shooting a school jump rope competition. From the first day of his internship, Burt said he "quickly found out in filmmaking the days are long, the work is challenging and time off was almost nonexistent."

Elected as BCA officers for 2019-2020 were: president, Jim Veneman, visiting professor - journalism/new media at California Baptist University; president-elect, Doug Rogers, communications coordinator, Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions; membership vice president, Brandon Elrod, public relations specialist, North American Mission Board; communications vice president Bobby Puffenburger, creative director, Southern Baptist Convention of Virginia/Innovative Faith Resources; professional development coordinator, Doug Rogers; treasurer, Elizabeth Young, director of communications, Arizona Southern Baptist Convention; program chairpersons (2020), Marc Ira Hooks, director of communication, Collins Baptist Association in metro Dallas, and Marilyn Stewart, assistant director for news and information, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; program chair-elect (2021), Amy Whitfield, director of marketing and communications, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; awards chair (2020), Joshua Minatrea, director of communications, Baptist General Convention of Texas; awards chair-elect (2021), Brooke Zimny, director of communications and marketing, Ouachita Baptist University; and historian, Cam Tracy, web development agent, Union University. BCA's 2018-2019 president was Mike Ebert, executive director of public relations for NAMB.

BCA's 2020 annual workshop will be April 8-10 in New Orleans. BCA is online at A full list of BCA award winners can be accessed at



Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press.



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