Ministry is not just a journal; it's a continual proclamation of who we are, what we believe, and what we ought to do as we follow the footsteps of Him who "came preaching the kingdom of God" and "who came not to be ministered unto, but to minister." But the power and effectiveness of that proclamation can be maintained only by periodic self-assessment and dynamic planning to meet the needs of a constituency that circles the globe and crosses every cultural frontier.
An opportunity for such assessment and planning presented itself soon after the 1995 General Conference session, when Ministry entered a new era. With a reduced staff, with electronic technology staring at our novice faces, and with production targets competing with budgetary constraints, our staff was challenged to keep the journal rolling at its optimum quality as a professional tool for the clergy.
No easy task. But early in the process, we had the guidance of James Cress, the Ministerial Association secretary of the General Conference. Where others could see stones, Jim could envision a cathedral. A visionary by nature, Jim motivated the Ministry staff that they can dare the new situation and enlarge the journal's ministry without sacrificing quality or straining the budget.
I want to share with you three such enlargements, each showing how a spirit of teachableness and team work can accomplish what seems difficult.
The Preach project
One day Jim came into my office and gently asked if, in addition to my editorial assignments, I could manage a PREACH (Project Reaching Every Active Clergy Home) project. The project involved mailing 35,000 letters, each one addressed by hand. With no budget, but with much prayer, we started recruiting volunteers. One of the first volunteers was Christy, a third-year college student. She was taking a semester off to decide on her career options. When Christy Medvee Meier first came to Ministry, she had no work experience, except for an occasional baby-sitting job. Though she could type and knew a bit about the word processing program Ministry used, office work and deadlines were new to her. But she had what really counts in life: a teachable spirit, a willingness to learn, and team work. Armed with such assets, Christy took in everything around her; she listened, observed, and soon became extremely competent in using the computer and doing her job well. After a few weeks, she joined Ministry as a full-time editorial assistant, and stayed with us for the next ten months until school started. Christy was teachable, and she was a blessing to our ministry.
Then came a second challenge. Up until that time Ministry had outsourced many of its functions circulation and subscription management, invoicing, layout completion, marketing process to our advertisers., etc. Why not absorb all these in the editorial office and save, suggested Jim Cress. He was convinced it was possible. With his encouragement we began the process. At first I was scared. I had nightmares of having one huge unmanageable mess. But I was willing to learn, to study the techniques needed for the new challenge, to be teachable. I scheduled many conferences with the General Conference computer specialists. I jotted down the work involved, the data needed, and the outputs desired. The specialists showed how it could be done. A teachable spirit and team work can help solve most problems.
As we began plans for these new developments, Jeannette Calbi agreed to work with us as an office assistant, and be responsible for circulation, subscriptions, billing, and numerous other responsibilities. Jeanette had prior experience in accounting, but no experience of the kind the new position demanded. However, Jeannette had a mind to learn, a willingness to cross new frontiers, a spirit to work with the team. She began cleaning lists and making hundreds of address corrections. On one list alone, Jeannette updated more than 4,000 incorrect names and addresses. Not exactly a picnic of a job, but she saved Ministry thousands of dollars in printing, mailing, and return fees not to mention the good will of honoring the requests of subscribers.
A third challenge was the creation of an efficient system to keep track of manuscripts. To do this, we decided to use Access as a database. Today, our manuscript tracking system has all of the articles printed in Ministry beginning with the first issue in 1928. The articles can be retrieved by author, title, subject, and date printed. Right now we are in the process of fine tuning this database. We plan to have this program available in the next few months so that our readers can access it through printed form, or disk, or from our Web site: www.ministerialassociation.com
New printing process
A further aspect of change based on budget evaluation was the decision to change to a newer printing process: a disk-to-plate method rather than the previous process of disk-to- negative-to- plate. This meant that we would be electronically current in our desktop process and that every aspect of each issue of Ministry could be saved on a disk ready to output to the printing plate.
Enter Sheila Draper, our editorial assistant since 1996. In addition to her other editorial responsibilities, Sheila was willing to learn to scan pictures, import advertisements from promotional disks, and to place these advertisements in our journal. Ministry hired designer Harry Rnox to redesign Ministry, and Sheila learned new desktop skills. Our printers sent their desktop specialist to our office to give Sheila several days of one-on-one training in graphics and their printing process. She willingly acquired the new skills. A good team player, Sheila is another example of the teachable.
A team spirit. A willingness to learn. An ethic of service. That's what enabled Ministry to meet the enormous challenges it faced, without sacrificing quality, without minimizing its service to its readers, and without straining its cost efficiency. The challenge placed before us five years ago forced us to find new ways to produce Ministry, so that today the entire journal except for printing and mailing is managed right in our office.
But the purpose of Ministry remains unchanged: to be an effective tool in the hands of the pastors so that their proclamation of the gospel, their nurture of the community of faith, their awareness with what's new in their profession, and their own spiritual development will go on empowered by the Spirit and unhindered by any mundane distractions.
Is Ministry helpful in your ministry? How can we serve you better? Let us know. You are the reason for Ministry's existence. We want to have a teachable spirit. We want you to be part of our team.