Washington (BWA)--More than 40 participants attended a communication training seminar by the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) and the Asia Pacific Baptist Federation (APBF), in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The seminar, planned as part of the BWA Annual Gathering, which runs July 4-9, was aimed at equipping congregations and denominational bodies in the Asia/Pacific region. Subjects covered included news and social media, developing a strategic communication plan, the effective use of audio visual media, and the preparation of news stories and newsletters.
Participants were informed that communication plays an important role in mission, the building up of community, information sharing, promotion, and fundraising, among other uses. It was noted that the target audience, purpose, cultural mores, and the type of Christian entity, whether local congregation, denominational body, seminary, etc., help to determine a communication strategy.
"Church communication should not exist for its own sake," Eron Henry stated. "It is, or should be, deeply wedded to the mission of the church. Mission is at the heart of communication," Henry emphasized.
The growing importance of digital technology to the communication process, such as social media and mobile technology was raised by most presenters. Amy Butler, senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, DC, in the United States, who made a joint presentation with Tony Cartledge, demonstrated how social media has been an important tool in ministry within her congregation.
Issues raised in the seminar included obstacles faced by Christians in different contexts that pose a challenge in the church communicating its message. These include government restrictions, lack of broadband Internet access, cultural and religious sensitivities, and countries, such as India and Indonesia, which are vast and with multiple languages and isolated rural populations.
Christians who live and minister within a context where they face hostility to their faith should be respectful of the religion and religious sensibilities of others and live exemplary lifestyles, participants concluded. Christians should be careful that they not send out messages that attack the faith of others, but rather share their faith and provide evidence of that faith in love.
Seminar presenters included Tony Cartledge, former editor of the Biblical Recorder, the Baptist state convention newspaper for North Carolina in the United States and a blogger with Baptists Today. He is associate professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in North Carolina and chair of the BWA Communications Committee; Julie Belding, a freelance editor and writer who is former editor at DayStar Publications, a New Zealand evangelical Christian magazine publisher, and past editor at New Zealand Baptist, the national Baptist magazine in New Zealand; and Gillian Francis, director and chief executive officer of Caribbean Christian Publications, publishers of Sunday School and Vacation Bible School materials for 26 countries in the Caribbean and Central America, and editor of the Jamaica Baptist Reporter.
Also presenting were Leo Thorne, associate general secretary for Mission Resource Development for American Baptist Churches USA; and Eron Henry, associate director for communications for the BWA.
"It's a great experience to bring Baptist leaders and communicators together to reflect on our use of media and communication," said Bijoy Sangma, chairman of the communication committee of the APBF. "The skills learned at this seminar will aid in promoting best practices among Baptists in the Asia/Pacific region in their use of media."
More than 300 Baptist leaders and delegates are gathered in Kuala Lumpur for the BWA Annual Gathering. It involves yearly meetings of a number of BWA groups, including the General Council and the Executive Committee; executive sub-committees and divisional advisory committees; women's, men's, and youth departments; regional groupings; and commissions of the divisions of Freedom & Justice, and Mission, Evangelism & Theological Reflection, and others.