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Handbook provides practical help for range of church communicators

NEW YORK CITY (BP)–Once upon a time, promotion of events and activities in the religious community consisted of a telephone chain, a couple of posters and an announcement in the Sunday bulletin. Adults active in ministry for many years will remember when a poster crudely lettered with stencils and decorated with two or three colored markers was considered creative. And that time was not so far in the distant past!

Now, graphic design, layout, logos, cropping, clip art and desktop publishing are all common terms in the world of communication, including the faith community. The age-old question of how to go about “spreading the Word” is the same, but the answers are changing daily.

The Religion Communicators Council, based in New York City, is an organization dedicated to providing training, encouraging fellowship among professional communicators, and maintaining high standards for communication in the interfaith community. In keeping with those goals, the organization recently published the sixth edition of “How Shall They Hear? A Handbook for Religion Communicators.”

Linda Post Bushkofsky, who served as editor of the handbook during her term on the RCC board of governors, has observed a dramatic change from the first edition to this recent sixth edition. “As the organization enlarged its scope, from religious public relations to the more general, religious communications, the breadth of the content has grown,” she said.

How Shall They Hear? provides nuts-and-bolts, no-nonsense information about every aspect of communications, from developing a mission statement to choosing the appropriate media for a particular message. Between those parameters is a wealth of information for the newly appointed member of the promotions committee or the seasoned veteran.

The variety of topics included is so diverse it would be a challenge to think of a communications medium that is not included. Instruction on editing, newswriting, feature writing, photography, art and graphics, desktop publishing, newsletters, and brochures leads to discussions on broadcast media and electronic presentations.

Recently, many faith communities have realized the benefit of cooperating to sponsor interfaith or interdenominational events and ministries. One chapter is dedicated to helping planners understand and develop standards for those activities to build bridges and promote unity among members of different faiths.

The handbook is a “one-of-a-kind resource for the interfaith community,” Post Bushkofsky said. “It provides a comprehensive review of communication tools and how to use them.” While it is designed to be useful to all religious communicators, she noted, “it is completely accessible by those in local faith communities who have no formal communications training but who have enthusiasm and passion for their faith.”

Jeanean Merkel, RCC’s president, said this new edition expands on the early tradition of the organization by providing “updates of traditional tools of our trade and new chapters on electronic communications and presentations.” She is excited about the way religious communicators “continue to integrate their message of faith within denominations and with the world at large.”

Noting that the Internet is sometimes referred to as “borderless,” Merkel applies that concept by saying, “That’s what religion is about as well. Although our message of faith may be constant, the ways we share it can change and adapt. New technologies offer us new ways to bring wholeness to our communications.”

Post Bushkofsky sees an increasing need for communicators to learn to make use of the many resources now available. They will need to “be able to use a wide variety of communication tools, knowing which tool works best for a given audience. Now, that’s a challenge!” she said.

The handbook may be ordered for $14.95 plus $5 shipping and handling from RCC Handbook, c/o UMR Communications, P.O. Box 660275, Dallas, TX 75266-0275. All orders must be prepaid. Visit www.religioncommunicators.org to preview the handbook and to obtain an order form. Information about discounts on volume purchases may also be found on the website.

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  • Sammie Jo Barstow