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Pictorial directories described as ministry by church organizers

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–Say cheese!” (click) “Well, that’s over with, let’s go get something to eat.” And so it goes with families getting their pictures made for the church pictorial directory. Show up, look pretty and don’t forget to smile.
For those who give their time to making sure the book turns out just right, however, this is only the beginning.
“It’s extremely time-consuming, definitely a labor of love,” said Marilyn Rowell, who coordinated every aspect of the pictorial directory process for her church, Westwood Baptist in Birmingham, Ala. -­ including scheduling photograph sessions for the church’s 486 families in 16 days. And while many offered their help, the burden for developing the directory has fallen, as it had the four previous times, squarely on her shoulders -­ which she doesn’t mind at all. “I am the [pictorial directory] committee,” she said.
Rowell enjoys what many would consider a chore -­ compiling names, making telephone calls, scouring pages hours on end for misspelled names ­- because she sees it as an act of service to her family in Christ.
“I find it very rewarding. … I love it,” she said of her work in coordinating the directory, something she called a “valuable resource” to the church. The directory “helps a congregation become more loving,” she said. The directory puts names to the faces of people who are often seen but rarely spoken to because no one can remember their names.
Making sure that names are spelled correctly and under the right picture is essential, said Rowell, who herself has mistakenly reversed names before. “All I could do was say, ‘I’m sorry,'” said Rowell, noting 10 other people had looked at the same page without catching the mistake.
Another problem Rowell has run into is impatient members wanting to know why it was taking almost half a year for their directory to come in. She pointed out that she cannot begin laying out the pages until all the pictures have been taken, and then it takes up to six weeks to get the proof book back from the picture company. Westwood used First Choice Resources, Inc., based in Cleveland, Tenn. So six months is a “good turnaround,” Rowell noted.
But delays related to problems with the company are not so easily explained. First Baptist Church, Russellville, Ala., had a problem with a church directory service losing a packet of orders.
Lynn Suddith, who helped organize the directory, said the mix-up meant everyone involved in that order had to send their proof sheets back, which resulted in no pictures for Christmas presents.
However, with new computer technology that allows families to choose their orders before leaving the site, the problem has become practically nonexistent, Suddith said.
Barbara Hayes, who coordinated the pictorial directory for Canaan Baptist Church in Bessemer, Ala., said she doesn’t mind the hard work because it means meeting new people. She said the 50-plus hours she put into the directory, which was published by Olan Mills, was time well spent because it taught her to lean on God when she tired of the effort.
“If you just turn it over to the Lord, he’ll walk you through it,” Hayes said.
Giving God and the church family her time is a privilege to Debi Ogle, secretary to the minister of recreation at Spring Hill Baptist in Mobile, Ala., who said few realize the legwork that goes into putting together a quality directory.
“The first week I was inundated with calls,” she recalled, which meant scheduling photo appointments, along with sending mailouts to the church’s 647 families. What made the work tolerable was believing it is a ministry. “I see this as a ministry to our families,” Ogle said, adding it also helps the administration keep up to date with members’ whereabouts and life situations.
“A few people I called [about the directory], I ended up praying with over the phone,” Ogle said. “It helped me to make a touch with them and to keep them in my thoughts.”
Spring Hill, which also worked with Olan Mills, had a motto for putting together their directory: “I want you in my church directory.” Getting every member involved, regardless of their social situation, was the church’s goal. And by Ogle’s assessment, the goal was met with overwhelming success. That included an elderly woman recently widowed who had never before taken a picture without her husband. Because the directory meant so much to her and the congregation, she decided to have it done. To her, and to everyone in every church who has taken part in a pictorial directory, the book is more than just a listing of members and church staff ­- it is a family photograph album.
LifeWay Christian Stores, a division of LifeWay Christian Resources, endorses Olan Mills as the provider-of-choice for pictorial directories.
Mark King, director of LifeWay Christian Stores’ direct marketing department, said, “Olan Mills has consistently delivered pictorial directories of the highest quality in a timely manner.”

Olan Mills may be contacted at 1-800-845-1157.

Charles Willis contributed to this story.

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  • Jason Skinner