Sunday, April 13, 2008

Exchanging Missionaries for Ad Campaigns

In the pages of The Reporter (one of the synod's OFFICIAL publications), the announcement was made about the new Thrivent block grant. (Thrivent is that fraternal Lutheran insurance company of the old merged Lutheran Brotherhood and Aid Association for Lutherans). Before I continue, some extended background:

While I was on the BCS, the executive director at that time had written a proposal for the block grant but didn't tell the members of the BCS about it (that's when the BCS was still using the Carver model of governance). It was over $1-million ad campaign to be composed of some 9 full-page ads in USA Today. And this MAJOR communications campaign was not going to be supervised by the BCS, but by the "Corporate Synodical Executives" (CSE's). They are comprised of the executive directors of all the synodical boards.

The CSE's have their own little group now, and even though they have no official status under the synod's constitution and bylaws as a unique entity, they are making all kinds of decisions and spending all kinds of moolah.

We complained. First of all, we believed that the Board for COMMUNICATION Services (constitutionally in charge of how the synod presents itself to the outside world) ought to be supervising the campaign. But secondly, even though a good bundle of cash had already been committed to a top-notch advertising firm, the concept and preliminary scripts of the ads were so unprofessional, incomplete and the so unchurchly, that we wanted to gag.

At that time, the campaign centered around Dr. Kieschnick's phrase: "Christ's love is here for you." The campaign was supposed to precede the convention and then feed into that theme. We objected. The ads were basically saying that if you've had a divorce or lost your job or whatever, Christ's love is here for you. In other words, The LCMS invites people to come into its congregation with all their troubles [read crosses] claiming that the trouble will be handled/ameliorated by LOVE. It wasn't a message of If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me." It was more along the lines of "Having a hard time? Jesus will make you feel better."

We insisted on changing the basic tag-line to "Christ is here for you," an INCARNATIONAL message focusing on Word and Sacraments. Totally unacceptable to Dr. Kieschnick who couldn't understand our concerns.

Well, this story is getting kind of long -- even though I would like to relate more details -- so I'll wrap things up: The Board of Directors which had taken the campaign away from the CSE's and gave it to us then took it away from the BCS and gave the money back to the CSE's to do something else with ALL THAT MONEY (which they then proceeded to do last year).

NOW (getting back to the present) I see that the biggest item of money on the NEW Thrivent block grant distribution (the CSEs are the ones who get together to decide all the projects you see there), there is $500,000 for a USA Today ad campaign.

And once again, the members of the board weren't told about it.

ONE CLOSING THOUGHT: I was recently told the sad account of how a missionary family was just informed that they are being recalled from the field. Ultimately, they were told by the LCMS Missions Department that "World Mission is changing their strategy."

Yes. We're going to spend $500,000 on an ad campaign, and beaucoup dollars on structure-guru-consultant Leonard Sweet . . . and call missionaries out of the field.

1 comment:

Family of Michael & Jen-Yi Paul said...

Thank you for your thoughts here. As one of the 20-some missionaries cut in 2002, and who has continued to watch the LCMS "mission trends" here in East Asia, your story unfortunately does not surprise me.