On October 1, 2020, United Methodist Communications celebrates 80 years of communication ministry.
Communication has changed dramatically during the agency’s storied history, the seed of which began at the Uniting Conference of 1939, where bishops voiced the need for more effective communication. The denomination’s first communication agency—the Commission on Public Information—opened its doors the following year with a focus on telling the church’s story by getting publicity in newspapers, magazines, radio, and theater newsreels.
That was the first step on a journey toward creation of a comprehensive communications agency that today engages millions of people with the story of God’s work in the world through The United Methodist Church. United Methodist Communications (UMCom) continues to tell inspirational stories of individuals and congregations living out their faith through a myriad of modern communication channels.
Radio and film were a focus in the early days, and the Radio and Film Commission was formed in 1948. In 1954, “television” was added to the name as they began to produce programs such as The Pastor and The Way. The denomination’s communications functions evolved through many name and structural changes before the 1972 General Conference consolidated TRAFCO and Methodist Information with the Division of Interpretation, and the resulting agency was named United Methodist Communications.
“A constant throughout the years has been a willingness to evolve to meet the changing needs and media consumption habits of audiences,” said chief executive Dan Krause. “That was evident in 2001 when, six days into the very first United Methodist ad campaign, the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred and the messaging pivoted overnight to one of hope and healing. And it’s never been more apparent than in 2020 as agency staff has stepped up to meet new challenges.”
A new video titled, “The Power of Communication,” recaps the agency’s journey to resource church leaders to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and launch a new campaign aimed at ending racism.
An enduring focus has been working in partnership with local churches to provide training and resources for church leaders. In the 50s, motion pictures and filmstrips were produced for church use, which evolved to videotapes with the advent of VCRs. Then, with the rise of global connectivity, UMCom embraced the transition to digital resources for local churches. Today UMCom provides a multitude of resources, content, services, and training designed to equip and empower church leaders, training 3,000+ people and serving 4,300 churches in 2019.
In 2001, United Methodist Communications created the denomination’s first comprehensive advertising campaign to raise awareness of the United Methodist Church, sharing messages of invitation through TV commercials, print ads, and billboards. Since that time, UMCom has used advertising to reach people who are struggling with grief and loss in the aftermath of natural disasters and tragedies, from the Sandy Hook shooting to the Boston Marathon bombing to a Minnesota bridge collapse to floods and hurricanes. In 2019, United Methodist Communications created 90 million impressions through ads.
This year, outreach/evangelistic messages were placed outside the U.S. as UMCom seeks to grow its global footprint to meet the diverse needs of a worldwide, multilingual church, using the power of communication to enhance ministry and share the gospel of Jesus Christ with people everywhere.
About United Methodist Communications
As the communications agency for The United Methodist Church, United Methodist Communications seeks to increase awareness and visibility of the denomination in communities and nations around the globe. United Methodist Communications also offers services, tools, and resources for communications ministry. Learn how to support our work at ResourceUMC.org/GiveUMCom.