Agency proposes expanding United Methodist ad campaign
6/12/2003 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.
By Nancye Willis*NASHVILLE,
Tenn. (UMNS) - The success of the United Methodist Church's U.S.
television campaign has led the denomination's communications officials
to propose expanding the program beginning in 2005.
Methodist Communications launched the effort, "Igniting Ministry," in
2001 to raise awareness of the denomination through a series of national
cable television commercials. The expansion, if approved by the
church's top legislative body next year, would include ads designed to
appeal to young people as well as people outside the United States.
believe Igniting Ministry has been a significant factor in bringing
people to our churches," said the Rev. Larry Hollon, UMCom's top
executive. "In the past two years, we've heard many amazing stories of
how the ads' messages have touched hearts and caused them to seek
fellowship in our churches."
UMCom will ask the denomination's
2004 General Conference for $10.25 million annually in 2005-08 to
continue and expand Igniting Ministry. General Conference, which gathers
every four years, will meet next May in Pittsburgh. The 2000 assembly,
meeting in Cleveland, approved nearly $20 million in total funding for
the campaign's first four years.
Since Igniting Ministry's debut,
more than 92 million people have seen the denomination's "open hearts,
open minds, open doors" messages, according to UMCom officials, citing
statistics provided by the agency's advertising agency. Building on that
platform, the agency wants to expand Igniting Ministry to reach more
unchurched people more often, both in the United States and beyond.
the plan, Igniting Ministry's core television element in the United
States would continue and expand, Hollon said. "To keep awareness of
United Methodism and interest in visiting a congregation high and steady
year-round, we want to augment Igniting Ministry's established three
annual Lenten, back-to-school and Advent ad placements with 22
additional weeks of ads on cable news networks."
in welcoming and hospitality and the number of matching grants would
increase. To date, a total of $3 million in grants has been awarded to
enable local church campaigns that supplement the national advertising.
addition, the youth and global components are being planned because "we
believe people of all ages and all over the world want to hear stories
of hope, healing and redemption and a clear voice of affirmation and
acceptance," Hollon said.
A need to reach 14- to 18-year-olds is
dictated by the relatively small number of active youth among United
Methodists, a phenomenon shared by many mainline denominations, he said.
An Igniting Ministry youth component would be aimed at "getting youth
to enter into a United Methodist youth ministry and giving them a reason
to stay," he added.
The youth component would be a grass-roots
effort including coordinated local church resources and advertising
materials instead of a national television campaign.
Hollon said, "a global component would involve four partnerships
between United Methodists in the United States, Africa, Europe and Asia
to establish a media presence." Church leaders in various areas would
collaboratively determine the nature of each of four partnerships and
choose appropriate, specific supportive communications linkages and
"For U.S. partnerships, Igniting Ministry would create
and place cable and broadcast TV spots; for partnerships outside the
United States, we will collaborate with the people in those areas to
produce appropriate communications systems," Hollon said.
church is able to develop messages to communicate life-changing,
life-affirming stories," he said. "In these partnerships, we will
develop this capacity further."
About 1.5 million of the
denomination's members live outside the United States, where church
growth, particularly in Africa, has driven the membership figures above
10 million, according to a recent report from the church's Council of
Bishops. Official denominational statistics show that 2001 average
weekly worship attendance was at more than 3.5 million, the highest in
The Rev. Steve Horswill-Johnston, a staff executive
at UMCom, leads the Igniting Ministry effort. Complete information on
the expansion proposal is available at http://www.seespotrunagain.org.
# # #
*Willis is editor of the Public Information Team at United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tenn.
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