FORT WORTH, Texas – A conference to prepare ministers for media attention at the wake of church crises or tragedies has been planned for Sept. 19 at the Southwestern Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. The meeting, dubbed, “The Church Crisis Communications Conference,” seeks to remove the common fear among ministers that the media desires to harm the reputation of churches and pastors.
"Clergy are often afraid to address the news media, thinking they are adversarial, when in reality the media could be their best friend in a crisis," said Shannon Martin of Martin Marketing Communications.
“Pastors and church spokespersons can be just as credible to the news media as any high-profile media personality if they are composed and provide the critical information needed in a crisis," she added.
Shaun Rabb, a bivocational minister and television reporter with FOX 4 News in Dallas who is scheduled to speak at the conference said, "We simply have a job to do, and desire very much to work with the church staff to get their message out to the public. So it is to the church's advantage to see us their best avenue to get information out to the public very quickly.”
Other conference speakers will include Roy Parker, pastor of Memorial Baptist Church in Temple, Texas, who lost several members of his congregation in a bus crash in February 2003; David Porter, former director of public relations at Southwestern Seminary, who coordinated media coverage of the Wedgwood Baptist Church shootings in September 1999; and Joe Correge, a National Football League union negotiator and elder of Metro Church in Garland, Texas, which lost several members of its youth group in a bus crash in June 2002.
"My experience with the news media enabled me to communicate the information I knew they needed in those critical hours immediately following our tragic bus crash," Correge said. "This made it easier for me to allow the Holy Spirit to take over and guide my decisions and speech at a time when hundreds of family members were hungering for information."
Attendants to the conference will participate in media training sessions and a panel discussion with local news media personalities, such as Berta Delgado, religion writer for the Dallas Morning News, and Jim Douglas, a news reporter with ABC-affiliate WFAA in Dallas.