By Shannon Baker, BaptistLIFE National Correspondent
COLUMBIA, Md.—At its May 6, 2014, General Mission Board meeting, the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware proposed a new rebranding strategy for the organization, including a dedicated name to the current state mission offering, “Gofwd Mid-Atlantic,” and a new “doing business as (dba)” identity, “Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network.” The name, annual “meeting,” also was changed to annual “celebration” to better reflect the tone of yearly gatherings.
Jim Jeffries, pastor of LaVale Baptist Church (Md.) and chairman of the Board’s Administrative Committee, brought the nomenclature changes to the Board, expressing his excitement over what he called “historic changes.”
“Each of these changes reflect the current realities of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware as well as the future realities of where the Convention is going,” he said.
He invited Shannon Baker, BCM/D’s director of communications, to explain. Speaking first about the new name for the state missions offering, Baker pointed to the convention’s rich history as inspiration for the changes.
She paid particular attention to Annie Armstrong, a Baltimore native who served as first corresponding secretary (a position equivalent to today’s executive director) of the Woman’s Missionary Union, an auxiliary of the Southern Baptist Convention, and eventual namesake for the annual Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions with the North American Mission Board.
Year after year, Armstrong came up with new ways to get missions information out to the churches, to stir up missions efforts and to raise more prayer support and money for missions.
Her motto was “Go Forward,” Baker explained, noting the motto comes from Exodus 14:15, where God tells Moses, sandwiched between the pursuing Pharaoh’s armies and the seeming obstacle of the Red Sea, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward.”
“Though today’s tensions may be different, we still hear God telling us to ‘go forward,’” shared Baker, explaining Armstrong’s rally cry also comes from a longer quote attributed to her: “The future lies all before us…shall it only be a slight advance upon what we usually do? Ought it not to be a bound, a leap forward, to altitudes of endeavor and success undreamed of before?”
The “Gofwd” fund, using a familiar abbreviation that modernizes the concept, will be offered year-round, giving the network of Southern Baptist churches in the Mid-Atlantic region an opportunity to continue the pioneering missions legacy so strongly demonstrated by its Baptist heritage.
“By collectively moving forward, our network of churches will continue to have opportunity to invest in and participate in advancing Christ’s Kingdom in the Mid-Atlantic region and beyond,” agreed Will McRaney, BCM/D executive missional strategist.
Speaking to the new dba name “Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network,” McRaney explained it better describes the multi-state convention’s current reality of ministry in Maryland/Delaware and also some churches in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia, which is consistent with the convention’s history in the Northeast region.
“The Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware has always been involved in this entire region, and the new name is a fresh expression of the ministry of the churches connected to this network,” McRaney said. “As we continue to advance Christ’s mission through strengthening and starting churches, we want our name to match our effort.”
He also stressed the importance of the word, “Network,” which can be viewed in both the noun and verb forms. As a noun, it represents a “shared ministry” and a “gathering of individuals and churches on a shared mission.” As a verb, it represents an active participation of individuals and churches who partner in the effort.
“Overall, the name better reflects who we are and how we collectively advance God’s Kingdom mission today and into the future,” McRaney shared.
McRaney explained the dba name will be used on all future marketing materials but the convention’s legal name, “Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware,” will remained unchanged on all legal documents.
Previously, the name has changed twice legally in the convention’s history: from Maryland Baptist Union Association to the Baptist Convention of Maryland in 1960 and then to the expanded Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware in 1984.
BCM/D messengers will be given the opportunity to affirm the dba name change as a part of the annual celebration of the convention in November, where various plans are being made to link the convention’s historic past to a bright future in advancing God’s Kingdom in the region and beyond.
Baker also introduced Creative Strategist Sean Copley, a former employee of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, who has a heart for ministry work in the area and is a self-confessed “brand aficionado.”
Via Skype, Copley urged the GMB members to “think of a file folder in your mind that contains all of the experiences, emotions and expectations you have about an organization.”
He explained, “That’s what a brand is. Every time you connect with that organization you’re adding to the folder for good or not-so-good.”
Copley said the BCM/D has begun the process of rebranding in an effort to tell the great story of Mid-Atlantic Baptists with consistency, excellence and integrity across all mediums.
The intentional process of shaping those interactions and aligning it with an organization’s message and mission is “branding,” he said. He then detailed for the GMB the overall process and expected deliverables, which will include surveys, a brand mark and a new identity system.
The new brand will be unveiled at the upcoming annual celebration, to be held Nov. 9-11 at the Church at Severn Run in Severn, Md.
“Any time you have new initiatives or you want to communicate who you are and what you do in a fresh way; it’s an opportunity for repositioning your brand,” said Copley. “Our goal is to make the BCM/D brand one worth ‘mentally bookmarking’ for those who experience what we have to offer.”
Copley also shared case studies of the many branding projects he has been a part of as Creative Director for Timbuktoons, an animation and illustration studio in Augusta, Ga. Timbuktoons’ clients have included Phil Vischer (co-creator of VeggieTales), ABC’s Extreme Home Makeover, The National Archives, Saddleback Church, New Spring Church, Lifechurch.tv, Willow Creek Association and more.
At the conclusion, Jeffries said, “This sounds like the work of expertise. We are excited about all that is to come.”
McRaney noted that the name change, rebranding, and the GoFwd fund all reflect well “on our strong and historic roots and also encourages us to press into the future in keeping with our past, but in ways that communicate well to younger generations of Southern Baptists in the Mid-Atlantic region.”
Among other mission- and vision-expanding efforts, “the convention stands ready to go forward into “altitudes of endeavor and success undreamed of before,” he said.