Iowa Conference Communications Director is Communicator of the Year

October 28, 2013

Click here to see photos from the UMAC Awards Gala

Click here to listen to the Communicator of the Year award presentation and Dr. McClanahan's acceptance remarks

Click here to see a video of the Communicator of the Year award presentation and Dr. McClanahan's acceptance remarks

The Director of Communications for the Iowa Annual Conference has been named Communicator of the Year by the United Methodist Association of Communicators (UMAC).

Rev. Dr. Arthur McClanahan received the award Oct. 26 at the Gala Awards Banquet during the UMAC Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Rev. McClanahan has served as Director of Communications for the Iowa Conference since 2005.

Five criteria determine the Communicator of the Year for UMAC, the professional association for those working or volunteering in communications for the United Methodist Church, or Methodists who work in communications for another organization.

Nominees must be an active professional, currently serving in a communications role with at least three years of communication-related employment within the denomination. They must also be a UMAC member. Contenders for the award will have made recent striking achievements in communication, and the contribution would have had broad impact. The Communicator of the Year will exhibit vision-thinking beyond the present immediate demands of the job as well, breaking new ground.

“It was a privilege and honor to recommend Art as the Communicator of the Year,” said Rev. David Wendel.

Rev. Wendel is the former Assistant to the Bishop for Administration and current president of the Conference’s Communication Advisory Committee. He was part of the committee that hired Rev. McClanahan in the role of Conference Communications Director.

“Art's skill as a communicator was head and shoulders above any of the other 8 nominees,” Rev. Wendel said. 

Rev. McClanahan’s interview presentation was on the 2004 Indonesian tsunami. 

“His presentation was one of the most professional, dynamic, and sensitive presentations that I had heard or seen on the subject,” said Rev. Wendel.

Rev. Wendel also indicated in his nomination that Rev. McClanahan brought a wealth of knowledge as United Methodist pastor and as someone who had significant hands-on experience in reporting the news of the United Methodist Church, and whose work on the volunteer staff of the National Communications office at several General Conferences was very notable.

“As Art came on staff he completely turned the Iowa Communications Department around,” Rev. Wendel said. “Art brought us directly into the world of on-line communications plus completely turned around the way that Iowa United Methodists communicated.”

“Over the years Art has been a true visionary in how the Iowa Conference uses technology to best communicate with Iowa United Methodists,” he said.

The appreciation for Rev. McClanahan doesn’t end there.

Assistant to the Bishop for Administration Rev. Bill Poland was also part of the hiring process as part of the Conference Cabinet at the time.

Rev. Poland said that Rev. McClanahan transcends the kind of communications and event coverage that would come simply come from a journalist, and gets involved himself, not just looking for the things he is charged with reporting, rather looking as well for them amidst the bigger church picture.

“That’s one thing I love about Art,” Rev. Poland said. “His genuine love for the church and the mission of the church.”

Rev. McClanahan’s natural ability to be engaged with his subjects, one hand holding his camera and the other hand in the air to ask a question, was part of what allowed him to learn the culture of the Iowa Conference, he said.

“He’s the kind of person that as Communications Director, really merged and managed both electronic and social media, and written communication,” said Rev. Poland. “He’s done a good job of trying to balance the Conference presence in social media and technology, and written communication.”

“He has a big heart,” Rev. Poland said. “To help people reach out to one another.”

Assistant to the Bishop for Connectional Ministries Rev. Karen Nichols Dungan concurred in praise of Rev. McClanahan.

“I’m not at all surprised that Art is receiving this award,” she said. “He is exceptionally gifted, and he consistently does excellent work, both here in the conference and in for our denomination.”

“I’m very happy for him,” Rev. Dungan said. “And very pleased to see him recognized in this way.”

Rev. Barbara Dinnen is pastor for Trinity United Methodist Church in Des Moines. She was pastor of Las Americas Comunidad de Fe, the Spanish-speaking faith community that is part of Trinity UMC, when Rev. Diane McClanahan, Rev. Art McClanahan’s wife, was pastor at Trinity. The building of the bi-lingual and multi-cultural congregation was still in progress when the McClanahan’s first arrived in Des Moines.

Rev. Dinnen said Rev. Art McClanahan shared his gifts of comprehensive communications and for encouraging people to reach out to helping in the work of foster the partnering of Trinity and Las Americas.
She commended his ability to see things “in a microcosm that affect the macro.”

“He has that ability to connect,” she said. “He can go out into the streets like a reporter, and get that critical piece of the story that moves it to the larger audience.”

“Art has a gift of being an incredibly gracious workaholic,” said Rev. Dinnen. “I don’t think anybody knows how much time he puts in.”

Rev. Dinnen said that for Rev. McClanahan it’s hours given in dedication and joy, and this is evident in what he does and how he is.

“He’s absolutely committed,” she said. “And joyful, and silly, brilliant, goofy and dedicated.” 
Rev. Dinnen said as well that Rev. McClanahan is focused, professional and direct.

“He’s also just a heck of a nice guy who will do anything and everything to help you make things happen,” said Rev. Dinnen. “This is truly a deserved award.”

“He’s always been involved in communications,” said Rev. Diane McClanahan.

Rev. Art McClanahan had a column in the local newspaper in high school and was editor of his fraternity newspaper in college, she said.

He was combining media and technology for use in church before anyone else was doing it, Rev. Diane McClanahan continued.

He had always volunteered to serve in communications in the New York Conference, and worked on the United Methodist Communications team for eight General Conferences.
“It’s always been part of his life,” she said.

The McClanahan’s left a long history with established connections, careers and ministry out east for Rev. Art McClanahan to become Communications Director for the Iowa Annual Conference.

The two kept homes in both places for 14 months to allow Rev. Diane McClanahan to complete her ordination process.

With their two children, Katie and Chris, grown and on their own, it was just something that came at the right time, said Rev. Diane McClanahan.

Whether photographing their family, at work for the church, or serving as chaplain for the local fire or police department, something he has done in Iowa and back east, Rev. Art McClanahan brings compassion and care to his work, she said.

“For him, it’s always important that the story is woven into the bigger story,” said Rev. Diane McClanahan. “Which is God’s story.” 

“He works hard; he doesn’t work for awards,” she continued. “I think it will mean a lot to him to have had his efforts have been recognized by his peers.”

“He loves the work that he does,” Rev. Diane McClanahan said. “It’s just a joy for him to be able to do this work.”

Rev. Bob Burkhart recently retired as Assistant to the Bishop for Administration, the role he had when Rev. Art McClanahan began as Conference Director of Communications.

“He’s deserving,” said Rev. Burkhart of Rev. McClanahan being named Communicator of the Year. “Art has a gift for communication at all levels.”

Rev. McClanahan is very savvy about the latest technology related to communications, he said, and he is able to balance between what people need to know and what they want to know.

He was very good about helping Conference staff members who are not trained in communications to react properly and develop effective relationships with media outside the Conference, Rev. Burkhart said.

“He sees his role, and he’s very gifted,” said Rev. Burkhart. “His mission is to help us communicate as best we can in order to get our mission accomplished.”

“It’s a calling, it’s a ministry, and he’s really gifted at it,” Rev. Burkhart said.

Rev. McClanahan is someone who would not impose his experience of Northeast culture on those in Iowa, he said, as well as someone who is always prepared, and always ready with a back-up plan.

“If he was ever panicked on the inside, I never knew it,” said Rev. Burkhart. “I never worry when Art’s in the room.”

Rev. McClanahan views his work communications for the Conference very much as a ministry, he said, and embodied in that, is his heart for social justice.

“He has a lot of courage for social justice, and a heart for ministry,” Rev. Burkhart said.

Bishop Gregory Palmer, of the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church, was bishop of the Iowa Conference when Rev. McClanahan began as Director of Communications.

“It was a delight to work with Art,” Bishop Palmer said. “He brought to the ministry of communications a keen eye for the ways in which the gospel is an instrument working in the lives of individuals and institutions in the church.”

Rev. McClanahan has a really exceptional ability to communicate in Wesleyan terms, he said.
“In my judgment, he really gets it,” said Bishop Palmer.

Rev. McClanahan, through his ministry of communications, represents the difference between being less than we might be and rising to be more than we are, he said.

Bishop Palmer said that the hallmark of his time with Rev. McClanahan is the fact that Rev. McClanahan is generous to a fault, as well as kind and full of compassion.

“He really has a sense of how to make other people around him look good,” said Bishop Palmer.

This is in the sense of lifting others up, as was Bishop Palmer’s experience whenever in private counsel with Rev. McClanahan on Conference matters.

“He was always able to help us position ourselves to be our best,” Bishop Palmer said.

The appreciation for the communications ministry of Rev. Art McClanahan is present in the current Episcopal office as well.

Bishop Julius Trimble celebrated five years as bishop of the Iowa Annual Conference earlier this year, a time period that’s also included having Rev. McClanahan as his Director of Communications.

“People want to know how much you care before they care how much you know,” Bishop Trimble said.

“Art McClanahan is extremely knowledgeable in his ministry field of communications,” said Bishop Trimble. “However I have been impressed and blessed to see him and work with him as he demonstrates extreme compassion and genuine interest in people of all walks of life.”

“He cares and it shows,” the bishop said.

One of Rev. McClanahan’s favorite sayings, he continued, is a consistent reminder to remember how we relate to “Jane or Joe in the pews.”

Rev. McClanahan traveled with Bishop Trimble to Nigeria on a Conferences trip related to the Iowa Nigeria Partnership. Bishop Trimble recounted how the children they encountered there interacted with Rev. McClanahan.

“In Nigeria little children clung to his legs and smiled as he knelt to show them their pictures,” said Bishop Trimble.

“Behind a camera, interviewing people or volunteering to play piano,” he said. “He communicates that your story matters because he communicates that he cares.”

“The Iowa Annual Conference is fortunate to have Dr. Art McClanahan,” Bishop Trimble said.  

Listen to Rev. McClanahan accepting his UMAC Communicator of the Year Award HERE.