Service Interrupted: A Political Memoir-Chapter Seven

   We had a venue, of sorts, for the 2002 TEC. We finally had preachers, a few singers and were straightening out the hotel fiasco. I was branded forever as a racist (the hotels), a liberal (Daniel Vestal), a fundamentalist (James Merritt) and a ball lost in tall weeds (pretty much everything).

   We were back to zero on dollars overspent for the year 2001, which meant I would not be charged against my 2002 budget, which meant I could pay for promotion. I would soon wish I did not have promotion money.

   The labyrinth that is the Baptist Building structure is really not all that hard to understand, depending on who explains it. The Baptist Building at 333 North Washington in Dallas is built on donated land with the sales proceeds from the old Building downtown. The Baptist Building is debt free as to construction and has its own maintenance fund. In addition, each center, division or department is charged "rent" each year, so money can be said to come out of the budget to fund the Building.

   In fact, you are charged for every place you have a box stored and every machine. I quickly got rid of wasted machines and unused spaces. I was appalled we had paid so much money for unused hotel rooms, infrared transmitters for empty ballrooms and uneaten meals in 2001. I was intent on cutting waste.

  Then came the promotions situation. I once sold advertising for a newspaper and helped the editor/owner with pictures, writing and printing. I am no marketer, or you would already know my name.

   Our marketing situation in the Building I would later characterize as "problematic."

   Actually, I referred to us as "a million dollar enterprise with a ten cent delivery system."

   In the debacle prior to the 2003 TEC in Arlington, I would carefully time my mailed promotion material to go out from just before Thanksgiving to two deliveries just into January. To accomplish this, you have to get approved by Communications and deliver everything to the mailroom. I made sure we got our part done, got it tossed back to me by the Communications staff for some unspecified reason, got it through them and to the mail room.

   Then, it did not get mailed. I was told I had delivered it on time but others received a "higher priority" and they were not mailing any more until after the first of the year.

   I was mildly agitated.

   I went down to the mailroom to see for myself.

   My material was neatly stacked around the room. It looked lovely. Very festive.

   The mail room staff was busy making Christmas quilts; gift quilts for Christmas, racks up and all.

   I was mildly agitated.

   I reported this quandry to the Communications Director. She said, "You will probably just have to go around them like everyone else. Get a private mail service to come in and take care of it."

   I will be gentle with the Communications Staff. The convention used them horribly in trying to offset the attacks of the SBTC. Our Communications Staff had to produce a magazine to compete with the slick but trashy SBTC Texan. Instead of promoting our events, they had to produce a magazine, find stories for it, find money for it and, oh, yes, the budget cuts of that era meant they had to do it with a smaller staff.

   They did not always help themselves much. Late in my tenure there, the Communications Director stood in a staff meeting to say they had signed contracts with a convention center for the annual meeting, binding us to pay certain amounts and then gone out to look at the facility. On their inspection, apparently after signing the contracts, they discovered the facility would not suffice for their meeting. We would have to find a different venue in another town for the annual meeting and find ways to use the former facility enough to justify the money we were contractually obligated to spend there.

   Again, the great Terry Austin, sitting next to me, out loud, opined to me, "We would get fired. We would get fired once a month if we did stuff like that."

   Come to think of it, I always got in trouble sitting with Terry Austin.

   I asked my ubergruppen if I could go around the Mail Room. Dr. Wade said, "You will use our Communications and our Mailroom. We have no problems there."

   Later, years later, he would finally believe things did get logjammed there and make major changes. In the meantime, I was forced to go with "business as usual." Incompetent adminstrators do not mean to set others up to fail. They do so not by intent but by, well, incompetence.

   Our IT team buried the TEC under two layers on the website. If you could find anything about it, you would have seen the Tuesday agenda in fine form. Unfortunately, the program started on Monday. There was nothing about Monday on the website, if you could find the event at all.

   I was mildly agitated.

   Then the Baptist Standard forgot to run the ads I paid them to run. They just forgot.

   They were very sorry. They promised to make it up to me.

   I was mildly agitated.

   Was I a ball lost in tall weeds? Here is my opinion: the weeds are not so tall, but thick, dense and you have to hack your way through them. I was about ready to start hacking.

   "Rick blew up at the mailroom, IT and Communications," a First Floor employee told several folks. "He is not a good team player."

   Indeed.

   In fact, I blew up at no one. I hate to tell this to anyone but I simply took the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. I tried to get around them but the damage was done.

   I did express my distress but there was no one to fix things. I was told over and over again, "This is just the way things are here."

   I found this sad statement too, too true.

   A long time worker once told me, over lunch, "This is a sick, psychotic system we have going here now. I have really watched it go down since the new Exec came. It is not going to get better soon."

   As someone picks the new Exec, his words need to be heard.

 

 

7 thoughts on “Service Interrupted: A Political Memoir-Chapter Seven”

  1. Rick,
    As the assistant supervisor of the mail room at the time, we were told that we were not to send anymore pastor mailings unless authorised by someone higher that yourself. If you recall the budget was not being met, so mailouts were the first ones hit. I do agree that my supervisor at the time was pretty lax in her duites with the Christmas projects going on, but they did have ample time, since no mailouts were being allowed. So there real problem was in the communication of the stoppage of mailouts to your department. I can’t help that you did not get the memo. I did say hello to you everytime I saw though!

  2. Larry,
    I have tried to be gentle about all this. In fact, I tried to answer you privately but the email bounced back to me as undeliverable.
    I have been trying to say the system was faulty. You got one word. I got another. The Communications Staff got another. I do not blame you or them but the system, which never got fixed in time.
    I had a major meltdown the first two years and it did not get better when you and other left. A lot of us were set up to fail, not because anyone really wanted us to fail but because one or two over our heads simply did not know how to fix it or have the self-confidence to let us fix it.
    I remember you and yours with fondness and will continue to do so. I even recall my BGCT days with some fondness.
    I apologize for not answering you privately. Again, the auto-address failure to deliver thing popped up. I did feel it necessary to reply to you because of my high personal regard for you. I did not want you to think I did not care to answer.
    Rick Davis

  3. Rick,
    You were elected Director of Evangelism at the same Executive Board meeting when I was elected Director of Stewardship. However, I had a distinct advantage because I had already been working at the building for 5 years. You had to learn how to make things work while making decisions and I had the benefit of learning while others made decisions.
    The BGCT was like any large bureaucracy. It was not very efficient. That is not because of the people in the organization but because of the size of the system. In my opinion, the people that worked there, including administration, were great folks. Everyone there had a desire to serve people and churches. I certainly did not know every employee, but I never met anyone at the BGCT who was there for the money or the prestige. If so, they were idiots because they received neither.
    In order to make things happen, you had to work outside the system. For example, when the BGCT website consisted of little more than a page, we decided that we wanted to create our own stewardship website. This was before most of those making decisions at the BGCT even knew there was an Internet. Working on my own time, in my own bedroom, on my own computer, I created our first website. It was simple because I was very basic in my understanding. However, I did put a link from our stewardship site to send folks to the BGCT site.
    I was called in one day and told that I could not operate the website. When I asked why I was told it was because of the link to the BGCT site. Someone was afraid it would allow outside people to access something or other (it’s so stupid that it is hard for me to explain the reasoning). I removed the link and kept operating. As the BGCT developed an IT Department I was told repeatedly that I would have to cease operating the stewardship website. I kept telling them that I would be glad to when they were able to do what I needed. In the meantime, our site developed to the point where we were having 20,000 visitors each month. We maintained our site, independent of the BGCT site for a long time. We were able to do so because it was successful and I was stubborn.
    Your problem was that you were too nice. You wanted to work within the system and keep everyone happy. Consequently, you were swallowed up by the system and spit out. In order to make something special in a large organization, you not only have to “think outside the box,” but you also have to “act outside the box.” I think I survived because I am a nice guy and most people seem to like me and because they were not sure they could fire a guy in a wheelchair. Being handicapped is worth more than just good parking spaces.

  4. Rick,
    Sorry aobut the e-mail, but that really is my e-mail. We get some much spam that the server probably saw your name and said, Rick Davis, I can’t let that one through (ha). I just wanted others to know the whole truth. The mailroom was feast or famine when things were being mailed. Christmas was a time when budget crunches happened. We even let all our part-timers off since there was not as much work as usual. We still sent out 1.5 miliion pieces of mail that year. I found it strange that whenever a higher up wanted something to go out, we all of sudden had money to send it overnight!

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