From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Journal editor focuses on speed, accuracy

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Wed, 19 Jun 2002 14:05:57 -0500

June 19, 2002  News media contact: Linda Green7(615)742-54707Nashville,
Tenn.  10-71BP{263}

NOTE: Photographs are available with this report.

By Jane Dennis*

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (UMNS) - Speed and accuracy are two things the editor of
the journal of the North Arkansas Annual Conference has mastered for more
than a decade.

In an amazing feat - and one that seems unparalleled across the denomination
- the Rev. Robert O. "Bob" Crossman has for the past 11 years presented a
proof copy of the completed journal to his bishop and about 30 other
conference officers in the final moments of the annual conference session. 

An informal survey of annual conference secretaries, conducted by the
Arkansas United Methodist newspaper, found that 40 days is the average
turnaround time for a proof copy of most conference journals. Annual
conferences have different methods of collecting data and publishing
journals; some have more than one volume.
The hefty Arkansas resource has about 400 pages documenting every action of
the conference, its organization, statistics and history. The journal
Crossman presented at the close of the June 5-8 conference contained actions
that were approved barely 60 minutes before the close of the session. Church
leaders have just a few days to proofread and submit corrections before the
finished product is sent to the printer.  

"It's a tight schedule, but the journal is ready for distribution in early
August," Crossman says. 

He developed his own model and method for putting the North Arkansas
Conference Journal on the fast track. The ultra-organized, computer-savvy
clergyman begins organizing the document in mid-March, when the first
reports and recommendations from conference boards and committees are due.
Once the agenda is set, that information goes into the Pre-Conference
Journal, which is given to all lay and clergy members of the conference in
advance of the session. This document also serves as the core of the
official journal.

Conference historical records and memoirs are submitted in a timely matter,
followed shortly by conference budgets and statistics. The list of pastoral
appointments usually gets a few last-minute tweaks by district
superintendents as the conference gets under way. 

"Basically, before I get to annual conference, the journal is complete,
except for the minutes," Crossman says.

A network of three full-sized computers and a laptop are used during the
conference. Crossman has two staff people recording minutes as they happen,
while two others work on reports and officer elections, and another focuses
on updating the clergy directory, complete with addresses, phone numbers and
e-mail addresses for every member of the conference. Members of the
conference secretarial staff are paid a small honorarium for their work. 

Crossman's job and his ability to produce the first copy of the journal on
site is made easier by a local copy machine business that provides the
conference with free use of a photocopier.

Serving as journal editor is hardly Crossman's only job. He is also
secretary of the North Arkansas Conference, and this year he also served as
journal editor for the sister Little Rock Conference. Both conferences are
part of the Arkansas Area.

"It absolutely amazes me every year that Bob Crossman can turn this journal
around so quickly and provide a proof copy by the close of conference," says
Bishop Janice Riggle Huie. "It's a true asset to the conference to have this
document and to be able to follow through on the directives of the
conference right away." 

Crossman's regular job is serving as senior pastor of the 650-member Grace
United Methodist Church in Conway, one of the fastest-growing congregations
in Arkansas.

Bishop Richard B. Wilke first asked Crossman to serve as North Arkansas
Conference journal editor in 1991. "He asked me to do two things: to be
accurate and to be fast," Crossman recalls, "and that's what I've tried to
do all along."

In the first couple of years, Crossman and his staff often stayed up until 1
or 2 a.m. perfecting sections of the journal. But each year, Crossman "finds
new ways to streamline the whole process, so we hardly ever have to stay up
late any more," says the Rev. Ron Newberry, journal staff member.

The conference invests about $10,000 annually to publish the journal,
according to Crossman. "I'm just hesitant to spend that kind of hard-earned
offering-plate money unless it's done right and done efficiently," he says.

When it comes to speed and efficiency in annual conference journals, Bob
Crossman has the market cornered.
# # #
*Dennis is editor of the Arkansas United Methodist, the newspaper of the
Arkansas Area, which includes the North Arkansas and Little Rock annual

United Methodist News Service
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