Mennonites began to use the term "public relations" during the late 1940s and early 1950s. As the public and secular mass media popularized the term, many people within Mennonite circles began to mistrust the meaning and the motivations behind the words. Some Mennonites feared being manipulated by the use of "public relations" techniques. However, as conferences (denominations), boards, and institutions became increasingly complex, Mennonites were forced to work at "public relations" for survival. By 1975 most boards and agencies of the Mennonite churches had a "public relations" department of some sort.
In theory "public relations," for a Mennonite agency, should grow out of the agency's reason for being and should meet the specific wants and needs of the people it serves. Good "public relations" develop in an exchange of wants and needs between people. For example, a church agency wants and needs advocates, prayers, and support (both financial and personal services support). On the other hand, the people supporting or being served by the church agency must have their wants and needs met also, or they will not respond in supporting the church agency. This exchange notion can be diagrammed as follows:
In planning a public relations program it is important that the church agency takes the first move in this exchange equation, otherwise the supporters will not respond and meet the needs of the agency. This process of responding to each others' needs is certainly Christian and within the Mennonite concern for brotherhood and for community.
During planning sessions it is customary for a church agency to divide its audiences into smaller segments in order to serve each section better. For instance, a school will need to respond to the needs of parents, students, donors, church conferences, congregations, etc. Each of these publics require different forms of reporting. Being sensitive to these needs is certainly a responsible Christian approach.
"Public relations" done well will be unnoticed. If an agency is crude and manipulative, "public relations" are repulsive. The apostle Paul is a good model to follow. Each of his epistles is an example of good "public relations." For instance, Paul reported on work being done, thanked people for their gifts, shared opportunities for new avenues of services, asked for continued support, managed a mission board for 14 persons, compared one congregation's response to another congregation's (Philippi with Corinth), and held forth a model of Christian living and expression. This is "public relations" at its best.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 731. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
©1996-2013 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.
MLA style: Kauffman, Daniel E. "Public Relations." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1989. Web. 25 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/P835.html.
APA style: Kauffman, Daniel E. (1989). Public Relations. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 25 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/P835.html.