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Profile in leadership

Meet Mark Doyal, The Michigan Conference Director of Communication.

Senior Editor-Writer, Michigan Conference

Mark Doyal

On December 15, 2017 Bishop David Bard announced the names of persons who will serve as the core leadership team for the new Michigan Conference. While many are familiar faces, each will be serving in the context of a new Director Model that takes people out of ministry silos and into a collaborative team effort.

MICONNECT is introducing these persons and the positions in a series called, “Profiles in leadership.” This week we meet Mark Doyal.

Mark started ministry for The United Methodist Church in Michigan in 2009 as the Director of Communication for the West Michigan Conference. In 2013 Mark’s responsibilities expanded to include communications for the entire Michigan Area. His office is in the Michigan Conference Ministry Center in Lansing.

A layman, prior to serving The United Methodist Church, Mark led GLOW Communications, a Michigan-based consulting firm he founded to help non-profit and faith-based companies transform how they share their missions. Previously, he was Senior Partner of three award-winning full-service advertising agencies following a career as a television and radio news reporter.

Meet Mark Doyal, in his own words …

Please share a little personal background.

I was born in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1960s. My father worked in medical sales and my mother was a labor and delivery nurse. My parents were both originally from Indiana. A few years after I was born, my dad’s work moved us from Alabama to Peoria, Illinois, and then to Iowa City, Iowa. There, my dad earned his Ph.D. in Child Psychology at the University of Iowa. We then moved to the suburbs outside of Detroit where my dad became a professor at Wayne State University and he opened a private practice that my mother managed.

My three brothers and I shared a happy childhood filled with love, kindness, and acceptance. Our home was a place of humor and creativity. My parents instilled a strong work ethic, faith, community, and social justice in our family. Raised Methodist in Indiana, my parents left the church over the issue of segregation when they arrived in Alabama. My early years were spent in a variety of denominations and we struggled to find a church home.

Mark lives in East Lansing with his daughers Katie (left) and Emma. They love We love traveling, camping, golf, cooking, and watching movies together. ~photo courtesy Mark Doyal

After graduating from Michigan State, I took my first job in town and put down roots in East Lansing. That is when I joined The United Methodist Church and became very active in church leadership. Today, I am a single dad raising two wonderful daughters. My eldest, Katie is a senior at Michigan State, earning a degree in Public Policy in addition to working as an aid to State Representative House Minority Leader Sam Singh. My youngest, Emma is a junior in high school who plans to pursue a degree in the sciences.  We love traveling, camping, golf, cooking, and watching movies together.

What about your professional background and the leadership lessons you’ve learned along the way.

After graduating from Michigan State with a degree in communications, my career began as a street reporter for the evening news of the CBS affiliate in Lansing. It was exciting work and I learned how to tell complex stories in seconds. I also discovered an interest in marketing and later transitioned into that work at the station. I left television to start a full-service advertising agency with two friends. Over 25 years we grew into a regional firm developing multi-media campaigns for clients in nine states. My area of expertise was in brand campaign development and radio and television creativity.

Working with a wide range of large corporate and non-profit clients, I learned a great deal about leadership. I learned the importance of listening and of asking the right questions. And, I learned the importance of clear messaging. While I found advertising fulfilling, I found myself drawn to working with non-profits. I sold my share of the firm and began consulting with non-profit and faith-based communities, working with a variety of denominations across Michigan. That is when my pastor at University Church, John Ross Thompson, made me aware the West Michigan Conference was looking for help. Three years later, Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey asked if I would come onboard full-time to manage communications for The Michigan Area.

Please describe the role of the Director of Communications as you understand it.

The purpose of communication ministry is to witness the ministry of the Michigan Conference and enhance the connection of our members through communication; so that we are able to carry out the mission of making and empowering disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. As Communications Director, you have to wear a lot of hats; consultant, photographer, editor, writer, artist and designer. Whatever needs to be done to accomplish the mission, I feel it is my responsibility to listen for the needs of our conference ministries and help construct messages and campaigns that share those messages. I work to be a sounding board for ideas and to push back a bit to test those ideas in the same way other audiences will do when they hear them.

Mark Doyal currently serves as the President of UMAC, the United Methodist Association of Communicators. The professional organization is geared to support the work of every United Methodist communicator serving the Church throughout the connection through resources, engagement, continuing education, sharing of ideas, networking, spiritual support, and more. ~photo courtesy Mark Doyal

How do you imagine the vision for the Michigan Conference, especially with regard to communications?

It has been a remarkable experience to witness the evolution of this new conference. Our focus on equipping the local church for Christ Centered ministry and mission, bold and effective leadership and vibrant congregations brings an enormous need to communicate the “how” we will accomplish these visions. That will require telling more stories of ministry, facilitating more training and resources, and connecting our conference for more cooperative work.

What goals you have for yourself and those whom you direct as the new Michigan Conference takes shape?

We have a lot of work to do! First, we need to expand our connection infrastructure. We are currently reaching about 7% of our membership through social media, our website and MIconnect. We need to double that number so we have a better pipeline to share resources. That is also why we are building a totally new website focused on serving local church leaders in the new conference that will make finding resources easier. Finally, we need to increase content across our media platforms. Thankfully, I am surrounded by an outstanding award-winning communication team including Senior Editor/Writer Kay DeMoss, MIconnect Editor Valerie Mossman-Celestin, Social Media Coordinator Paul Reissmann, and Executive Assistant Kristen Gillette, who keep our very hectic world in order. This wonderful group of can-do people brings a wide range of experiences and talents and I feel very blessed to work with them.

The Conference is shifting to a “Director Model.” How do you anticipate leadership styles will change?

My expectation is that the Director Model will allow us to become more-nimble and creative, with greater focus and accountability. A smaller, more directed and connected team will allow faster implementation of ideas to grow the denomination. I expect we will set goals that will allow us to test new ideas and offer accountability. Ultimately, we must be a conference that fully equips local churches to create disciples of Jesus Christ. It’s at the local church level where disciples are made.

What is it that nurtures, sustains and guides you in your work?

There is nothing more fulfilling to me than sitting down with a ministry group who has a really exciting idea, or who is doing amazing ministry, but is not fully sure how to implement or share those missions.  Developing the strategy for sharing those ideas is what drives me. Witnessing their excitement when those ideas get shared brings me a lot of joy. Knowing that we are a part of a ministry caring for people is what sustains me in this ministry. That is why I like getting out into the field to see these ministries in action.

Communication, especially at Annual Conference, requires a team. Left-right: John Woodring, Mark Doyal, Kristen Gillette, Andrew Stange, Hannah Hazen, Kay DeMoss and Paul Reissmann together at Grand Traverse Resort in 2017. ~photo courtesy Mar Doyal

What excites you the most about the future of The Michigan Conference?

We are well staged for the next phase of our denomination. The timing of creating a new conference could not have been more perfect as we prepare to address the changes of our global church. We have done the hard work of understanding who we are as a conference and what we need to accomplish in Michigan. After four years of listening, planning and re-designing, we can now focus on the critical work ahead.

What are the challenges as we move forward as a new Conference?

The Michigan Area has been doing the hard work of defining a new course of mission and ministry for our state. As we begin to implement that mission in coming years, the global church will be debating the future of our denomination. That likely will be a difficult and emotionally painful process. Hopefully, the new Michigan Conference roadmap to mission and ministry will help keep us on track during these times of change and turbulence. We must maintain the entrepreneurial spirit that has brought us to this point. We are not done pathing the new conference, it is an ongoing process. That process is typically outside most people’s comfort zones. We need to guard against sliding back into comfortable but ineffective practices. As we approach the official launch of the Michigan Conference, I think the energy and spirit of our work is captured in that majestic processional, “Go Forth for God” to project us into the world we are called to minister. To go forth in God’s peace, love, strength and joy. It is a prayer we can all relate to.

What do you believe God seeks for The United Methodist Church in Michigan and beyond?

One thing I have never been concerned about is God finding a way into people’s hearts. Time and history have demonstrated that the Holy Spirit is not dependent on any given denomination. But I do believe that God wants The United Methodist Church to thrive and to be a beacon of grace, hope, and peace. John Wesley opened himself to a new way of sharing God’s message knowing it stood outside the norms. I think God wants us to embrace that spirit. The world is changing at a ferocious pace and we need to adapt and keep pace to share God’s message with new generations. I see God providing those tools in new and exciting ways. The key is learning to be open to new ideas and master them in a positive way.

The Michigan Conference