Cher Lorentz — meeting planner, wife, mother … product endorser? If you know the mild-mannered, Minneapolis-based Evangelical Free Church of America conference coordinator, it might seem far-fetched to imagine her appearing on television. But Google her name, and you'll find a link to a Vonage Web site. The voice-over-Internet telephone company features a transcript of her interview on a local television news program and a link to watch the video clip where she became an unpaid endorser of Vonage services.
It isn't that big a leap, actually. Lorentz studied communications — radio and TV — at Southwest State University in Marshall, Minn. And her family really does use Vonage at home to save money on their phone bill.
“One of the guys in our office goes to a church where the reporter goes, and he was looking for someone to interview,” she explains. “It was a kick because it was a product I use and really like.”
An Online Move
Lorentz is someone who embraces innovation — both at home and on the job.
“We try to stay current with what advantages are out there to be effective as a ministry,” she says. “I'm pretty tech-savvy, and I have three children who are, too. They keep me up.”
The Evangelical Free Church of America, for which Lorentz works, does all its conference registration online. It has developed its own software package and has been effective in getting its people to use it. “Most of our communications with our constituency is through e-mail or our Web site. We do minimal print. We use a product called ‘Moodle,’ which is a listserv that people can subscribe to and get the latest information on our conferences,” she says.
Not that everyone immediately embraced online registration when it was first offered three years ago.
“Some people said, ‘I don't know if I can do that,’ and we still have a small percentage who don't use technology. They can call and we'll input for them. But in two years, we made a real big jump at getting people on board. We offered big discounts for people to register on the Web site, and that was a good motivation,” she says.
The initial discounts are gone, but participants support the system because it is faster and more efficient than the old way of doing things by mail and by hand.
The church also has experimented with posting live excerpts from its conferences on the Web, and is looking for affordable streaming options that will expand its ability to deliver conference content to a broader audience.
Lorentz says technology has “significantly” changed the way that she does her job.
“My ability to communicate information of interest and necessity is improved by it,” she says. “I can release information in real time. If we book a speaker, change a time or a session, I can release that information as it happens. So it's an excellent resource.”
Lorentz is in her fourth year as conference coordinator for EFCA and her eighth year overall with the organization. (During her first four years, she worked with the church's student conference.)
“My responsibility is to coordinate all the planning and logistics of the conference,” she says. “I work with a team, including an executive director from EFCA, as well as four other people who have full-time EFCA responsibilities and take on one element of the conference to make it happen. I spend a lot of my time working with site selection, contracting, and the promotional responsibilities of the conference. I'm also responsible for seeing that all the details happen.”
Lorentz faces the same challenges that bind most RCMA members: keeping each conference fresh and new while still presenting a consistent message from year to year.
“Although we're always working to make it better, to serve the pastors and lay leaders alike,” she says, “there isn't a significant amount that changes, so keeping it fresh and vital is challenging. It requires looking for new ways to communicate messages — sometimes using drama, music, humor, or all three, to be creative in the process so each year has its own perspective and message.”
More People, More Fun
Lorentz was in San Jose this winter for her fourth RCMA Conference, but it was the first conference to which two EFCA members, Worship Service Director Laurie Seay and Director of Student Ministries Jeff Piehl, accompanied her. Their presence greatly enhanced the experience.
“I certainly think the conference is a lot more enjoyable if you have that relationship,” she says. “My first three conventions, I was by myself. It's a lot more fun when you have someone to share the experience with. Even in the expo, you bring more perspective and you remember more things. We rented a van and went up to Santa Clara, saw some interesting architecture and saw the ocean — which I probably never would have done on my own. Jeff drove because he knew some of the area.”
Being a planner for EFCA is more than just a job for Cher Lorentz.
“For me, personally, it's about being used where God has given me the ability to work,” she says. “I didn't go looking for a job in conferences — that isn't my training — but that's where He led me. Being where God is is a great place to be.”
Getting to know
Background: Age 50. Has lived in Minnesota her entire life. Has moved often but spent most of her formative years in Willmar.
Education: Southwest State University in Marshall, Minn.
Career: Worked in radio for four years; later was employed by Carlson. Stayed home while raising children until they were ready for school, then returned to the workplace. Started working in her own local Evangelical Church, where she was student and creative ministries director for six years before taking the job as Leadership Conference Coordinator for the Evangelical Free Church of America.
Family: Husband, Michael, works for Honeywell as a financial cost analyst; two sons and a daughter, all grown
Hobbies: Music, drama, writing, reading, cooking, and design